My right to have a child

Just because you have learning difficulties it
doesn’t mean you can’t raise children, writes Kathleen

I was brought up in Ireland as one of five
children. I helped take care of all of us kids, then my mom moved
us all to England and some of us were put into care. I was put in a
children’s home. You had dinners there, and if you didn’t like them
you had to sit there until the end of the meal and you got the same
food the next day. When I was 16, I was adopted. I had a mind of my
own and had decided by then that when I was older I would have some
kids of my own.

Aged 19, I found out I was pregnant. I went to
the doctor and he said I should have an abortion because he didn’t
think I could cope and because I had learning difficulties. So, I
said to him: “Why should another child have to die because I have
learning difficulties, I have my mom and dad behind me to bring the
baby up. You have no right to say what you said because it’s

I knew I had the right to have my child; my
mom said I didn’t have to have an abortion. The doctor said for
sure the baby would have learning difficulties. He did some tests
and said it would happen.

I had my baby when I was 20. I felt some pains
and I was in labour. I went to hospital. My dad passed out because
he couldn’t believe how fast I had the baby – as soon as I got into
the delivery room. There were four nurses at the end of the table
and she came out like a rocket! My midwife was there and my girl’s
middle name is for her. The baby was fine. I stayed in overnight
and the next day I was out.

We went home to mom and dad’s, where I lived
at the time. Because I had learning difficulties and epilepsy, I
couldn’t change our baby as I kept having fits. I was stressed over
changing her, I just couldn’t change a nappy. I found it hard to
start with but it got better as she got older. One Christmas I
broke my leg but I still took care of her.

As my daughter got older, my mom and dad
wanted to adopt her. I said, “No, she’s my responsibility.” I knew
I could raise her as I had the confidence in me. We went to court
over it. My social worker helped me and I won the case to keep my

When my daughter was older, I moved into my
own home. She chose to stay at my parents’ so she could stay at the
same school. But I still gave her spending money, bought her school
clothes and saw her every weekend.

Now my daughter is 17. She is a typical
teenager. She comes to see me when she wants money – I say I have
none. But I did lend her her first rent deposit. Then she wanted me
to pay for her wedding dress. Now the wedding is off but I still
worry about her.

I am 36 now and I don’t have any regrets about
having my daughter. I needed support to raise her, but I managed
it. People with learning difficulties have the right to have a
child and get the support they need to raise it.

Kathleen Franklin works full time at
Milton Keynes People First, a branch of Central England People
First. She was their first chairperson.

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