Who’s Overseeing the Overseers?
July 3, 2012 by Hon. Diane Kavadias Schneider
A Report on the State of Adult Guardianship in Indiana
The Indiana Adult Guardianship State Task Force was convened in spring 2008. The Task Force membership includes key Indiana public/private agencies and organizations that serve or advocate for at-risk adults in need of guardianship services and individual guardianship professionals, advocates and others with an interest in providing quality guardianship services. Judges Kevin Barton and Susan Orr Henderson represented the Indiana judiciary on the Task Force and contributed significantly to its mission.
The 35 plus members of the Task Force have been supported in their work by the participation of the major Indiana state agencies with the responsibility of providing services to adults in need of guardianship services. The work of the Task Force would not have been possible without the guidance of Rebecca Pryor, a national certified guardian, who served as consultant and facilitator for the group.
The purpose of the Task Force is “to convene an interdisciplinary group of Indiana key stakeholders to examine the public policy, legal and service delivery issues, and needs related to adult guardianship and to support the development and provisions of community-based adult guardianship services across the state.” The initial support for the Task Force came from the Indiana Adult Guardianship Services Project (IAGS Project) of The Arc of Indiana, and funding was provided through a grant from the Indiana FSSA Division of Disability and Rehabilitative Services.
In conjunction with the Task Force mission, Dr. Michael Jenuwine, J.D., Ph.D. of the Notre Dame Legal Aid Clinic conducted academic research and a review of national and Indiana guardianship demographics, data, statutes, funding sources and the recommended best practices for guardianship services, standards, regulation and certification. Guardianships of incapacitated adults filed between January 1, 2008 and December 31, 2008 were reviewed in 14 jurisdictions across Indiana.
The work of the Task Force has focused on examining the level of need, availability of resources, and the quality of adult guardianship services across the state and on supporting an extensive legal review of Indiana guardianships, practices and statutes. State information was gathered through presentations and reports from service providers, a review of the guardianship statutes, and responses from a statewide needs assessment. The Task Force also reviewed the resources and methods of guardianship services oversight and funding in other states, and nationally recommended standards for developing quality guardianship services.
On December 8, 2011, the following recommendations for action were reviewed and adopted by a majority vote of the Task Force members. The Task Force published its full report in February 2012. The Task Force recognizes that not all of the recommendations can be achieved immediately, or simultaneously, but believes they are goals worth pursuing. The Task Force envisions its report to create discussion and to encourage feedback on additional ways to improve guardianship services.
A state supported and funded Office of Adult Guardianship should be established as a department of the Indiana Supreme Court Division of State Court Administration.
A state supported and funded system of community-based volunteer guardian services should be created to serve the need for statewide guardianship services for incapacitated adults who are indigent or without the support of suitable family members.
A state supported and funded system of mandatory guardian education, and registry should be created for all attorney, professional, and non-family member guardians appointed by the courts.
A state supported and funded adult guardianship registry should be created to collect data and issue reports on all adult guardianship cases and guardians appointed by the courts.
The Indiana Probate Code Study Commission should undertake a comprehensive review and revision of the probate code regarding guardianship under IC 29 and IC 12.
A state supported and funded information and referral resource center should be created to provide pubic education on advanced directives planning and the options available to individuals and families for substitute decision-making.
Judge Susan Orr Henderson is working on the implementation of a Guardianship Registry (Recommendation 4 above) and discusses that project in further detail in the companion article.
In the next few months, members of the Task Force will be giving presentations and distributing copies of the report to various professional groups, organizations and agencies. Members of Indiana’s bench and bar should review the Task Force report for an in-depth analysis of many of the issues relating to incapacitated adults in Indiana and a full discussion of the recommendations.