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Parents lost child custody over concerns about their intelligence

When a Pennsylvania parent is faced with a custody challenge by the state, the base of that challenge almost always involves abuse or neglect. It should be noted that there are certainly cases in which an individual is not fit to parent a child, and when that child would be better off living in foster care or finding a new permanent home than remaining with the parent. However, there are also a great many child custody cases that are not so black and white, and where judgment calls are made that destroy families.

An example is found in the case of a couple who lost custody of their young son based on an assessment that they display "limited cognitive abilities" and cannot properly care for their child. The boy was removed from their care shortly after his birth, and the parents have been fighting for his return ever since. They have had a great deal of support in their efforts, but that support has yet to lead to any significant change in circumstances for the family.

The mother has an estimated IQ level of 72, and was unaware that she was pregnant until she was in the advanced stages of labor. The father has an estimated IQ of 66, and receives Social Security disability checks for a mental disability. The maternal grandfather of the child testified that his daughter "doesn't have the instincts to be a mother." Even so, there is no evidence of any form of abuse or neglect, and other family members have stepped in to support the couple.

This case and others like it have led to significant distrust in the ability of state officials to accurately determine which individuals are suited for parenting, and which pose a risk to their children. Child custody cases are brought on by evidence that suggests that a child is at risk of left in the home. To take the drastic measure of removing a child from the care of his parents based on speculation about the parents' intelligence is simply unacceptable to many people in Pennsylvania and elsewhere.  

Source:, "This couple may have lost custody of their kids because they weren't smart enough", Eric Schulzke, July 31, 2017

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