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Helping Adults with Disability Make Decisions: Adult Guardianship

Thursday, May 5th, 2016

Hello everyone, and welcome back to the blog this week! Thanks so much for taking the time to visit our website – we love writing these blogs, and we hope that you enjoy reading them.

As our regular visitors may know, last week we published a piece titled Supported Decision Making: A Discussion. In that blog post, we introduced the concept of Supported Decision Making (SMD) as a newly emerging process designed to help your family member with disabilities handle the legal, medical and daily living choices that he or she will face throughout the course of adult life. The SMD process involves providing the individual with disability (the decision maker) with the help and support he or she needs in order to make important life decisions; in this way, the decision maker is able to retain autonomy and exercise control over the things that he or she feels are important..

Today, we would like to revisit the topic of helping adults with disability make decisions by taking a look at another, more traditional, method of helping adults with disabilities make decisions: Adult Guardianship.

Adult Guardianship: What is it?

Adult Guardianship is a legal procedure wherein a guardian (either a person or an entity approved by a court of law) is appointed to care for an adult that has been deemed legally incompetent, due to an intellectual, developmental, physical or mental disability, of caring for him or herself. The appointed guardian is responsible for the safety and well-being of this individual, and makes decisions that govern the individual’s care and day-to-day life. A guardian may also manage the finances and estate of the individual with a disability (known as the ward).

Adult Guardianship can come in many forms; Guardianship of the Person, for example, is a form of guardianship in which the guardian can make decisions regarding the ward-person only. (for example?) There are also forms of guardianship in which the guardian assumes responsibility for the estate – i.e. legal and financial matters – of the ward (Guardianship of the Estate, or Conservatorship), a form in which the guardian does both (Guardianship of the Person and Estate), and Limited Guardianship – either of the person, the estate, or both. Limited Guardianship is the most similar to Supported Decision Making, as it assumes that the ward has some capacity to make his or her own decisions.

To learn more about Adult Guardianship, please visit The Arc’s website or speak with legal counsel in your home state.

Is Adult Guardianship right for my family with Special Needs?

As with Supported Decision Making, the answer to this question lies solely in your own hands. Only you can know whether or not this is the right choice for your family, and your family member with disability.

If you are struggling with this decision please consider the following as written by The Arc of Texas, in its article, Guardianship and Alternatives to guardianship Resources in Texas:

The decision to apply for guardianship should be made by the family, including the person with the disability, after considering all of the alternatives, including supported decision making models. An agency or school district cannot require a family to seek guardianship. What is right for one individual and family may not be right for another. Families should explore the alternatives to guardianship before deciding to obtain a legal guardianship.

It is also important to remember that for some parents, adult guardianship is an important tool (perhaps the only tool) that can ensure that their family member with special needs is protected now and after they are gone. It can ensure that an individual with special needs is not taken advantage of, and can also ensure that he or she receives the proper medical attention; it can prove useful when advocating on behalf of the individual for public benefits, housing programs, grants, funding, etc. It can also create a double layer of protection for the individual with disability – that of you the guardian, as well as that of the court.

For further details, please read Pros & Cons of Guardianship for Adults with Intellectual Disabilities. You may also wish to visit Friendshipcircle.org’s website to read their article, When Your Child Turns 18: A Guide to Special Needs Guardianship.

More Information

Again, thank you for taking the time to visit our website today. We hope that we were able to share with you some interesting information about the different decision-making options available for parents of adult children with disabilities. If you would like to learn more about supported decision making, adult guardianship, or any of the alternatives to adult guardianship, please contact us! We would be happy to refer you to special needs professionals that have the skills and expertise you need to help you make important decisions on behalf of your family with special needs.

If you would like to learn more about the work that ILO does, and how we help self-advocates and participating family members build supportive, integrated communities, please let us know! We would love to meet you and introduce you to our growing network – we would also love to show you how we can help you realize your hopes and dreams for your family with special needs.

That’s all for today – please join us again next week!

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