Leanne talks about her experiences with the child protection system as a woman with disability.
Hi, my name is Leanne Claussen and i am a woman who lives with a disability. I am also a single mum who had my children removed from my care over ten years ago. Being a parent of kids in care is very hard. Being a parent with a disability who has kids in care is extremely hard. I want to tell my story so that others in my position know that there is hope and a light at the end of the tunnel.
My disability has unfortunately made it very difficult to parent in a physical way. Child protection workers measure my parenting ability to the same conditions that they measure other parents who don’t have a disability. This is a fact of the system I’m in and it has made it very hard to 'prove myself' to be a fit parent in the Departments eyes. I have fought disability discrimination and unfortunately lost due to the very high burden of proof the Department were asking for. Unfortunately, my children were placed on long term orders because the Department thinks that even though I’m willing, I am not able to parent my children.
But, there is hope. Many of us are standing up for ourselves and our rights. We have made it our mission to help others in our position. I have become strong through all my battles and am now a Parent Leader. I go to forums, speak at events and talk from the perspective of lived experience, so that the government will hear what it’s like for someone like me in their system and listen to the ideas I have about how the system could be changed for us.
I created a business called Parents on a Mission. I use my lived experience to work as a Parent on a Mission to help others. I represent the voice of lived experience of a parent of kids in care and a parent with a disability who has kids in care. You can check out my website (external link).
I have also created an information pack for parents entering the Queensland child protection system, called Leanne’s Gift. These information packs are about to go out to parents in Queensland. There is a section on being a parent with disability in the child protection system within my self-help book, 'A self-help guide to the Queensland Child Protection System'. Leanne’s Gift can also be purchased from my website.
One of the most worrying things about women with disability in child protection, is when the parent/s have intellectual impairments. Too many times I have heard the stories of parents who have signed over their rights because they didn’t understand what they were signing. If you are reading this and you have child protection involved in your life, please seek help. You can find information about how to access advocacy services on this website. Advocates can help you to understand all of your options, so that you can make an informed decision.
You don’t need to have an intellectual impairment to use the services of a Disability Advocate. I have had two advocates through People with Disability Australia (PWDA) and have found them to be very knowledgeable and helpful during my case.
I never would have thought years ago that I would be up on stage, talking to hundreds of people about my life, the difficulties I’ve faced and doing things that are creating waves of change in the child protection and disability sectors but, here I am. I have a voice and I’m using it to help people like me.
It’s scary and sometimes I wish I could go back and be in my safe place and do nothing but then I listen to the people that my words touch. I hear with pride my name read out as the 2019 Peak Care Queensland SIC (good, awesome) award winner, I read a Facebook post about someone who was given Leanne’s Gift and stayed up until the early hours of the morning, crying and underlining all the things that finally made sense to her – because I had been through what she was going through now.
It makes me happy to know that I’ve helped someone. Please hear my story and know that your disability doesn’t define who you are. You are here for a reason. You are here to shine your light in this world. Never let them snuff that light out. You have much to give, much to live for. I hope that my story inspires you to be all that you can be...