The nonprofit Volunteer Lawyer Program of Northeast Indiana and Easter Seals Arc are hosting a free informational meeting at the Allen County Public Library for parents and caregivers of teens or adult children with disabilities. It is an educational outreach of VLP’s Volunteer Advocates for Seniors and Incapacitated Adults, which finds volunteer guardians for adults with no family or friends able or willing to oversee services such as housing or health care. A guardian of the estate may also be appointed.
Although Tuesday’s forum is targeted at families with adult or soon-to-be adult children with disabilities, training for volunteer guardians for older adults and others through VLP-VASIA will be offered later this year. In some cases, an incapacitated person may have medical or other urgent issues requiring intervention but even when family is found, “They will not step up because they’re afraid of being financially responsible,” said attorney Catherine Christoff with Christoff & Christoff, also active with VLP-VASIA.
Although no one denies the guardianship need is significant, just how serious of a problem it is remains uncertain, said Julie Cameron, coordinator of Mental Health in America in Allen County’s Adult Guardianship Services. There is no good tracking in Indiana’s public or private guardianship programs of how many people on waiting lists may die before a guardian is found or perhaps a distant relative accepts the role. The guardianship process needs to be deliberate and taken very seriously, Houk said, noting “We’re talking about suspending people’s civil rights. It’s important there are barriers.”
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Needed: Guardians for Indiana’s disabled, elderly