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Losing child custody after a mental illness

Pregnancy and child rearing can take a toll on Minnesota mothers, both physically and mentally. It is common for many women to experience some form of depression after giving birth, especially if the pregnancy was unplanned and the woman feels all alone. So what happens when a woman is deemed psychotic by a psychologist? In many cases, child custody can be affected.

A parent's mental illness can put a child in a dangerous situation. Many parents with mental illness are unable to care for themselves -- how can they properly care for their child?

Many parents lose custody of their child for years after suffering from a psychotic episode. One woman lost custody of her child immediately after an episode and still has not regained custody -- four years later. In the meantime, however, she has given birth to another child. Although the boy was placed in foster care at first, he is now back with his mother after authorities could find no evidence of neglect.

Minnesota is one of about 30 states that list mental illness as a reason for removing children from a home. Authorities must be able to prove that the parent's mental illness makes him or her a threat to the child. There doesn't need to be evidence of neglect -- just proof that the risk of neglect is high.

Although laws are in place to preserve the best interests of the child, taking a child away from his or her parent for several years -- just because of one mental episode -- can be heartbreaking, especially if the parent has changed and is emotionally stable. People can recover and the law needs to recognize that.

Source: The Huffington Post, "Should A Mental Illness Mean You Lose Your Kid?" Seth Freed Wessler, ProPublica, May. 30, 2014

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