Tuesday, June 19, 2012

The guardian.


I receive a lot of feedback from readers who have children with special needs so I thought I'd share a little about our preparations for Vivian's 18th birthday, which is this Friday.

When a child turns 18 in America, he or she becomes a legal adult. I remember when Will turned 18, he logged on the computer that morning and registered to vote and signed up for the selective service draft. Shortly after that, Will had his tonsils out, and the hospital required him to sign all paperwork related to his surgery and care.

For a child like Vivian who is not capable of making important decisions on her own, steps must be taken to ensure that she remains under someone else's care. In Texas this is called guardianship.

We started working on Vivian's guardianship proceedings back in December (I had set an alert on my calendar years ago, when 18 seemed a long ways away!). The process is quite involved, as well it should be because significant rights are being taken away from her (the right to vote, drive, make decisions on where to live, medical care, etc.). We engaged an attorney who specialized in family law and came recommended from other families with children in class with Vivian. Robert and I had to fill out a lot of paperwork, and there was an extensive form for one of Vivian's doctors to complete.

In March a county constable served Vivian with court papers (she had no clue what that was about, but the papers had to be given directly to Vivian). A month or so ago, an investigator from the court came to our house to interview Vivian. He had told me the meeting could last as long as an hour, but it took him less than 5 minutes to assess that Vivian indeed was in need of a guardian! I had a hard time convincing Vivian to stay downstairs while the man attempted to ask her how old she was (she tried to kick the man and then asked to go to timeout in her room so she could watch Dumbo). We are still waiting to hear from the attorney ad litem, who will represent Vivian's interests on behalf of the state. After he meets her, we will have a hearing in court and our guardianship of Vivian will be established. Going forward, we will have a yearly evaluation where we complete paperwork and the court checks to be certain we are providing an appropriate home for Vivian (including confirming that we have working fire extinguishers in our house!).

This is one time that I'm tremendously thankful that Vivian is not higher functioning; I can't imagine how difficult it would be to make such a determination if the child were borderline or had an idea of what was going on. As it is, Vivian continues along in her happy little world, oblivious that she even has a birthday this week, much less a significant one in the eyes of the rest of the world.


Maggie said...

Thanks, Eloise, for sharing this important step in Vivian's life. I had absolutely no idea that a parent had to apply to be the guardian of their own child.

Lilly said...

Such a cute photo of the both of you! Vivian is lucky to have you as her guardian!

JoAnn said...

What a poignant post. Vivian is a lucky girl to have such a wonderful family watching over her.


3 Peanuts said...

Happy Birthday to Miss Vivian. I am sure it is a challenge to navigate all of this. You seem to do it all so well.

The 5 Bickies said...

Wow - can't believe she is 18!
Your explanation about guardianship was so interesting. I have a brother who lives in a nursing home as a result of a motorcycle accident 22 years ago. We are working through some paperwork right now and I can certainly appreciate that it isn't easy. Sounds like you have a great resources and supports. So glad Vivian has you and Robert!

JMW said...

Happy birthday to Vivian. I never knew how much was involved with the guardianship process. Thanks for sharing this information.

Anonymous said...

Thanks so much for this post Eloise. I live in Houston and have a 13 year old son with special needs, so this will really help me plan. And I hope sweet Vivian is having a very happy birthday!