Why This Matters

Unnecessary Guardianships are Harmful

Do you know about the “Free Britney” movement? Pop star Britney Spears’ had an unnecessary conservatorship for 13 years. She had to fight for years to get out of the conservatorship. Britney Spears' story shined a spotlight on problems with guardianships/conservatorships. People across the country learned how they can be harmful. Her story helped show how they can hurt people. 

If you have a guardian, the guardian can control your money. They can sell your things without your permission. They can stop you from getting married, divorced, or seeing your kids. They can tell you where to live, like in a group home or in an institution. They can control your health care choices.

Guardianship can be the right option for some people. But, there are many cases where other options that are less restrictive weren’t looked at. There are almost 1.3 million adult guardianship and conservatorship cases nationwide. Almost all of those cases don’t get national attention like Britney Spears’ case. But they can be just as harmful as hers. People lose their rights and are forced into guardianships/conservatorships all over the country, including right here in Kansas.

Supported Decision Making (SDM) = Self-Determination

When we make choices, we are self-determined. Choices made through Supported Decision Making (SDM) help us be more in control of our lives. Choices determine how our lives will be. Self-determination helps us be independent.

Did you know that people who are self-determined have a better general quality of life AND are less likely to be a victim of abuse?

Self-determination empowers us to be independent, have employment, be more involved with our community, and enjoy all the other things that make life beautiful. How we choose to exercise our rights make us who we are. While some people may need a guardian or other legal-decision maker, it is not right for everyone. Guardianship should not be forced on a person just because they have a disability. SDM is a far better alternative to guardianship. SDM helps people keep their rights. 

Kansas Has a Large Number of Guardianships

Compared to other states, Kansas has a high rate of guardianships. In a survey study*, Kansas had nearly two times more guardianships than the national average. In the survey, 59 percent of Kansas responders had a  guardianship compared to the national average of 28 percent.

Educators, attorneys, judges, healthcare workers, and other providers not knowing about alternatives to guardianship is a big reason for the high number. 

Reports talk about a "school-to-guardianship pipeline"*. School officials often ask parents about guardianship when students with disabilities turn 18. In many cases, educators don’t tell them about any other options. This is because they often don’t know about the other options.

Educators are more aware of alternatives to guardianship now than ever before. But we need to keep spreading the word. We need to raise awareness about SDM.

*Via National Core Indicator Survey for Individuals with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities

*Via 2019 National Council on Disability Report

Meet Austin and listen to his guardianship story below

Learn the Truth About Guardianship

There are many myths about guardianship. It's important to learn the facts to help prevent unnecessary guardianship.

Myth #1 -  I have to be the guardian of my child when they turn 18.

Parents do not automatically become guardians when their child turns 18, and guardianship is not always needed. There are other ways to help someone make decisions without being their guardian, like using Supported Decision Making (SDM).

Myth #2 -There's no harm in getting guardianship.

Guardianship means taking away someone's legal right to make decisions about their own life. It can be expensive and hard to change once it's in place. People with guardians might not learn how to make their own decisions. They might feel bad about themselves and be less independent.

Myth #3 - If I am not the guardian, I can't get important information.

Most of the time, you can get information by using a form that lets you see someone's records (like HIPAA). The form is called a "release of information." We have sample forms like this on our website.