Are you looking into options for your child when he or she becomes a legal adult at age 18? Have you been told to seek guardianship of your child with a disability? Are you wondering what that will mean for you and your child––or if you have any other options?
For a long time, guardianship has been the expected choice for families. If a person had a disability, then it was understood that the family would seek guardianship in order to help care for them in adulthood. Guardianship has been virtually the only option for families to stay involved.
Guardianship legally strips a person of their basic civil rights. When someone has guardianship of another person, that person can no longer make decisions for themselves. They cannot vote, choose to get married, borrow money, or sign a lease. Guardianship strips away independence and rights of an individual and grants them to the guardian, who then legally makes all decisions.
For some, this is the best option.
But many people with disabilities need help, rather than a guardian. They need guidance when it comes to important decisions and support with certain areas of their lives. Families who value independence and civil rights have long wished for a solution. They have needed an alternative.
That alternative option is now available: Supported Decision-Making. Supported decision-making allows families to provide help and guidance in those areas where it is needed––and do so without stripping their loved one of their basic rights. A person with a disability can now choose to create a Supported Decision-Making Agreement.
The agreement is created when a person with a disability chooses a support person and agrees to the areas where they need support. The agreement can be with a family member, a friend, a teacher, or a neighbor. That support person then plays an important role in helping with decisions. They can give guidance, offer support, discuss options and the effects of each choice, and talk with doctors and teachers on behalf of the individual.
The process is an easy one. And, thanks to recent laws, schools and medical personnel across Texas are required to recognize the agreement. Texas is the first state in the nation to recognize Supported Decision-Making Agreements. This decision opens doors to more independence and self-advocacy for individuals who have a disability.
For instructions and a sample agreement, visit The Arc of Texas website.
For additional information on legal issues, check out the Legal Options for Age 18 and Beyond on the NavigateLifeTexas website.
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Just when I thought maybe the “autism thing” was calming down. And that maybe I had a few months to catch my breath before researching everything I needed to know about guardianship before my son turns 18. Wham–another big change brought us back to reality.