Supported Decision Making & the Problems of Guardianship
Guardianship is a legal proceeding that strips an individual of multiple or ALL rights. People under guardianship cannot make their own choices about: where they live; where they work; what kind of medical care they get – or whether they will get any medical care; what they eat; who they spend time with; and whether they will get married.
With such a major deprivation of fundamental liberties, it is important to have a rigorous process to evaluate whether a guardianship is needed, and how to limit its reach. Yet, Judges typically approve guardianship petitions without asking many questions. And once a guardianship is created, it can be almost impossible to undo.
Even though guardianship has serious, life-long consequences, it is often imposed as a matter of course. Parents are frequently told that they have to get guardianship over a child with a disability turning 18, if they want to continue to help with education plans and medical treatment. This condemns an adult with a disability to a perpetual childhood – first parents make all decisions, and then, when the parents are no longer able to serve, a complete stranger may be appointed to make every choice for the individual. These professional guardians are often making choices for dozens of people, and tend to push their wards into institutions.
Guardianship is not the only option.
Supported Decision-Making is an alternative model, where people with disabilities keep their rights and their decision-making capacity. Instead of having a guardian make choices for them, people with disabilities have supporters who help them make their own choices. A person using supported decision-making appoints trusted advisors, such as friends, family, or professionals, to serve as supporters. The supporters help the person with a disability understand, make, and communicate her own choices.
For more information, our Resource Library has videos and general information about Supported Decision-Making, Tools For Implementing Supported Decision-Making and Legal Information about Supported Decision-Making.
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