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GiVE Back: V&E Pro Bono Blog

  • 25
  • May
  • 2017

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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.

The V&E 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.

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Author

Ellyn Haikin Josef Pro Bono Counsel