What is a Public Guardian?
Public Guardians are advocates for the most vulnerable adults. They are a strong voice for those who cannot advocate for themselves due to their disabilities. In Virginia, those advocates serve as a public safety net for adults who are:
- Indigent; and
- In need of someone to help them make medical, financial, or daily living decisions, but who have no suitable person to serve as their guardian.
Senior Connections, CAAA’s Public Guardian Program is one of 13 programs that contract with the Department of Aging and Rehabilitative Services (DARS) across the state. The staff are Social Workers and Human Service workers experienced in working with persons with intellectual disabilities, mental illness, and cognitive impairments.
Mission of the Program
Public Guardians respond to the critical unmet needs of adults with intellectual disabilities, mental illness, and cognitive impairments. The Public Guardian’s duty is to ensure these adults are treated with dignity and respect while maintaining the highest quality of life possible.
What are the Duties and Responsibilities of a Public Guardian?
- Act on behalf of the individual only to the extent of the court order
- Coordinate and monitor professional supports needed by the person
- Determine and monitor living arrangements
- Consent to and monitor medical care
- Consent to and monitor non-medical supports - day services, counseling, etc.
- Consent to transportation arrangements
- Release confidential information when necessary
- Make end of life decisions
- Annual review by Multi-Disciplinary Panel to assess the continued need for guardianship and alert the court to a potential restoration of some or all of the person’s rights
- Provide on-going advocacy
- Report annually to the local Department of Social Services to ensure the person is receiving adequate care
- 24-Hour On-Call Service
What is the role of the Public Guardian?
- To utilize a person-centered-approach to enhancing the individual’s quality of life
- To include the individual in the decision-making process as much as possible
- To determine the individual’s personal desires, preferences and goals
- To advocate on the individual’s behalf
Goals of the Program
- Provide court appointed public guardian services for adults who lack the capacity to make decisions and are at risk of abuse or neglect.
- Coordinate direct and indirect supports to meet the essential requirements for physical and emotional health and personal welfare of persons declared to be incapacitated by the court.
Is there a cost?
There is no charge for the service however there maybe costs associated with the petition for a Public Guardian.
Capacity of the Program
Senior Connections Public Guardian Program serves, at capacity, 40 individuals with a ratio of 1 human service worker to 20 incapacitated persons.
Who is Eligible?
- Resident of the City of Richmond or New Kent and Charles City Counties
- 18 Years of Age and Older
- Indigent and Incapacitated
- Have no one else willing, or suitable, to serve as guardian
Whom to Contact?
Please call (804) 343-3000 between the hours of 8:30 am and 5:00 pm and ask to speak to the Public Guardian Program Manager, Edward P. Richards, B.S.W.
How to obtain a Public Guardian?
Space is extremely limited due to funding constraints and a passion to provide the highest quality of service. Below you will find a general snapshot of the process to obtain a Public Guardian:
- A local referral source identifies a person who needs guardianship services.
- The referral source contacts the local public guardian service provider for the geographic area where the incapacitated person resides.
- The referral source completes the referral form received from the public guardian program. The form is designed to gather necessary factual information.
- If the person is accepted, the referral source engages an attorney to request a capacity evaluation and guardianship hearing before a Virginia Circuit Court pursuant to Virginia Code Section 64.2-2000 et. seq.
- If the Circuit Court finds that the person is incapacitated and indigent the Public Guardian is suggested as a suitable guardian as long as no other suitable person can be identified.
- The Circuit Court makes the appointment and the Public Guardian takes over as guardian for the incapacitated person.
Ms. Goodlife is a 55 year old who suffers from severe mental illness, a seizure disorder and hypertension. Her health and mental health needs were neglected and she was at high risk of financial exploitation. Senior Connections was appointed as her Public Guardian in 2016 and since then has been monitoring her living arrangements and advocating for her care. Currently she is receiving all of the medication she requires for hypertension and a seizure disorder. She is also receiving mental health supports to help her manage symptoms. She is now safe and stable, in an Assisted Living facility that she likes, and is surrounded by staff that care deeply for her wellbeing.