New Survey on Guardianship Released

TASH, ASAN, ACLU, The Arc of Michigan, and Quality Trust are collaborating on a survey of parents and individuals with disabilities to understand what they may have experienced related to guardianship.

The survey sponsors are seeking information on how and when people with disabilities are put under guardianship (or conservatorship).   If you are a parent and/or a person with a disability over 18, please take this important survey – The deadline for this survey is June 4.

Guardianship vs. Supported Decision Making

Newport News Circuit Court (7th Judicial Circuit of Virginia) Judge David F. Pugh ruled that Jenny Hatch, a young woman with Down syndrome, needed a guardian to help her make decisions but also had taken into account Jenny’s preferences. He ruled against Jenny’s mother and stepfather in their request for full and permanent guardianship and awarded temporary, partial guardianship to the people she had chosen. “It is the intent of the Court that the Guardians shall assist Respondent in making and implementing decisions [using what] we have heard termed ‘supported decision making,’” Ross v Hatch, 113 LRP 31633 (Va. Cir. Ct. 08/12/13).

Jenny had been living with family friends until she had a bicycle accident. Upon discharge from the hospital, her employers, Jim Talbert and Kelly Morris, moved her into their home to recover. A short time later Jenny moved into a group home, believing that was the only way to qualify for Medicaid waiver services. Upon receipt of the waiver services, she returned to the home of her employers. At that point, her biological mother and stepfather filed for guardianship asking for the right to decide, among other things, where she lived, whom she saw and what medical treatment she received. Temporary guardianship was granted to her mother and stepfather who decided she should return to the group home. Over the following year, Jenny lived in a series of group homes running away frequently.

At the August 2013, guardianship hearing, several experts testified about the right of individuals with disabilities to choose how, where, and with whom to live. Professor Robert Dinerstein, director of the Disability Rights Law Clinic at American University, who gave a deposition in the case on Jenny’s behalf, explained that the Judge will review Jenny’s case in one year to consider Jenny’s ability to live a “life of support as opposed to a life of substitution.”

Senate Judiciary Committee to Hold Hearing on July 12

Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) introduced S.1744, the Guardian Accountability and Senior Protection Act, last fall.  The bill would provide funding for state courts to assess and improve adult guardianship and conservatorship proceedings.  The bill would direct the Attorney General to create a pilot program to identify procedures for conducting background checks on prospective guardians and conservators and would promote information technology to better monitor conservatorships. The bill is scheduled to be considered by the Full Committee on the Judiciary on July 12.