Senators Want ‘Guardianship Bill Of Rights’

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Supporters of Britney Spears rally as a hearing on the pop singer’s conservatorship case takes place at a courthouse in Los Angeles in June 2021. (Irfan Khan/Los Angeles Times/TNS)

New efforts are underway on Capitol Hill to address inconsistencies in guardianship across the nation and promote alternatives for people with disabilities who need assistance managing their affairs.

A bill introduced this week in the U.S. Senate would establish a national council tasked with identifying best practices for helping individuals avoid or leave guardianships and how to modify such arrangements.

The council would also be tasked with collecting data on guardianships at the state and national level and interrupting what’s known as the “guardianship pipeline” whereby health and education professionals often recommend that families of youth with disabilities pursue guardianship. In addition, the bill would include funding for state protection and advocacy agencies to help those being considered for or living under guardianships.

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There are an estimated 1.3 million adults nationwide under guardianship. In such cases, a court has determined that these individuals need someone else to make financial, health or other types of decisions for them.

“While guardianship is intended to be protective for older adults and people with disabilities, it can also lead to the loss of rights, fraud, exploitation and abuse,” reads a fact sheet from Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., who introduced the bill known as the Guardianship Bill of Rights Act along with Sen. John Fetterman, D-Pa.

Casey cited recent news reports detailing guardianship abuses in Florida, Massachusetts, Nevada and in the New York City area all within the last two months. He also referenced the case of pop star Britney Spears who spent more than a decade under a court-ordered conservatorship during which time she said she was forced to work, medicated and prevented from trying to have a baby.

“More than a year after Britney Spears’ case brought guardianships into the national spotlight, there are still countless families across the nation fighting against exploitative or abusive guardianships with little recourse,” Casey said. “My legislation would address the nation’s patchwork guardianship system and explore alternatives to guardianships to protect Americans’ civil rights while getting them the support they need.”

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