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November 10, 2020

Updates from the Commission on Law and Aging: Exciting Milestones in Guardianship Reform!

The pdf for the issue in which this article appears is available for download: Bifocal, Vol. 42, Issue 2.

Commission on Law and Aging publishes the WINGS Briefing Paper: Advancing Guardianship Reform and Promoting Less Restrictive Options and ABA Adopts a Resolution in Support of a Guardianship Court Improvement Program

Please direct inquiries to Dari Pogach, Senior Attorney, [email protected]

In 2016, the Administration for Community Living (ACL) awarded the Commission on Law and Aging an Elder Justice Innovation Grant Award to establish, enhance, and expand state WINGS (Working Interdisciplinary Networks of Guardianship Stakeholders) programs. The Commission funded seven state WINGS pilot programs in Alabama, Alaska, Florida, Indiana, Idaho, Oregon, and Utah and provided technical assistance to existing state WINGS and similar groups, in a total of 25 states across the United States. More information about WINGS, including Action Tools, a Replication Guide, and Assessment Reports, is available on the Commission’s website

In a comprehensive overview of this project, the WINGS Briefing Paper: (1) describes the challenges of adult guardianship reform and the rationale for creating WINGS; (2) presents project findings and conclusions about WINGS; (3) proposes a national Guardianship Court Improvement Program model and recommends ACL, with coordination from other federal entities, fund such a program; and (4) makes recommendations for next steps in federal policy.

As described in the WINGS Briefing Paper, the main barrier to WINGS’ success in advancing guardianship reform is sustainability. WINGS, like guardianship systems, only receive state funding. A federally funded Guardianship Court Improvement Program would provide the necessary support and infrastructure to take the WINGS model to the next level and effect true systemic change.

At the ABA House of Delegates annual meeting in August 2020, the Commission and the Senior Lawyers Division, Section of Real Property, Trust and Estates Law, and Commission on Disability Rights cosponsored a resolution urging Congress to invest in a Guardianship Court Improvement Program. The ABA adopted the resolution, continuing its long-standing commitment to advancing adult guardianship reform. The final resolution and accompanying report are available here.

A Guardianship Court Improvement Program would provide states with the necessary federal funding and support to improve their court processes and thus the lives of individuals with guardians by improving outcomes for adults in the system, increasing the use of less restrictive options other than guardianship, and enhancing collaboration among courts, the legal system, and aging and disability networks. 

In the words of the Honorable Louraine Arkfeld, Chair of the Commission on Law and Aging, “A Guardianship Court Improvement Program has … potential for wide reaching impact, providing state courts with the necessary resources to protect the safety, well-being, and individual rights of millions of individuals in the United States who may be or have been appointed a guardian.”

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