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Lurie Institute launches the National Research Center for Parents with Disabilities

stock photo of child and woman
In recent decades, people with disabilities have become increasingly integrated into mainstream employment, education, housing and public life in the United States. Among them, a growing number are choosing to become parents, and they encounter a lack of support and increased discrimination when they do so.

The Lurie Institute for Disability Policy at the Heller School for Social Policy and Management has identified a scarcity of information about parenting with a disability, both for parents themselves and for advocates, policymakers, health care professionals, family members, legal professionals, child welfare workers, and social workers.

In response to this critical information gap, Lurie Institute Interim Director Monika Mitra and a team of researchers launched a web-based resource hub called the National Research Center for Parents with Disabilities. This website is the product of a five-year grant from the National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research, and its huge coalition of collaborators includes an advisory board of parents with disabilities, research partners at eight universities and dissemination partners at 15 national advocacy and professional organizations.

The project has three main prongs, says Mitra. “One is conducting research—building a body of evidence and systematically analyzing existing state legislation that applies to parents with disabilities. The second piece is developing a knowledge base of interventions, and the third is disseminating resources to a broad set of stakeholders. We want to be inclusive of parents with a very diverse set of disabilities, as well as attorneys, judges, child welfare professionals, social workers and so forth.”

The team is also deeply committed to inclusiveness and accessibility for people with a broad range of disabilities. “Everything we write, we look at through the lens of accessibility, including for people with intellectual disabilities, and we structure it so that it’s appropriate for cross-disability support as well,” says Michelle Techler, Lurie Institute assistant director.

“Resources are useless if you can’t actually access them,” adds Robyn Powell, a PhD student and Lurie Institute research associate. “That’s also why we’re making sure that all of our resources are fully accessible to people with diverse disabilities as well as free.”

“Until now, there’s been no centralized hub for this diverse set of stakeholders,” says Mitra. “With this website, whether you’re a social worker, a policy wonk in a state senator’s office or a parent with a disability, you can come here and get an array of relevant information. And we know from our research that people from all of these different groups really want this information. There’s a real gap here, and this is one way to fill it.”

Categories: Humanities and Social Sciences

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