My Services: Guardianship
Most parents know they should consider guardianship when their child turns 18. That is when he can direct his own medical care (or refuse care), decide his education, handle his money, get a credit card, and sign a car loan.
Medical privacy laws (HIPAA) also kick in at age 18. Your child’s healthcare providers are not supposed to share information with you unless your child specifically agrees to it. Your child may not agree—and you can lose control of his medical care.
That can raise the question: Should you become your child’s legal guardian? Would a Court permit it?
For some parents, the decision to seek guardianship is easy. In my case, my son—who has autism and intellectual disability—cannot even understand that he has a choice in medical care, let alone decide the best treatment. But if your child is more capable, the need for guardianship might not be so clear. You can consider a guardianship evaluation by a professional.
A guardianship evaluation is typically done by a psychologist, social worker, or developmental pediatrician. The clinician can gauge your child’s ability to make important decisions by posing scenarios such as, “Your doctor wants you to take a certain medication. Should you do it?” Instead of giving a simple “yes” or “no” response (or turning helplessly to you), the clinician wants to see if your child will ask questions about the medication such as "Why do you want me to take it? Does it have side effects? What will happen if I don't take it?"
Other questions can gauge your child’s understanding of money: “Someone calls and offers you a free magazine subscription. Would you accept it?” Or vulnerability to manipulation by others: “If a stranger asks you for ten dollars, would you give it to him?”
Where can you obtain a guardianship evaluation? If your child has had a recent three-year education evaluation, one of the clinicians who examined your son or daughter might be able to assist you. A private resource is the Competency Consultation Group in Lexington, MA (www.guardianshipevaluations.com). The principals—James Caron, a psychologist, and Mary Ellen Provencher, a licensed social worker—have more than 30 years experience in the field. Another resource is the Strattus Clinic at Toward Independent Living and Learning (TILL, Inc.) in Dedham, MA (www.tillinc.org).
If the evaluator determines that your child could benefit from guardianship, they can prepare the form for you to file in Court. You should expect to pay about $1,500 for a private evaluation and paperwork.
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