Submitted by the ARC of Oswego County
OSWEGO COUNTY, NY â€“ Late summer is sometimes known as â€œback-to-schoolâ€ season, full of anticipation and future plans. Parents of teenagers approaching 17 and 18 years of age may be thinking about college, job prospects, and other post-high school adventures. But for parents of a teen with an intellectual or developmental disability, exploring the possibility of establishing legal guardianship should be a top priority.
Most parents are unaware that, in New York State, a person at or over the age of 18 is considered responsible for their own affairs, regardless of any diagnosed disability. A parent without legal guardianship of an adult child with a disability will not be allowed to discuss that personâ€™s medical conditions with healthcare professionals, or help manage their finances, or legally assist in major life decisions.
This can be difficult to understand, when a personâ€™s disabilities are severe enough that they require assistance with self-care, with bathing or feeding, or are otherwise unable to live independently. Parents who have cared for their children daily for 18 years can be shocked and hurt to find that, with the passing of a simple birthday, they are effectively locked out of decision-making for their child.
ARC of Oswego County has years of experience helping families to explore their available options, and to establish Guardianship when desirable. Rather than substituting one personâ€™s control for another, guardianship ideally is a partnership with an individual, helping them understand and make good decisions for their life. Guardianship allows someone to be fully informed of the circumstances of another personâ€™s life, in order to help them make good decisions, when that individual has been deemed incapable of managing their affairs independently. While not all individuals with a disability need a legal guardian, others can benefit greatly from having the â€œsafety netâ€ of this assistance.
Becoming a legal guardian does not necessarily mean becoming that personâ€™s primary caregiver, nor does it require having that person dependent on you for daily support. Legal guardianship must be applied for and approved by the courts, regardless of the relationship with the individual or the preferences of the individual and their family members. Establishing legal guardianship does not necessarily require hiring a lawyer, and can cost as little as $20 for court fees.
To find out more about Guardianship for an adult with disabilities, contact Cathy Rice at ARC of Oswego County at (315) 598-3108. Assistance provided by dedicated staff at ARC of Oswego County is free of charge, through funding made available by OPWDD Family Support Services.
ARC of Oswego County is a private, not-for-profit organization which has been providing programs and services to children and seniors with disabilities since 1955. Services include Early Intervention and evaluation services for infants and toddlers, guardianship assistance, recreational and respite activities, senior day habilitation programs, and more. Its mission is to be a leader in the field of developmental disabilities, committed to meeting the needs of individual growth, productivity, and independence through education, advocacy, and increased community acceptance and participation. Its sister agency, Oswego Industries, Inc., provides services to adults with disabilities: together creating a comprehensive support system for Oswego County residents with disabilities.