Here is a very informative post by our treasurer about guardianship. Before you know it, your child with DD will grow up!
My son with multiple disabilities (Down syndrome, pervasive developmental disorder (Autism Spectrum) and in remission from leukemia) is nearing “adulthood”-legal adulthood. What to do when we reached this point has been on my mind for a few years. For a while I thought, we’ll go for full guardianship and we still might. The thing is, in Ohio, in order to have full guardianship the individual is declared completely incompetent and becomes a ward of the state. Currently, they pretty much lose all rights. They may lose their right to vote, marry, or sign up for Special Olympics! The guardian is appointed by Probate Court and there is little ongoing over site. I understand parents wanting full guardianship in an effort to protect their child, but at the same time, I struggle internally with doing it myself. I just don’t want to declare my son completely incompetent because damn it he deserves some rights. At the same time he definitely needs some protection. It is very tricky business and others have realized this as well. There are currently two Bills being considered in Ohio that would revamp the guardianship system (Ohio House Bill 624 and Ohio Senate Bill 365 (Ward’s Bill of Rights). The revamping includes many changes that in my view are positive in that they increase rights and include more over sight about how guardians are performing.
For me, there is the realization that the formality of the situation may affect how we all think of him and his abilities. It is empowering to have rights and for others to know that you do. It is empowering to be included in decisions about where to live and work etc.-I would of course do this anyway. In essence tough, I somewhat fear myself and how the legalities of guardianship may impact my own behavior toward him. Even if I tell myself it won’t. I just want to make sure that I am truly doing the very best thing for him because there are a lot of ways to approach it. Guardianship can be specific to medical or financial concerns or it can be as broad as covering the entire person and his or her estate.
Though I struggle internally, we are just under a month away from his 18th birthday so here are the steps I’ve taken so far.
First I read about guardianship (there’s lots of information on the Ohio DD Council website).
In August, I called Athens County probate court and they suggested applying in the month before his 18th birthday. They mailed me the paperwork-it’s kind of lengthy and I am not good with forms, so I then stopped by the courthouse to get some guidance. We have a blended family so it’s a bit more complicated. The Probate Court staff were extremely helpful. They showed me who needs to sign and where. Any adult immediate family members (including siblings) have to sign a waiver if they are not seeking guardianship. My understanding is that only two people can be on the application. There’s a form for a physician to complete regarding the individual’s diagnosis and competency (get this in the physician’s hands weeks before you need it). Also, it costs $300 to file the guardianship application with Probate Court.
I talked to another mom last week who has full guardianship of her adult daughter and she was extremely helpful. She suggested talking to a lawyer about the various levels of guardianship to get more clarity on the details.
So at this point, I have an appointment with a lawyer for next week and should still be able to file for partial or full guardianship in the month before my beautiful boy turns 18.
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