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Guardian Advocacy: Thinking Ahead
If you have a child with developmental delays, you probably have taken care of and made all the decisions for the benefit of the child their entire life. However what do you do when the child turns eighteen and the law recognizes the child as an adult? Who will make those important decisions then?
In order for you to continue doing the job, you need to get appointed as a Guardian Advocate. The Florida Statutes allow the parent or close relation to the individual to make the important decisions if the individual cannot. These decisions can include financial help, where the individual lives and medical treatment that might be needed.
Ask yourself the following questions:
- Will the child be able to vote?
- Will he/she be able to maintain a job?
- Will he be able to marry?
- Will she be able to find a place to live on her own?
- Will he be able to keep a checkbook?
- Will she be able to make decisions on medical care and treatment?
- Will she be able to travel on her own?
- Will he be able to take care of his personal hygiene?
- Will she be able to get a driver's license and drive?
- Will he be able to apply for government benefits on his own?
The developmental delay must be a disorder or syndrome that is attributable to retardation, cerebral palsy, autism, spina bifida or Prader-Willi Syndrome, and that manifested before the age of eighteen. There must be a reasonable expectation that this serious handicap will continue indefinitely. The Guardian Advocate is appointed at or soon after the child's eighteenth birthday so there is no gap in care. The court makes the final decision as to which needs the individual can have autonomy over and for which of those the Guardian Advocate will continue to be the decision maker.
Guardian Advocates are given specific powers, duties and responsibilities. This is similar to guardianship over the person but with less expense, no annual reports and less legal complications.
The Legal Aid Society of Palm Beach County's Relative Caregiver Project can help you prepare the petition and address all the "what ifs" with you. Some of the questions you should address will concern "what if" you are unable to continue to be the Guardian Advocate? Who will take care of your child if you die? Planning ahead will ease your worries about the future care of the vulnerable adult when he or she reaches eighteen and long thereafter. Please call (561) 655-8944 Ext. 275 to see if you qualify for assistance.
The Legal Aid Society's Relative Caregivers Project is a program of the Children's Services Council of Palm Beach County, an independent district established by Palm Beach County voters in 1986. The Council provides leadership, funding and research on behalf of Palm Beach County's children so they are born healthy, are growing up safe, and are ready to learn.
IMPORTANT: The information on this Website is not intended as legal advice or representation. No attorney-client relationship is created between the Legal Aid Society of Palm Beach County, Inc. and any person obtaining information from this website. Public benefits and other laws change frequently. We strive to keep this website up to date but cannot provide a guarantee that this information is accurate as of the time you are reading it.