TALLAHASSEE - The Department of Children and Families needs to improve screening to help determine whether developmentally disabled adults need guardians and encourage lawyers to give free help in guardianship cases, a panel recommended Thursday.
The 11 experts were appointed by Gov. Jeb Bush in June. The question of guardians arose because of the case of a 22-year-old Orlando woman who suffers from autism and cerebral palsy and is pregnant as a result of rape. A judge appointed a guardian for her and criticized DCF for not doing so when she turned 18.
The Joint Work Group on Guardianship and the Developmentally Disabled urged that DCF:
Coordinate with the Statewide Public Guardianship Office to explore funding and legislative changes to address needs of developmentally disabled adults.
Develop tools to identify who needs guardian assistance, including working with school systems to screen developmentally disabled children before they turn 18.
Work with bar associations and legal aid organizations to encourage pro bono work in cases where a guardian may be needed.
Develop materials to let people know about less restrictive alternatives to full guardianship.