Our mission is to create a sustainable infrastructure to effect long-term changes in North Carolina’s guardianship system and promote less restrictive alternatives.
Why Rethink Guardianship?
Recent public guardianship information collected by DAAS reveals that no longer are the frail elderly the majority of people under guardianship in North Carolina: Out of more than 5,000 adults in the state who are served by a public guardian, nearly 3,000 (56%) are younger adults age 18-59 years old, the majority of whom (86%) have a primary diagnosis of intellectual and other developmental disabilities (I/DD) or mental illness.
Of older adults 60-84 years, who comprise 37% of adults served by public guardians, almost half (48%) have a primary diagnosis of I/DD or mental illness. The number of younger adults with I/DD, mental illness, and traumatic brain injury is expected to grow. Factors such as aging out of foster care, aging parents no longer able to care for adult children, effects of the Olmstead decision and North Carolina's voluntary settlement agreement with the US Department of Justice, and veterans who have suffered traumatic brain injury account for some of this expected growth.
Current guardianship policies and procedures are not always sensitive to the unique needs of adults with intellectual and other developmental disabilities. Our initiative aims to inform future policies and procedures for adult guardianship so that the institution of guardianship can better meet the needs of both elderly and non-elderly North Carolinians.
The NC Division of Aging and Adult Services (DAAS), using a three-year grant from the NC Council on Developmental Disabilities, has launched an initiative to create a sustainable infrastructure to effect long-term changes in NC's guardianship system. DAAS has contracted with the UNC School of Social Work – Jordan Institute for Families to facilitate a collective impact initiative that will lead to development of strategies promoting systems changes that support the rights of the individuals in guardianship and those facing guardianship, and strengthen the North Carolina guardianship system in general.
The foundation of the initiative is establishment of a statewide, long-term workgroup representing a range of guardianship stakeholders. The Rethinking Guardianship Workgroup is comprised of public and private guardianship providers, attorneys, Clerks of Court, aging disability advocates, academics, policy makers, family members, and individuals with lived experience of guardianship.
The workgroup is modeled on WINGS – Working Interdisciplinary Networks of Guardianship Stakeholders, which employs the collective impact model for social change. It will continually assess and evaluate North Carolina’s guardianship system to determine when formal or informal adaptations are needed. This includes examining the use of guardianship alternatives such as advance directives, supported decision-making and self-determination to avoid the appointment of an individual or public entity as guardian. The workgroup will also investigate ways to provide support and resources to private and public guardians to enable the least restrictive guardianship possible.