In our last blog post, we learned about The Arc’s Guardianship Program and what the process and results looked like for 15 families. Now we explore the recent advancements in the protection of rights for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD).
When the judge’s gavel echoes in court, legal guardianship deems the adult with I/DD as incapable of making their own decisions and transfers their rights to the chosen guardian. Hearing the question, “Do you deem the ward to be incapacitated?” can evoke some furrowed brows. While the legal process is necessary and effective for some, the verbiage often implies dehumanizing rhetoric. Placed in a situation of black and white options, the individual either surrenders the entirety of their rights to a guardian, or undergoes total autonomy with legal barriers separating them from support. These were the drastic options until recently, when doors where opened for a middle ground.
According to the UT School of Law Continuing Legal Education, “The growing trend is away from guardianship and toward alternatives that allow the person to make their own life decisions” (Weeks).*
Advancing with this momentum, The Arc of the Capital Area has begun facilitating the newest alternative to legal guardianship: Supported Decision Making Agreements (SDMA). It is an opportunity available to any adult with I/DD who is capable of making sound decisions, but would like to maintain support from their parents or a trusted adult in their life. The agreements are free and only require two adult witnesses. SDMA went into effect in September 2015 with Texas paving the way as the first state to approve this legislation.
Partnering with the UT Clinical Law School, Kerim Peirce, LMSW, The Arc’s Manager of Family & Juvenile Transition Services, has been active in facilitating SDMAs by interviewing adults with I/DD about their future goals and discussing good decision-making.
A client of The Arc of the Capital Area was recently very excited about making his own decision to sign an SDMA as one of Kerim’s first clients to do so. This individual has a medical condition that affects intellectual functioning. From day one, he has endured numerous medical procedures, many of which were new and experimental at the time. However, physical alterations such as a titanium rib cage never dampened his ambitions. Since he received the choice to sign an SDMA, he was able to retain many of his rights while requesting the help of his parents. His parents were relieved to continue to support and protect their child, especially with his significant medical needs. This trailblazing middle ground provides an avenue for support without compromising an individual’s decision-making rights.
In this upcoming Guardianship session, The Arc of the Capital Area is excited to continue facilitating opportunities to guide families through the legal processes of Guardianship, as well as opening the door to the new path of Supported Decision Making.
*Weeks, Tresi. Supported Decision Making: The University of Texas School of Law Continuing Legal Education, 5 Feb. 2016. Web.