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14 Years and Still Growing Despite Funding Cutbacks

3/15/2011

Augusta, NJ (March 15, 2011) – For the last 14 years, SCARC Guardianship Services, Inc., the organization dedicated to preserving, and expanding the rights, opportunities and life choices of individuals with developmental disabilities, has offered its Pro Se Legal Advocacy Program to the residents of Sussex,Passaic, Warren, Morris and Hudson counties. Despite funding cutbacks, SCARC Guardianship Services, Inc. will continue to assist as many families as they can and further expand their program.  

Since the inception of the Pro Se Program, SCARC Guardianship Services, Inc. has assisted more than 600 families in obtaining legal guardianship over their loved ones with developmental disabilities. The program is designed to provide assistance to family members, as well as others, who need to become the legal guardian of a person with developmental disabilities using the pro se method. Pro se is a Latin phrase meaning “for oneself” and is used as a legal term to describe representing oneself in the judicial system without an attorney. In the guardianship process this means the person who starts the legal proceedings for guardianship, also known as the plaintiff or petitioner, will petition the court without hiring an attorney. 

“We educate and guide families through this intimidating and confusing process,” said Jennifer Case, SCARC Guardianship Services, Inc. Caseworker. Jennifer oversees the Pro Se Legal Advocacy Program. “Many parents don’t realize they don’t automatically become the guardians of their child with developmental disabilities, and typically when they realize this; it’s due to an immediate need, like a medical situation. We take the time to literally hold the hands of the families and explain everything that is going on because sometimes it’s an emotionally difficult time for the families.”

When a child with developmental disabilities turns 18, like everyone else they are considered an adult capable of making decisions in every area of their lives. However if they are not capable, parents, caretakers or other individuals must petition the court to gain guardianship of the individual, which is a lengthy, confusing and emotional process, not to mention expensive. SCARC Guardianship Services, Inc. works with the families to prepare documents to be filed in the court system which helps to alleviate the confusion and expense of the process.

The legal process for guardianship is an arduous one at best. There is an extensive intake and families must prove the individual’s disability. A certification is needed from a psychologist to prove the disability and its extent to determine the type of guardianship needed. Guardianships can be limited or restricted, which allows the individual with developmental disabilities to maintain as much of their own decision making abilities as they can handle. A second certification is then required from another doctor, preferably one that knows the child. This is usually a difficult experience for loved ones, as the certifications are long documents that describe, outline and document the individual’s abilities and disabilities. Once that is completed, all the documents and legal papers are filed, the appropriate individuals are served and a hearing is scheduled.

 “The Pro Se program is the most wonderful thing for parents,” said Marilyn Olsen, one of the first parents in Sussex County to use the program. “It’s a scary thing to find out that you are no longer the legal guardian of your child when they turn 18. The whole process is lengthy and expensive and to be honest, it’s unfair to the parents that have to bear that burden. SCARC Guardianship was wonderful and made the process much easier.”

Marilyn and her husband worked with SCARC Guardianship Services, Inc.’s staff to become their child’s guardian and from that experience, the Pro Se Legal Advocacy program was born in 1998. Their experience was so impactful that Marilyn now serves on the SCARC Guardianship Services, Inc. Board of Trustees, which is comprised of a diverse group of individuals, including community leaders, professionals, and family members, who have utilized worked with SCARC Guardianship Services, Inc. in some capacity, thus assuring that the organization has different viewpoints, always with the best interests of their clients as the priority in policy decision-making. 

SCARC Guardianship Services, Inc. is a private, nonprofit corporation that was founded as an independent member of the SCARC family of services in 1989 in response to requests from parents for guardianship services for people with developmental disabilities in Sussex County.  Over the last 21 years, the organization has responded to the community and its needs by becoming recognized as a Community Trust agency, which allowed SCARC Guardianship Services to expand its services to include trust services as well. They also expanded their borders. The agency serves clients in counties that are contiguous to Sussex County.  

This program offered by SCARC Guardianship Services, Inc., as well as the organization’s other programs, are mainly funded by gifts and donations from individuals, donors, and institutions. To find out how you can help SCARC Guardianship Services, Inc. continue providing its services to families in need, or for general information, call Linda McConville, CEO at 973.383.5804 x. 255.

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About SCARC Guardianship Services, Inc.

SCARC Guardianship Services, Inc. is a private, nonprofit corporation located in Augusta, New Jersey. The agency was formed in 1989 to serve as the guardian for people with developmental disabilities, but now offers additional services to those families, including a Community Trust and Pro Se Legal Services program. SCARC Guardianship Services, Inc. has served more than 700 families in the last twenty years and is dedicated to preserving the rights of individuals, to expanding their opportunities and life choices, and to providing quality care to those they serve.

 

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