Guardianship Position Statement in Plain Language

August 25, 2020

NCIL does not support the use of guardianship for people with disabilities.

Guardianship is when a judge decides a person can’t make decisions. The judge then chooses a guardian for the person. The guardian may be a person’s parent or someone they don’t know. Adults under guardianship do not have the right to make their own decisions. Their guardian makes the decisions for them. These decisions can include getting a job, how they live, and who their friends are. They can even decide if a person can get married or start a family. Guardianship occurs when other people may think a person can’t make their own decisions. This is not right. Guardianship can be permanent and is hard to reverse.

Some parents think their child with a disability must have guardianship. They may think that their child is not able to make their own decisions. Doctors, teachers, lawyers, and others set low expectations for children with disabilities. They do not give children with disabilities a chance to explore their interests, skills, and talents. These are all things that can help lead to independence. They may even tell parents to get guardianship when their child turns 18. Parents may not be given information about options other than guardianship. They may not know that guardianship is not the only option.

NCIL thinks guardianship is like being in an institution because it takes a person’s freedom and choice.  It makes it hard for adults with disabilities to be independent. It makes self-determination impossible. Guardianship can separate someone from their community. It can make them seem less important than other people.

The Independent Living Philosophy does not support guardianship. We believe that all disabled people must control the decisions about their lives. Guardianship takes those rights away. Centers for Independent Living (CILs) can and should help people avoid guardianship. One of the main goals of the Independent Living Program is to help people have control over their lives.

NCIL does support the idea of supported decision-making. Everyone relies on people to help make some decisions. Supported decision-making allows a person to choose someone they trust to help them make decisions. This person can be a family member or a friend. This person is called a supporter. The disabled person stays in control of the final decision. Supported decision-making allows the person to keep their rights.

NCIL also supports the use of a power of attorney. A power of attorney allows the person to choose a trusted person to make legal decisions for them. The power of attorney does not have to be a lawyer. They could be a friend, family member or other trusted person. The disabled person decides to have a power of attorney. They can take that power away at any time.

NCIL wants all CILs to help reduce guardianship in their states. CILs can help by working with local and state leaders to educate them about alternatives to guardianship.  Policies or laws created should include input from disabled people. Policies and laws should include the idea that disabled people can:

  • Make decisions about their lives.
  • Have control about how they live their life. This includes the ability to accept or refuse support or protection.
  • Communicate in many ways. How a person communicates does not determine whether they are able to make decisions.