Advocates are fighting to change a New York law which allows the state to terminate child custody if a parent has a developmental disability or a mental illness.

The provision, which dates back to the 1970s, is one of a handful of reasons the state can permanently take children from their parents. The other reasons are abandonment, permanent neglect and severe and repeated abuse.

Advocates argue that the inclusion of mental illness and mental retardation in the law is based on an outdated understanding of those conditions. Furthermore they say diagnoses of disability or mental illness should not play a role in custody decisions. Rather, those determinations should be based on behaviors alone.

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Currently disability is cited in less than 300 of the state’s parental termination cases each year and just half of those result in a parent losing their child.

Nonetheless, several New York interest groups support keeping the provision in the law, saying that it does not allow parental rights to be taken away based on a diagnosis alone. Plus, they say the law only applies to cases where children are already in foster care and it actually includes protections for parents such as the requirement of a psychiatric evaluation, reports the Binghamton (N.Y.) Press & Sun-Bulletin. To read more click here.