Wards of State II: A Study of Public Guardianship Programs in Six Jurisdictions

  • Teaster, Pamela (PI)

Grants and Contracts Details


Wards of the State, Phase II: A Study of Public Guardianship Programs in Seven Jurisdictions University of Kentucky The American Bar Association Commission on Law and Aging Summary In 2003-2004, the Retirement Research Foundation funded the University of Kentucky and the American B ar Association Commission on Law and Aging to conduct the first major examination 0 fp ublic guardianship in 25 years. The two organizations now request Phase II funding to add six additional jurisdictions in four states to the seven states already examined in Phase 1. These additional jurisdictions are California, (Alameda and San Bernadino Counties), Arizona (Maricopa and Pima Counties), Delaware, and Maryland. This will complete the replication of the landmark 1979-1981 study and enable a direct comparison over time. Growing numbers of individuals who may need public guardianship services and high caseloads in most, if not all states, bespeak the critical need to continue this empirical study of surrogate services provided to the nation's most vulnerable citizens. Since we proposed Wards of the State: A Study of Public Guardianship Programs in Seven Jurisdictions in August 2003, the need for changes in the nation's guardianship system has risen ever more in the public eye. A 2004 report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) found uneven oversight, lack of court coordination with federal agencies responsible for protecting the same incapacitated population, and a stunning lack of data on adult guardianships. In 2004, The New York Times found that guardianship financial reporting requirements often are ignored and independent audits rare, and The Los Angeles Times is currently preparing a series on its three-year investigation of the Los Angeles County public guardian office. In December 2004, the Dallas Morning News published a three-part series on issues on neglect of vulnerable at-risk individuals, using as its source more than 1,300 guardianship cases filed in Dallas County probate courts. Public guardianship is for those who are poor, alone, and incapacitated - those who have no one else. The number of candidates for public guardianship is projected to increase sharply due to the "graying" of the population, the aging of individuals with disabilities, the aging of caregivers, advancements in medical technologies affording new choices for chronic conditions and end-of-life care, a rising incidence of elder abuse, and the growing mobility that has pulled families apart (Teaster, 2003). Our Phase I project included a national public guardianship survey (response rate 100%); in-depth interviews with seven states' key informants; and site visits to Florida, Illinois, and Kentucky to interview local public guardianship staff, elder law attorneys, adult protective services staff, judges and court administrators, aging advocates, and wards. These states were chosen because of their different models and because of the Foundation's focus. The project uncovered significant trends and made initial recommendations to improve public guardianship 1aw, policy, and practice (see Phase I Final Report). As we crossed the country 3 studying public guardianship, we encountered intense interest in our empirical research and recognized the importance of completing our work by fully replicating the study done over 25 years ago. Professor Winsor Schmidt, primary author of the original study and consultant for our Phase I project, has agreed to join the team as a co-principal investigator for the Phase II project. Our IS-month, Phase II study of public guardianship involves collecting both qualitative and quantitative information about public guardians and the well-being of their wards. Continuing our original methodology, we will conduct an in-depth study of public guardianship in the six jurisdictions in order to gather data to compare with that gathered over 25 years ago. Our final product will be a report to RRF and dissemination in multiple national venues. Our research involves two tiers of data collection: an in-depth survey with telephone follow-up interviews with public guardian offices in four states and six sites [i.e., Arizona (Maricopa and Pima Counties), California (Alameda and San Bernadino Counties), Delaware, and Maryland] in order to gather data on program administration and client health outcomes and service delivery. For the site visits, we will gather data from key informants (i.e., judges/court, public guardian office, elder law attorneys and legal services, ombudsman/aging network, aging and disability advocates, and wards) regarding how the public guardianship programs operate as well as information regarding the vulnerable people they serve. Our study is well informed by our original advisory committee of experts (e.g., judiciary/courts, I aw, social work, disability advocacy, public administration) who readily and enthusiastically agreed to continue to assist us with interpretation of data, review of findings, and creation and dissemination of research products. They are serving in this capacity with all time donated. Through our efforts, we will produce a well-documented data set for use by future researchers, and we anticipate that, when Phase II is complete, we will seek a book contract. Our initial efforts have already aided policymakers, public guardianship practitioners, and advocates to promote better public guardianship programs and thus more meaningful lives for wards of the state. We emphasize that, completing the work done 25 years ago, we can do even more. Specific Aims: 1. To study in-depth 6 guardianship systems (comprising different models of public guardianship) . 2. To investigate differences in administration and client characteristics among models of public guardianship. 3. To develop recommendations for policymakers and identify promising practices for public guardianship programs and prepare a model statute for public guardianship.
Effective start/end date8/1/0510/1/07


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