Project Spotlight: Part 2 – V&E Guardianship Project
Pro Bono projects take different paths – some are short moments in time,
some last for years, and still others continue and adjust to different needs in
the community. The V&E guardianship
project falls into that last category. While we still handle traditional
guardianships, for families with wholly incapacitated children, thanks to the
hard work of another wonderful legal services organization, our program was able to grow and
add another dimension.
In September of 2015,
thanks to the advocacy of Disability Rights Texas and their legal director
Richard Lavallo, Texas became the first state to enact reforms of the
guardianship system to include supported decision-making as an alternative to
guardianship. Supported decision-making is a process of supporting and
accommodating a person with a disability to enable the person to make life
decisions, including decisions related to where the person wants to live, the
services, supports and medical care the adult wants, whom the adult wants to
live with, and where the adult wants to work without impeding the self-determination
of the person. This program is designed to help those with disabilities who are
not wholly incapacitated and should maintain certain rights and
responsibilities in their lives.
Because of V&E’s
commitment to families with disabilities, a new Supported Decision Making
project with Disability Rights Texas made perfect sense, and our guardianship
program grew to be inclusive of families with all levels of disability – not
just those with complete incapacity.
Twice in the past two
years, V&E has hosted a Supported Decision Making Clinic. At each clinic,
Richard Lavallo, the architect of the law, trained lawyers and readied them to
help clients prepare the important documents. Following the training, the
clients arrived at our offices and were immediately paired with their newly
trained lawyers. After just a few hours, at each clinic, nearly 25 families
left our offices with a solid plan for how they will move forward in life –
with dignity for the child, and comfort for the guardians.
Guardianship Program is long-standing, but has evolved over time to meet the
changing community needs and legal landscape. V&E lawyers have represented
so many families who otherwise would have gone without proper representation with
the growing anxiety that, while they work so incredibly hard to care for their
demanding family needs, they do not have all of their affairs in order. Lawyers
helping these families is truly the definition of heroes helping heroes.