VOR on Guardianship and Supported Decision Making
By Hugo Dwyer and VOR's Issues and Oversight Committee
Guardianship is the legal process whereby the courts appoint a person “to have the care and custody of a minor or of an adult who has been legally determined to be incapacitated.” (www.mo.bar.org) Guardianships are awarded to protect the individual from abuse, neglect, and exploitation and guardians are expected to act in the best interests of the individual concerning their residential, medical, psychiatric, behavioral, and financial needs. Legal guardianship is both a responsibility and a privilege.
VOR maintains that strong, well-monitored guardianships are essential to the protection and well-being of individuals with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (I/DD) who cannot make decisions for themselves. Our membership consists primarily of people who have family members with severe and profound intellectual and developmental disabilities, many of whom have multiple disabilities that may include chronic medical conditions, seizure disorders, visual or hearing impairments, mental illness, and/or extreme behavioral challenges. Many of these individuals function at an infant or toddler’s level although fully grown and need substantial support in every aspect of life. In most cases, our disabled family members have been adjudicated incompetent and a legal guardian has been appointed for them, most often a parent, a sibling or other close relative, or a family friend.