Last week I attended a webinar on guardianships and supported living. I think these topics are crucial for people to understand. I thought I would write two blog posts on these topics, and today’s post will be on guardianships. The speaker, who gave the webinar, was Jonathan Martinis. He is a lawyer and speaker who talks from the heart. Jonathan made a lot of sense when talking about guardianship and how it is dangerous,getting one when you did not try everything first.
Some people who are locked up in jail for years might have more freedom than someone who has guardianship. When a person gets guardianship, they go before a judge and the judge marks what the person needs help with. If the judge does not know the person very well, he or she often checks everything on the list which makes the person feel like a slave. Let me give you a pretend example. I need guardianship for handling money. I would go before a judge to get a guardianship. The judge marks that I need help with money, but he also marks that I could only see people who are on a list. If Grace was not on the list, I would not be able to see her.
Parents always say that they want their teenagers with a disability to be safe or don’t want them to get into trouble. They think that guardianship would “protect” their teenager so they get one. Jonathan made a great observation and that’s - have you ever made mistakes in your life? The answer is of course and you learned from the mistakes. Right? So, why can’t a person with a disability do the same thing? In some instances, guardianship is needed for some things for some time.
There is a woman who has Down Syndrome and she had a job, a place of her own, and things were looking very bright for her. One day she was hit by a car, and she was not hurt bad but she was in the hospital for a few days. The doctors did tests on her and concluded that she could not go back to her apartment. She had to go to a group home and had to work in a workshop making a subminimum wage. This woman had her world turned upside down and couldn’t talk to her friends, not even her lawyer. She could talk about things on a list that was approved.
Is this right for a person to go through? The answer is NO and a person in jail has more rights than her. How sad! In the end after fighting in court, the judge made a new guardianship for her and would last only a year. Her boss would take her in and help her out. Her boss and his wife paid 50k to get her out of the home. If they did not do this, she would be in the group home and working for nothing.
The bottom line is this - get a guardianship as a last result and make sure the judge marks only things that the person with a disability needs and put an end date on it. Remember this - everyone makes mistakes and it includes people with disabilities. Let them fail and learn from them. When I moved into my condo, I made a lot of mistakes and without being able to fail, I would be doing the same things now.