Ohio proposed adult guardianship standardized practices

Following up on our post last Wednesday about the Supreme Court’s proposed standardized practices for Ohio adult guardianship, the Columbus Dispatch over the weekend had anarticle relaying that, “Thousands of Ohio’s most vulnerable residents are trapped in a system that was created to protect them but instead allows unscrupulous guardians to rob them of their freedom, dignity and money, and even judges overseeing the system acknowledge that it is broken, that it has ripped apart families, rendered the mentally ill voiceless, and left some elderly Ohioans dying penniless in nursing homes.

“The system, which is supposed to look out for the health and well-being of the elderly, the mentally disabled and children, is directed by the probate judges of the state’s 88 counties, but, for lack of detailed guidelines from the state, the counties at this point have 88 different ways of overseeing guardians and their wards.

“The Supreme Court recognized the problems and assigned a committee nearly eight years ago to come up with rules,” the Dispatch’s article continues, “(but) this year, the committee finally put forward a plan that falls far short of national standards and what advocates say is necessary to protect vulnerable Ohioans…. (and) that lack of standards and accountability for guardianships puts Ohio far behind other states, such as Indiana and Tennessee, which recently enacted laws to strengthen their guardian systems.”

The paper, having conducted a yearlong investigation, found that without significant changes in the guardianship system, Ohioans will see more neglect and abuse of those who are supposedly being protected, a survey of Ohio’s probate courts, for example, finding that nearly 90 percent do not require a credit check for prospective guardians, and as many as 61 percent  not requiring criminal-background checks, opening the door for felons to become guardians entrusted with the assets and care of vulnerable people. “More than 80 percent of Ohio probate courts do not conduct financial audits or random in-home inspections, according to 72 of 88 counties that responded to the Dispatch survey last fall, and more than two-thirds of the counties do not track cases that had been investigated for possible wrongdoing or that had been forwarded to local law-enforcement agencies — cases that likely deserve extra scrutiny.”

One large factor is the lack of guardian training, and nearly 60 of the Ohio probate courts surveyed indicated not requiring training to be a guardian. In counties that do, training programs vary from 30 minutes to eight hours.

Again, for those interested, the Supreme Court is entertaining comments on recommendations until June 25. More information is available from Ohio News here.