What is a staff guardian? A staff guardian is an individual who has been appointed to oversee and act on behalf of a person who has been deemed unable to do so by the court. This ward requires assistance in dealing with daily matters such as helping facilitate transportation to the store and doctor’s appointments as well as larger matters such as surrendering residences when they are no longer appropriate for the ward to reside in, transferring and monitoring at other facilities, and working in tandem with other professionals such as lawyers, accountants, doctors, funeral homes, family members and friends. One does not simply have wards but really is an active and vital part of their lives that they depend on to make sound decisions that they may have made if they were capable.
I started as an intern at Lutheran Metropolitan Ministry (Guardianship Services) in 2014 while obtaining my Associate of Arts degree with a major in Human Service from Lorain County Community College. During my time as an intern, I performed regular friendly visits with wards, assisted staff guardians with duties pertaining to their wards, and attended seminars regarding the care of older, and sometimes, younger adults. During this period, I was introduced to LMM’s mission and the overall importance of legal guardianships within my own community as well as others. It was as though I instantly felt that I wanted to be a part of the mission of advocating for the lost, forgotten, and oppressed. Fast forward to now, I have obtained my BA from the University of Toledo and I am a full-time staff guardian of 40 individuals I still conduct monthly visits with my wards only now these visits are professional. Over the years, I have had the pleasure to aid and serve hundreds of individuals in Lorain and Cuyahoga counties.
When I use the term “professional visits” it’s not to be confused with just a job. These visits always consist of observing the ward’s environment for appropriateness, speaking with medical providers, and consenting to medications and medical procedures. However, they also consist of meaningful interaction with human beings. Everyone deserves to be treated with dignity and respect. Guardianship is not always receptive to the individual, family, or friends. However, once it has been established by the probate court, I begin my attempt to forge a positive relationship with my ward and others who may be involved in their life. To do this, I ask them about their likes, dislikes, their past careers, and, ultimately, what their final wishes are in death. Oftentimes from this simple interaction, I am able to determine their past career trajectories such as homeland security workers, retired railroad employees, and even individuals that have served in the social service arena such as myself. I say this to say that in spite of an individual’s current circumstances, they have lived a life just as complicated and common as others. Personally, the hardest part is attempting to educate the individuals on the current state of their situation and what is required to maintain their safety and quality of life. The most rewarding part is when my clients are receptive to the process, thrive, and possibly live longer because of the guardianship.
It would be beneficial for the community to understand that guardianship services work in close partnership with the probate court who serves as the superior guardian of individuals under guardianship. Therefore, services are performed will full knowledge of accountability by the court in terms of court reporting and following the guidelines of the Ohio Supreme Court and Guardianship. In current times it is widely understood that the courts have become overwhelmed with guardianship cases. Thankfully, as an agency, we encourage volunteers to help assist the communities with guardianships and they have responded to the need as I have. Being a guardian is, at times, taxing and overwhelming but it is a job that is one is called to and it has and continues to be an honor to serve.
– Ericka Carter