Autism support group set to learn about guardianships
by Jennifer Cohron
Jul 21, 2010 | 1063 views | 0 0 comments | 10 10 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Deb Leach has always supported her 32-year-old daughter’s independence.

Angela, who is mentally retarded, graduated from Cordova High School in 1995. She is a registered voter and lives in her own apartment in the downstairs of her parents’ house.

Leach also wants to protect her daughter from herself and others if necessary, but Angela is an adult under the law. She has the right to do what she wants even if her actions are not in her best interest.

Leach has considered seeking guardianship, a legal process that would give her more authority by declaring Angela incompetent in some matters. However, she wants to find the right balance between her daughter’s freedom and a mother’s love.

“We don’t know if that (guardianship) will be a good thing. It will take away a lot of her rights as an individual, and I’ve worked too hard for her to get where she is,” Leach said.

On Friday, Leach will get the chance to talk about some of her concerns with Walker County Probate Judge Rick Allison when he speaks to the COAST support group about guardianships.

The meeting will be held at 6 p.m at Community Options, Inc., on Old Russellville Road North.

Allison said most parents of a child with special needs don’t give much thought to guardianship until he or she turns 19. At that point, parents are no longer able to make even simple decisions about their child’s care.

“If the child needs some type of surgery, the parent can’t go in and sign a consent for them to have their appendix taken out or whatever the case may be,” Allison said.

Guardians can make decisions about where the person in their care lives, what medical treatment they receive and can also accept money on their behalf in certain circumstances.

Allison said although guardians are granted many rights, their authority is not absolute and should not be abused.

“In any guardianship, that individual is supposed to function at the highest capacity that they can,” Allison said.

For example, an adult with a disability can have his own checking account but may need a guardian to help manage his money.

The guardianship process requires the person seeking authority to petition the court.

Next of kin are notified, and the individual’s doctor has to file a report noting that he or she is incompetent. The court then appoints an attorney to represent the person whose rights are in question as well as a court representative for incapacitated adults.

A court hearing is usually scheduled within 30 days.

Allison said guardianship is a good thing in many cases, but it is also a decision that parents should not take lightly.

“I wouldn’t go through the process unless it was absolutely necessary because there is an expense,” Allison said.