Disabled parents – double trouble

A small boy with cherries on his ears and his mouth wide open. (picture: Renate Dröse/pixelio.de)
Working mothers and fathers need to be creative in order to fulfil their role as parents. (picture: Renate Dröse/pixelio.de)

Raising children nowadays is already a trial. For disabled parents the task is even more difficult. They are often left with fragmented responses to their needs.

„I can’t do all the things that parents normally do such as driving your kids to school”, says Margarete. Margarete was born with a visual and mobility impairment. That did not keep her from raising two children. Her motto “where there is a will, there is a way” helped her to tackle all the problems and responsibilities.  

Friendly neighbourhood help

“I learned to grow under constant challenges and so did the children,” says Margarete. When her children went to kindergarten, Margarete wanted to take up work again. In spite of her professional qualifications as a librarian, she had a hard time finding a new job. “Sometimes I felt that people were not comfortable with my disability.” But she did not let that bring her down. “Believing in my own abilities has helped me to keep going,” says Margarete.

She worked in normal and odd jobs to make the ends meet. Today, she is hired as an office clerk. She does not have to worry about the children anymore. They are grown, young adults and have already found their own work situation.

black and white pic of a girl sitting, resting her head in her hand, looking sad. (picture: Nicole Celik/pixelio.de)
Social services usually only offer educational support and the placing of children with foster parents. (picture: Nicole Celik/pixelio.de)

"I did not have any family members in Germany where I live, no granny or aunt to rely on“, says Margarete. Despite of that she managed to combine children and job – with a handicap! "Living next door to my best friend was very helpful,” says Margarete. Her friend used to look after her children when she worked shifts.

“Everything went very well thanks to the good neighbourhood relations,” says Margarete. “My children were always very considerate. I guess that runs in the family.”

No legal parental assistance

Yet, not every parent has got a functioning social network. Often enough, disabled fathers or mothers depend on parental assistance. In Germany for example, parental assistance comprises individual State services required by disabled parents who wish to fulfil their parental care autonomously. These services are adjusted to the respective family situation and the type of disability and may vary in regard to the offered extent and duration. However, disabled parents have no actual legal right to receive parental assistance.

“It is very difficult for disabled parents to qualify for parental assistance”, says Kerstin Weiss, the president of the German federal association for disabled or chronically ill parents (Bundesverband für behinderte und chronisch kranke Eltern e.V.). Social services will only offer educational support and the placing of children with foster parents. “The latter option often frights parents and makes them renounce parental assistance” says Kerstin Weiss. This creates a classical catch25 especially for working parents.

Success through perseverance

“Some parents are successful but often they need a lot of perseverance“, says Kerstin Weiss. “I have known parents who went to the press and got their assistance in the end.” Working parents will not get direct support but benefit from services which are not granted to non-working parents. Working parents, for instance, can apply for funding with regards to car or apartment alterations and work assistance.

This support has an indirect beneficial effect on raising children. Parents should also be creative when it comes to seeking alternative support. Neighbourhood support, reading the ads in the local supermarket, checking the offer of charities or rely on a close friend…, there are many helping hands around. But it takes a bit of courage to ask for help.


Text: MHA
picture: pixelio.de
Translation: Michel Benedetti