Ensuring Your Family Members Care for the Rest of Their Life: What is Guardianship?

Aug 5 2020

Ensuring Your Family Members Care for the Rest of Their Life: What is Guardianship?

At The Arc Westchester, we are committed to building programs and supports around the individual, utilizing the principles and practices of person-centered planning to promote a self-determined life for individuals with developmental disabilities.

As those we support get older, we often hear concern from parents about what will happen to their child if they can no longer take care of them. There are several planning tools available to individuals based on their needs and situation, including but not limited to appointing a legal guardian, instituting Advanced Health Care Directives, Health Care Proxy or Power of Attorney and engaging in Supported Decision-Making (SDM) with a trained facilitator.

SDM is a model for supporting individuals to make significant decisions and exercise their legal capacity. Specific decisions are addressed, weighted and concluded by the person with the disability, while drawing on the support of a network of people or an individual. While this method is offered throughout the country, it is not currently a legal decision-making method in New York.

Our Guardianship Program was established to help individuals we support continue to lead a life of dignity, filled with their preferences on how they want to live their life. A guardian offers assistance based on the individual’s capacities and wishes, while ensuring that they have the opportunity to express preferences and have them honored to every extent possible. Nancy Succoso, Director of Guardianship and Individual Supports, suggests exploring alternatives to guardianship initially and only appointing a guardian when other less restrictive measures are not effective.

We promote self-reliance and independent decision-making to the maximum extent of the individual’s abilities when it comes to all decisions effecting their life, from where they live, their medical care, accessing government benefits and more. Special celebrations, holidays and time with friends are all part of the family environment that our guardians provide.

Periodic seminars are offered to assist families with future planning options including how to complete the required documentation for the appointment of a guardian in the Surrogate Court. The Court only appoints a guardian after there has been an independent review of the need for guardianship. The need for continued guardianship should be reviewed annually at planning meetings.

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