Supporting Decision-Making for Students with Disabilities in DC

Unfortunately, many parents seek guardianship over their children with disabilities because someone they trust recommends it.  Well-meaning but uninformed teachers, attorneys, doctors, social workers, and other professionals tell parents they have to get guardianship over their children to “protect them” or “for their own good.”

young man and older man standing side by side. The older man has his arm around the younger man For example, we have received many calls from parents seeking guardianship “because the school told us to.” Their children were turning 18 years old and they were worried they’d be cut out of the special education process. In some cases, schools were refusing to inform parents about Individualized Education Program (IEP) meetings or allow them to participate in the IEP process unless they got a guardianship order – even if their children wanted their help.

Part of the problem was the D.C. Public Schools (DCPS) Guidelines.  They said that teachers and school employees had to give parents information about guardianship and refer them to the Court if parents said their children may need some help making school decisions. The Guidelines did not give parents any information on less restrictive alternatives to guardianship like Supported Decision-Making.

We led a coalition and pushed DCPS to recognize that there are ways parents can help students make school decisions without taking away their Right to Make Choices. We met with DCPS officials and demanded that they change the Guidelines. We also developed a flyer for parents describing how families can help young adults with disabilities make decisions without becoming their guardians.

As a result of our advocacy, DCPS changed its Guidelines.  DCPS is now one of the most progressive school systems in the United States for Supported Decision-Making. It has developed its own Supported Decision-Making forms where students can identify people they want to help them make decisions. This allows the students to keep their Right to Make Choices and receive the support they want and need.

September 17, 2012 Call for Action
Brochure: What Happens When My Child Has an IEP and Turns 18?
DCPS Revised Transfer of Rights Guidelines
DCPS Supported Decision-Making Form
DCPS Supported Decision-Making Questions and Answers