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  • Writer's pictureWC Hoecke

Supported Decision Making or Guardianship?

Updated: Feb 24, 2023

Becoming a parent opens many new doors. Parenting a child with an intellectual or physical disability quickly adds the need to navigate a complicated path of terminology and processes. As the child ages, parents and caregivers are often told to pursue guardianship to protect their child.

Guardianship is a Probate Court process that appoints a guardian to make decisions for a person who doesn't have the capacity to make their own decisions. This may cover medical choices, living arrangements and other life decisions.

It's important to consider the full picture of the individual and available options to make the best decision for your child. Just because someone has a disability, it does not mean that he or she is an incapacitated person.

Supported Decision-Making is an alternative to guardianship. Instead of having a guardian make a decision for the person with the disability, the individual makes life choices with support from a team of people he or she knows and trusts as a support network.

Karl has an intellectual disability, and occasionally he needs me to explain things to him in a way that he can really understand. When I get input from friends on buying a car, for instance, people say "he has a lot of wisdom because he's willing to get support from others." Yet, when a person with a disability needs supports, we say "They're incapacited."

There really isn't a difference. Supported decision-making allows Karl to be surrounded with a group of people who will help him make choices that are right for him. In contrast, guardianship based solely on his intellectual disability may not fully consider his capacity to learn new skills and use natural supports to make decisions. That permanent long-term solution to address potentially temporary concerns can also cost between $1,500 and $5,000 in South Carolina.

We believe families like ours would benefit from having a clearly documented and recognized structure that doesn't take away the individual's civil rights.

For more information, visit the South Carolina Supported Decision Making Project or Able South Carolina. We will also be sharing our story about this at Disability Advocacy Day on Wednesday, March 1, 2023 at the South Carolina State House. Join us to learn more about this issue and others vital to those with disabilities in our state.

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