You need to have a plan in place for when your child with autism turns eighteen.
Children grow up.
It is a fact of life.
As parent, we take pride in the maturing of your children.
Even so, it is bittersweet and can be an intimidating transition when they turn 18.
According to a recent Autism Key.com article titled “Guardianship And Autism: A Crossroads In Life,” the 18th birthday can be a challenging milestone for parents of children with autism.
Parents may not have confidence in the choices their child with autism will make.
These parents may choose to seek a guardianship order for their adult child with autism.
Guardianships are not perfect.
Although they do allow parents to continue to make important choices for their child, they also limit the freedoms and rights of the adult child.
Many states require less restrictive alternatives to be sought before granting a guardianship order.
With an adult guardianship, a court appoints another individual to make health, safety, care, support, and residence decisions for another person.
Although states have differing official avenues, the process usually begins with a petition to the court.
The petition would state why a guardianship for the “ward” is necessary.
In this instance, the reasons would involve the autism diagnosis of the adult child.
The individual who filed the petition as well as interested parties would receive a copy.
After the petition is filed, an independent evaluator will meet with the potential ward to determine and report on the capacity of the individual.
The court will decide at a hearing whether a guardianship should be granted.
The ward can hire counsel or the court can assign counsel.
If the court appoints a guardian to the child with autism, the court may simple limit or completely terminate the rights of the ward to make decisions on residence, medical treatment, or other choices.
The guardian must make choices in the best interests of the ward.
The ward is often encouraged to be included in conversations and decisions.
A report must be filed each year with court.
Although most states have a Uniform Adult Guardianship and Protective Proceedings Jurisdiction Act to makes transfer of guardianship easier from state to state, Kansas does not.
Choosing to pursue a guardianship is a hard and emotional decision for parents of a child with autism to make.
Parents want to keep their child safe but also encourage the maximum level of independence possible.
An attorney working on behalf of the individual facing a guardianship petition must advocate for what is in the best interests of the client.
This may mean fighting for greater independence
Some states also have Supported Decision-Making laws.
These give those with a disability greater freedom while providing them with a network of support.
For parents of children with autism, there is a lot to consider as adulthood approaches.
Take the steps now to review state laws and determine what options you might have as an alternative to guardianship.
Reference: Autism Key.com (July 28, 2020) “Guardianship And Autism: A Crossroads In Life”