What is a Guardianship Program?

Daphne Mallory

A guardianship program is one provided by a non-profit, for-profit, or government agency whose mission is often to provide conservatorship and guardianship services to developmentally disabled adults and other adults who are deemed mentally incapacitated by a court to govern their financial and personal affairs. Each program is court appointed, and relatives often give the court input on which guardian to choose if the adult does not request a specific guardian in other legal documents. The services provided by a guardianship program include medical, financial, and legal assistance. Guardians or case managers also complete mundane daily tasks, such as running errands. Some guardians also find suitable living arrangements for adults if the guardianship program does not have its own facilities where adults can stay.

Guardianship programs may help adult children of aging parents ensure their loved ones' needs are being met.
Guardianship programs may help adult children of aging parents ensure their loved ones' needs are being met.

Rules for court-appointed guardianship are often found in the region’s probate laws. The probate court creates a legal relationship between the guardianship program and the adult who can no longer manage basic daily living tasks, such as eating and bathing, or making decisions about money management. These adults need supervision, and the volunteers or case managers of the guardianship program provide the care and supervision required. Many adults also need help obtaining and receiving medical treatments. The guardianship program is responsible for paying the medical bills, administering medicine to the adult, and seeking help from medical professionals.

Adults don’t often nominate themselves for a guardianship program. A relative, friend, or state worker is often the one to request guardianship of the court. The probate court usually appoints an attorney to act as a guardian for legal purposes only to consult with the adult on the proceedings. The attorney is often called upon by the court to make recommendations on the limitations of the guardianship services.

When there is no individual or private or public agency qualified to offer the necessary services to adults who are adjudicated as incapacitated by the state or willing to offer those services, a governmental agency may be appointed to deliver guardianship services. Some state departments offer their own guardianship programs to serve the adults, such as the Department of Human Services located in each state of the United States. The adults have to meet certain criteria, including residency requirements and often the stipulation that the adult already be a recipient of state social benefits. Government agencies are often reluctant to provide guardianship services to adults who have other options. The application process for admission to the guardianship program is often restrictive, and the adults must document that other alternatives were tried and unsuccessful.

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