With graduation season upon us, parents are face to face with the reality their child is no longer a baby, but a bonafide adult. It is these facts which make parents aware of the responsibilities that come with being an adult. Being an adult comes with its challenges, however becoming an adult who has special needs is a challenge in itself.  As parents make the best decision for their children, how does one determine what legal aspects to consider?  Legal guardianship comes up many times, specifically in the areas of medical matters.  So, let’s talk Guardian Advocacy and what does that mean for yourself and your child.


Guardian Advocacy is a process for families, caregivers, and friends of individuals with an intellectual disability to obtain a guardianship without having to have an examining committee appointed to determine that the person is incompetent.   A Guardian Advocate needs to be selected when a person with a developmental disability turns he or she turns 18.   Upon becoming any adult, the parent no longer has the legal ability to make decisions for their child.   To obtain guardian advocacy over an individual, the person with an intellectual disability must have a disorder or syndrome that falls under certain criteria.


If the individual has an Intelligent Quotient of below 70,  Cerebral Palsy, Autism, Spina Bifida, Prader-Willi Syndrome, Down Syndrome, Phelan- McDermid Syndrome, which manifests before the age of 18. Not everyone with an intellectual disability needs a legal guardian. One is necessary if the person is not able to make the necessary decisions relating to daily life activities (where to live, financial decisions, educational decisions, etc.). If you fear your child may not be able to make sound decisions regarding their life, Guardian Advocacy may be the way to go and is the least restrictive regarding what is best for the individual in the future.


Background Check Requirements and who may not serve as Guardian Advocate:


A person who may not be appointed as a Guardian Advocate includes anyone who has been convicted of a felony; suffers from any incapacity or illness that makes them incapable of discharging duties of a Guardian Advocate, or is otherwise unsuitable to perform the functions of a Guardian Advocate; has been judicially determined to have committed abuse, abandonment, or neglect of a child.


As an advocate, and Social Worker, I understand making the best decision for your loved one is not easy, and I applaud anyone who takes into consideration their loved one’s future.


If you or your loved one have any more questions or want more clarification, please reach out to attorney Laurie Ohall at www.Ohalllaw.com (she does free workshops to help you figure out how you can file for guardian advocacy over your child on your own and without having to hire an attorney) and also check out the following links  to the guardian advocacy statutes – http://www.leg.state.fl.us/statutes/index.cfm?App_mode=Display_Statute&Search_String=&URL=0300-0399/0393/Sections/0393.12.html.  If you are in Hillsborough County, here is the link to the Thirteenth Judicial Circuit – http://www.fljud13.org/CourtPrograms/ElderJusticeCenter/Forms.aspx.