Over the past two decades, guardians, advocates, and the judiciary have been working at the national level to improve guardianship law and practice. This work was set in motion by a series of more than 200 Associated Press Wire Stories about guardianship abuses that were published in the mid-1980s. Over the next decade, guardians and other interested parties built relationships and established an association dedicated to improving guardianship. In the year 2000, members of the National Guardianship Association (“NGA”) wrote and formally adopted “Standards of Practice” for guardians. In 2001, at the Wingspan Conference held at Stetson University, other national groups such as the National College of Probate Judges and the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys recognized the NGA standards as a national model.
Making progress on change can be challenging and changes in practice have not kept pace with the many changes in state statutes. Each state is different in personality and procedure. What is common among the states is that courts, social service agencies, and advocates work independently, speak different languages, and may not understand each other. This makes change even more difficult unless the parties involved are willing to develop common language and a dialogue. That dialogue is the goal of teams that adopt an “interdisciplinary” approach.
This Article will describe the multiple national conferences since 1988 that have spearheaded the process of guardianship reform, filtering it through to the states. The Article will also describe efforts at the state level to implement reform, focusing on the evolution of the Ohio Interdisciplinary Guardianship Committee (“IGC”), from its precursor, the Guardianship Forum, to a permanent, established subcommittee at the Supreme Court of Ohio.
In addition to examining Ohio’s state-level IGC, this Article will review a number of other interdisciplinary groups around the country with similar approaches, though the focus of the groups may be slightly different. These groups may be statewide or may be organized at the county level. All these groups are trying to serve vulnerable adult populations with limited resources, and working as an interdisciplinary team expands the resources for problem resolution.
Finally, there will be a discussion of the lessons the Ohio committee has learned through the process, and recommendations will be offered to assist other states interested in implementing and maintaining reform. The goal is to encourage more states to establish IGCs, to provide them with an effective entity to implement reform, and to position states to adopt the recommended standards developed as an outcome of the 2011 Guardianship Summit in Utah. Guardianship is a responsibility of the “state” that removes rights from the individual to protect that person. Encouraging courts, guardians, and the social service community in every state to learn about and implement best practice is the goal of the interdisciplinary dialogue.
Utah Law Review
Carolyn L. Dessin, Julia R. Nack, and Judge Thomas Swift, Creating and Sustaining Interdisciplinary Guardianship Committees, 2012 Utah Law Review 1667 (2012).