Q&A-Guardianship for your Child With Special Needs

Are you a parent or caregiver of an adult child with special needs?

If so, then you know firsthand that parenting a child beyond adolescence and into young adulthood can bring its own set of joys and challenges.

Stasia recently sat down with a father of two adult children with special needs to discuss his personal experiences as well as the advantages (and hurdles) that can accompany the process of obtaining guardianship.

Their discussion is featured in the current issue of the Attachment and Trauma Network’s “Therapeutic Parenting Journal.” (p.12)

Paraphrased excerpts from the conversation are below and you can find the link to the full article here:

The first thing a parent should know is that guardianship over a child with special needs isn’t a “one size fits all” proposition.  Each child is unique and each child has specific gifts and limitations and, ideally, the guardianship proceedings and resulting order should reflect that.

A good guardianship attorney will work with parents and a child’s medical provider to provide evidence to the guardianship court about the specific situation that a family is facing.  Once this evidence is presented to the court, the judge can ‘customize’ a guardianship order to indicate whether a parent has the authority to make decisions regarding health care, school, housing, etc. (which is known as “guardianship over the person” in Indiana) and/or whether the parent has the authority to manage finances on behalf of their child (known as “guardianship over the estate.”)

  • The most obvious benefit of a guardianship order is that it provides clear legal authority for a guardian parent to deal with third parties on behalf of their child.  When proof of guardianship is presented to entities like school administrators, government agencies, medical providers, and financial institutions, the guardian is legally entitled to receive what is typically protected information and make decisions accordingly.  Doors may open more quickly.
  • A guardianship order can help to protect a vulnerable person from questionable financial decisions or from being taken advantage of by unscrupulous people. Some young adults with disabilities are, unfortunately, prime targets for financial exploitation. They can be persuaded to sign leases, buy cars or apply for credit cards by others who appear to be their friends.  The good news is that a guardianship order can prove that the person under guardianship doesn’t have the authority to enter into these contracts with third parties.
  • Proof of guardianship can be presented to law enforcement and may help to diffuse encounters with the police. While having a guardian isn’t a “get out of jail free” card, it may have some value. Guardianship can sometimes act as a shield in some minor offenses, such as shoplifting.  But parents shouldn’t believe that a guardianship order will prevent courts from holding their young adult child accountable for criminal liability, especially in the cases of felonies and other serious misconduct.
  • Having a guardianship in place provides a process to have a judge approve major decisions.
  • A guardianship order may provide potential access to continued special education services, vocational training services, day programs, or living arrangements.

 Some potential drawbacks to guardianship may include the following:

  • There are financial obligations that accompany guardianship proceedings, including filing fees, and attorney fees and costs associated with ongoing reporting requirements.
  • The legal requirements of guardianship can be somewhat time-consuming.  Guardians who are managing finances on behalf of an adult child are required to submit periodic guardianship accountings and status reports to the Court.  There is legal liability associated with these tasks.
  • The process can be emotionally tumultuous for a young adult who has the capacity to understand that a guardianship order will limit his or her financial and/or personal choices.
  • The process can also be emotionally difficult if family members disagree about who should serve as guardian.   (A licensed mediator can sometimes help families in these situations.)

All children deserve dignity and compassion as their family moves through the process of obtaining guardianship.  Truthfully, it’s the families that are doing the real work here.  Your attorney can help put the wheels in motion to initiate a guardianship proceeding but, once the order is entered, you are still your child’s greatest advocate.”

wheel chair

What You Need to Know About The Indiana Guardianship Registry

Did you know that the state of Indiana is in the process of implementing an online guardianship registry?

The registry is intended to be a safeguard for vulnerable people who are under guardianship. It will serve as a tool for hospitals, banks, law enforcement, mental health facilities, government agencies, and other service providers who are often placed in emergency situations where knowing whether someone is under a guardianship and who needs to be contacted is critical.

The registry provides non-confidential case information to the public, including: the name of the protected person, the name of the appointed guardian, the protected person’s year of birth, whether the guardianship case is active or expired, when the letters of guardianship were issued, the county issuing the guardianship, and the guardianship cause number.

Learn more and access the registry here:
https://publicaccess.courts.in.gov/GRP/

Questions about guardianship?
We can help.

old couple

Planning Ahead- Guardianships and Estate Planning for your Loved One with Special Needs

A significant part of our practice is devoted to working with families to ensure the long term care and protection of a loved one with special needs and we regularly have the opportunity to partner with other wonderful organizations in doing so.

Down Syndrome Indiana is dedicated to providing resources, education, support, and access to services for individuals and families.  Stasia recently had the opportunity to work with our friends at DS Indiana to provide information about how families can plan ahead for guardianship.

The featured article can be found here:

http://www.dsindiana.org/Guardianship.php

The prospect of a guardianship proceeding for a family member with special needs (whether it be a child or an adult) might understandably feel overwhelming.  Be assured that we do everything in our power to foster dignity and compassion throughout the process and to minimize the stress and the expense associated with it

Let us know if you have questions about guardianship planning or estate planning for your loved one.

We can help.


 

 

 

Changes to Indiana’s Guardianship Statute

Several changes to the Indiana Guardianship statute took effect as of July 1st, 2012.     Below are some highlights.     

 Senate Enrolled Act 32 – Guardianships

  • Provides for a change in the law for the automatic termination of a guardianship when the minor reaches the age of 18, unless there is a reason for the guardianship to continue beyond age 18 such as the adjudication that the minor is an incapacitated person or in which the minor received financial assistance from the Department of Child Services. In those cases, the guardianship may not be automatically terminated by the court when the minor reaches the age of 18.
  • Allows a minor (who has not  otherwise been adjudicated an incapacitated person) and the minor’s guardian to jointly petition the court to extend the guardianship that would otherwise be automatically terminated by the Court past age 18, but not beyond the date the protected person reaches the age of 22.  Under these circumstances, the Court must find that extending the guardianship is in the best interests of the protected person.

If you are currently serving as a guardian or contemplating guardianship for a loved one, please feel free to contact our office to arrange a time to discuss how these changes may affect your situation.    

 It is truly our privilege to work with families and caregivers.

Broad Ripple Gazette Feature Story

Special thanks to Alan Hague, Mario Morone, and our friends at the Broad Ripple Gazette!  Our feature story is on the the front page of the current (March 16th) issue. So pick up a copy when you’re in the neighborhood.  A link to the Gazette and the text of the article is below . . .

http://www.broadripplegazette.com/

Family practice attorney Anastasia Demos Mills described her initial interest in adoption law and how it influenced her career.

 “I decided to go to law school primarily because of my desire to become involved in child advocacy and the adoption process. I really did have a passion and interest in this area pretty early-even during high school.   I traveled quite a bit before and during law school with the goal of learning more about the needs of children and families worldwide.  I spent some time working in a remarkably well-run orphanage in Romania and with another humanitarian aid organization in Mexico. 

You might remember that, during the 1990s, there were a lot of heartbreaking news stories about the mistreatment and neglect of children in institutions, particularly in Eastern Europe.  Fortunately, the privately-run orphanage where I worked was not one of those places.    There were probably about 70 kids that lived there at that time and some of them were sibling groups.   The staff there was wonderful and it really did seem to be as much of a familial environment as one could have in an institutional setting.

Some of the children were adopted but others, of course, remained.   As kids “aged out,” many would choose to remain on property (the orphanage sat on a large piece of land).  International donors would help to provide funding so that the young adults could work with staff to construct a home on the property, where they could then live indefinitely.  Some of them even helped to raise their younger siblings or other children in these individual family-like homes because support and resources were so close by.    

Working in that environment was a really transformative time for me.   It definitely solidified my desire to learn even more about the different ways that families are built.”

Long before pursuing her law degree, however, Stasia made a prelude into music: “My dad ran a moving company when I was a kid.  He regularly moved elderly folks from their homes into smaller condominiums or retirement communities and, as a part of the moving process, some of these clients would sell or donate various items that they no longer needed or used.  Dad would reduce their bill in exchange for any musical instruments that they no longer needed or wanted.  So, growing up, there were always a variety of musical instruments around the house.  I learned to play piano, harmonica, and accordion with my parents (we had lots of family sing-a-longs) and picked up the guitar in college.

 I finished law school at I.U. Indy in 1999 and, around that time, I was doing a lot of songwriting and playing music as my part-time job.  I ended up playing with an incredibly talented group of guys (Tad Armstrong, Aaron Stroup, and Gonzalo Dies) in a band called Middletown.  We played quite a lot locally and regionally for several years and released a few albums.  It really was so fun and fulfilling and we had the privilege of playing with (and learning from) some well-known artists along the way.  The touring and travel schedule, however, didn’t lend itself well to a traditional full-time position in a law firm, so my former law partner, Jason Reyome, and I decided to start our Broad Ripple practice in 2001.   For the first few years of our practice, I was still playing music part-time and he held another contract position at the Public Defender Agency while we cultivated our client base,” Stasia said. 

They built their law practice in a unique way.  “Miraculously, we never did any traditional advertising and for the ten years that we worked together, our practice steadily grew via referrals from existing clients and other colleagues.  Mr. Reyome departed for a judicial position in early 2011 and I’m so proud of his accomplishments. 

A lot changed during our ten years in practice together.  I got married in 2002 to my husband, Matt Mills (owner of Mills Catering at http://www.millscatering.com – events around the city that he has caters include the IU School of Medicine and Law School, Indianapolis Art Center and weddings) and our little guy, Silas, came along shortly thereafter.  My musical commitments shifted closer to home, my time at the office increased, and I now perform solo for more family-friendly events with the local parks department, libraries, and summer festivals (along with the occasional gig at the Corner Wine Bar or the Indy Hostel).  I do have a guitar at my office and have often been known to pick it up after a particularly challenging phone call or to serenade a client who asks,” she mentioned.

            “My individual successor law practice has evolved to focus primarily on domestic adoptions, guardianships for kids and mentally incapacitated adults, estate planning and elder law.  It’s a privilege to work with families,” Stasia noted, “and I love resurrecting the lost art of the house call, particularly for some of my elderly estate planning and Medicaid planning clients.”

Her law practice location at 5954 North College Avenue is an ideal one.  “I’m truly thankful to have an office in Broad Ripple and I really do enjoy my job.   So many people come to me at some sort of crossroads or life transition.   It is very important to me to have an approachable, welcoming environment in which to meet with clients from all different walks of life.   The garden outside is intentional.  The play area inside is too.  I expect to be here for a long time and I’m so grateful to all of our  wonderful clients, colleagues and friends who support what we do and trust us during some of life’s biggest transitions.    More information about Stasia’s legal practice and community involvement can be found at: http://www.demosmillslaw.com or by calling 205-4357.

Three of Stasia’s four grandparents emigrated from Greece to America, going through Ellis Island.  Her name, “Anastasia” is Greek for “resurrection” and “Demos” means “of the people.”   It a unique fit for her work in bringing together children with their adoptive parents.

As Stasia Mills helps families create legacies for their loved ones, she is also creating a legacy of her own in adoption and family law in Broad Ripple Village.

More Resources for Kinship Caregivers

If you’re a kinship care giver of a related child (grandchild, cousin, nephew etc.), know that you are certainly not alone.

The Second Time Around Program at the Martin Luther King Community Center (40th & College) hosts monthly meetings, social events, educational sessions with community partners, and referrals to supports such as counseling and treatment. This network may be able to help provide your family with an informal support system of others facing the same joys and challenges.

Here’s a link where you can learn more:

http://www.mlk-msc.org/second_time_around

Kinship caregivers often have questions about guardianship or estate planning too.  Let us know if we can help.

Are you a Kinship Caregiver?

Are you a grandparent, aunt, uncle, or relative raising a child?  Changing from being a friend, grandmother, aunt, or uncle to a fulltime caregiver is a big transition for everyone. 

Kid’s Voice of Indiana provides general (and very useful) information to help you as a kinship caregiver.  See the attached link and let us know if we can help with any detailed questions specific to your family.

http://www.kidsvoicein.org/documents/Kinship-Care-Booklet.pdf

A special thanks to Kids’ Voice of Indiana for this information.   Kid’s Voice is a 501(c)3 organization which has been committed for more than twenty-five years to promoting, protecting, and preserving the rights and best interest of children across the state of Indiana.   

 

 

 

 

A Few Words on Aging

One of our very talented (and thoughtful) elderly clients wrote the below poem and gave us permission to share her work with you.     

It is our privilege to advise our elderly clients and their families, whether it be in the context of estate planning, long term care planning, or guardianship planning.   Thank you for the poem, Miss Dorothy. And thank you for the reminder for us to cherish each day that we are given.

The Woman In The Mirror

I went to the bathroom this morning
To brush my teeth you see–
I glanced up at the mirror
And someone was looking at me.
I wondered what she was doing there,
For it was someone I didn’t know—

Her face was full of wrinkles
And her hair was white as snow.
I think her eyes were brown—like mine are
Tho they weren’t easy to see.
But she didn’t comb her hair like I did
So I knew it couldn’t be me
both of us stood there staring at each other
Neither of  us saving a word.
I looked at her secretly thinking,
“I’m glad I’m not that old!”
I wanted her to leave—so—I started to say
“Would you like me to leave you alone?”
She started to say the same thing to me.
(I think she thought this was her home!)
I turned on the water to rinse my face
She did the same thing too
It startled me so-I wanted to cry!
“I can’t be the same as you!!”
Then I felt a little ashamed
She looked a little bit sad.
And then she quietly said to me
“Things really aren’t that bad;.”
So we smiled at each other, realizing
We were both one and the same,
Me in that old body,
She on this young frame!
Thankful for our health,
Our family, friends, and home
Just waiting for that day
When the good Lord says, “Well done.”
Then the old woman with her white hair and
With the young woman somewhere inside,
Walked out of the bathroom “together,”
Just happy to be alive!

Dorothy L.
May 9, 2000

 

For Parents and Guardians~Indiana enacts new standby guardianship law

As of 7/1/2011, parents of minors or guardians of protected people in IN can designate a standby guardian.  The designation is effective for 90 days upon the death or incapacity of the parent or guardian unless the standby guardian files a petition for guardianship, (in which case the declaration is effective until the court rules on the petition.)

 The new law ensures that the designated party can immediately act on behalf of the minor child or  protected person  under those circumstances until a formal guardianship order is entered.      

Give our office a call to learn more.   We recommend that all parents and guardians complete a standby declaration and we’re happy to help.