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Federal Options to Improve America's Ailing Guardianship System

Adult guardianship is a two-edged sword—a mechanism that protects some of the most vulnerable in our society from abuse, and an instrument that removes fundamental rights and thereby increases opportunities for abuse of those it seeks to protect. This December 2006 White Paper (for the Senate Special Committee on Aging) by Naomi Karp, JD, of AARP's Public Policy Institute explores federal options to improve guardianship, detailing a number of AARP-approved principles for achieving this goal. The primary areas, AARP suggests, for intervention and change on the federal level are the following:

  • improving coordination between federal fiduciary programs (e.g. Social Security representative payees, Department of Veterans Affairs fiduciaries) and state guardianship systems.
  • assisting states in improving guardianship monitoring, which is critical to protect this vulnerable population.
  • enacting the Elder Justice Act as a vehicle for improving the guardianship system and thereby preventing and redressing elder abuse.

The recommended federal efforts, this White Paper concludes, would go a long way towards enhancing coordination between overlapping fiduciary programs, improving guardianship monitoring, and addressing guardianship in the context of a comprehensive federal program to combat mistreatment of vulnerable older citizens. (8 pages)

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