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December 01, 2016

Elder Justice Innovation Grant on Guardianship

Erica Wood

(The pdf for the issue in which this article appears is available for download: Bifocal, Vol. 38, Issue 2.)

Commission Receives Federal Support to Expand and Enhance Court-Stakeholder WINGS Partnerships

The ABA Commission on Law and Aging, in collaboration with the National Center for State Courts (NCSC), has received an Elder Justice Innovation Grant from the federal Administration on Community Living to establish, expand, and enhance state Working Interdisciplinary Networks of Guardianship Stakeholders (WINGS). The new project aims to improve the ability of state and local guardianship systems to develop protections less restrictive than guardianship, advance guardianship reforms and address abuse. The project will be aided by an Advisory Committee drawn from organizational members of the National Guardianship Network and from key judicial, legal, aging, and disability entities.

The ABA Commission will provide funding through a competitive application process for new and existing WINGS as ongoing court-initiated problem-solving entities targeting pressing guardianship issues. Eligible applicants are state court systems, led by the state’s chief justice, in collaboration with key stakeholders—including as mandatory stakeholders the state’s unit on aging under the Older Americans Act, adult protective services agency, and protection and advocacy agency or developmental disabilities council, as well as representatives from the U. S. Social Security Administration and Department of Veterans Affairs. The funding offers the opportunity for state courts to initiate a new WINGS group – or to enhance a WINGS group already underway. The project will send a Request for Proposals to directly to each state chief justice.

Currently 17 states have WINGS. These broad-based, multi-disciplinary groups bring together judicial, aging, disability, legal, health and mental health, long-term care, family members, and individuals affected by guardianship to tackle gaps and promote needed changes. WINGS have produced valuable resources, strengthened court oversight, and explored less restrictive options. But just as important, WINGS have forged communication paths among stakeholders, reducing silos among entities serving the same populations and opening doorways to communication.

Under the new project, the ABA Commission and NCSC will provide the WINGS grant recipients with a multi-layered infrastructure of technical assistance. NCSC’s expertise in court program evaluation will support WINGS efforts on strategic planning, data collection and outcome measurement. ABA Commission staff will develop resources in key areas of guardianship reform and facilitate cross-state exchanges of information and experience. The project will test WINGS as a replicable model for making improvements in guardianship, avoiding over-broad or unnecessary guardianship, and addressing abuses.

A November 2016 Government Accountability Office (GAO) report on the extent of elder abuse by guardians noted the WINGS initiatives underway. The GAO said “feedback for WINGS programs was consistently positive” and that WINGS stakeholders “encouraged other states to develop their own WINGS-like programs,” The National Guardianship Network has a WINGS replication guide, an introductory video, and reports from existing state WINGS at:

Where to Go for Further Information

For information about the new Elder Justice Innovation Grant WINGS project, contact Erica Wood, [email protected], and see our website at




Erica Wood