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While caring for a special needs child can be difficult, a new concern arises when that individual turns 18. Although some special needs children can develop to such an extent that they can live fulfilling and mainly independent lives, some individuals may not be physically or mentally able to make the decisions that are necessary as adults. Of course, every situation is different, and each individual has a unique set of circumstances; therefore, several types of court-appointed guardianships and other safeguards are available through the state.
- First, parents must understand when their grown special needs children need the help provided under a guardianship. Being named as a guardian is a last resort when no other less restrictive options will work. Special needs individuals may need a guardian if they cannot make competent and safe decisions about their own healthcare, money or other daily life needs.
- Second, parents should be aware that there are other options available for children who do not need full guardianships. When something as restrictive as a guardianship is not needed, parents can turn to a variety of other sources to help them care for their adult special needs children. A special needs trust or financial representative may be the answer for both everyday and long-term financial decisions. Special needs adults who cannot completely care for themselves every day may benefit from an assisted living facility or from in-home care from a trained special needs worker.
- Third, if parents are unable to serve as guardians, several other options are open to the 18-year-old special needs individual. While courts typically prefer to name parents as legal guardians, they can also name an adult sibling or other close adult family member as guardian. Occasionally, courts may even name a family friend as guardian. Special needs adults who have no family or who do not have family willing to serve as guardians may need to have a professional guardian placed over them.
Guardianship can be difficult for some parents to accept. They may have envisioned something different both for their lives as well as for the lives of their children. However, in many cases, guardianship or another type of protective legal alternative is the best way to protect the interests of a special needs individual who has turned 18 or to manage his or her money, assets or medical care.