The Arc Jacksonville’s Advocacy department, better known as A.S.K. (Advocacy, Support and Knowledge), is a rich resource in providing assistance and outreach to the disability community. The advocacy department consists of Charlotte Temple, Vice President of Advocacy and Denise Torres, Advocacy Specialist. Advocacy is the only department in the agency that serves people with disabilities through-out the life span. Of the many services and resources they provide, information about the protection of rights, guardianship/guardian advocacy is a question that comes up often among parents and guardians.
Guardianship/Guardian Advocacy helps caregivers protect the rights of their loved ones with a disability.
It is encouraged that families begin to consider guardianship/guardian advocacy before the person with a disability turns 18, if they have a significant intellectual disability. Once they turn 18, they are of legal age and according to state law, the person is of age to make all legal decisions. Education rights and decisions are transferred to the student from the parent(s)/caregiver(s).
The Advocacy department helps families to understand the many legal ways of assisting their son or daughter with legal decisions. If it becomes necessary to obtain more formal rights to assist with decision making, the department provides information about the guardian and the guardian advocacy processes. Guardianship is for anyone that does not have the ability to make decisions. Guardian Advocacy is only for those individuals who have an intellectual disability and developmental disability.
Guardianship and guardian advocacy generally only address areas of a person’s life where they are unable to make decisions and need protection. The most common concerns are in the areas of medical decisions and the ability to negotiate government benefits and services. Next, are usually in the area of finance and the ability to understand and enter into a contract. Most guardianships and guardian advocacies are limited to the areas in which the individual needs assistance.
The Advocacy department assists families/caregivers with information on where to turn to seek professional assistance with the process. Attorney representation is necessary for guardianship. Individuals can represent themselves with guardian advocacy, but most are reluctant to do so and seek an attorney to assist them. For those families who have limited resources, the Advocacy department assists them with locating reduced cost or free legal services in the community.
Christina Rivers recently worked with our advocacy department to assist in obtaining guardian advocacy for her son. “I had a wonderful experience working with the Advocacy department,” she said. They were able to explain the guardian advocacy process and help Rivers obtain the help she needed for her 18 year old son, Christian.
“I appreciate Ms. Torres going all out. She was excellent and supportive,” said Rivers.
For more information on our advocacy program and assistance with guardianship, please visit arcjacksonville.org.