#022 Michael Kendrick on Guardianship and Supported Decision Making

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Michael Kendrick is currently director of initiatives on supported decision making for the national Center for Public Representation. He has spent the last twenty years in international consulting and prior to that was the Assistant Commissioner for the Massachusetts Developmental Services Department, Director of the Institute for Leadership and Community Development and consultant to the International Initiative On Disability Leadership. 

Guardianship removes the person from decision making. Supported decision making compensates for the areas on one’s life where they might have difficulty with decisions.  

Supported decision making really reflects the natural way that all of us make decisions.  

In supported decision making the person remains the decision maker in their life and are supported in their decision by people who have chosen to be supportive to them.  

Supported decision making laws are becoming more common. Michael Kendrick anticipates that the number of laws will double or triple in the next five years or so.  

While there are usually only a few really big decisions that come up in our life, guardianship takes away the legal right to make any decision – even the colour of one’s bedspread potentially.  

While many guardians will be very careful not to impact people’s lives this way, it really is totally discretionary. The guardian is in a god-like role in relation to the person.  

Guardianship is too severe an option as a place to start. Best practice encourages the least restrictive measures.  

There are less restrictive options that target just particular areas of decision making and these specific arrangements can be combined to create a system that works well but retains the person’s legal autonomy in most situations.

What about when people are making bad decisions?  

Guardianship doesn’t stop people from making bad decisions.  

What about people who don’t have people in their lives that care about them? Can supported decision making work for those people?  

People who don’t have many relationships are very vulnerable and lack advocates. Guardianship doesn’t resolve this issue and in fact, guardians are likely to be at arms-length, likely to not impede service functioning and are not required to be an advocate. Guardianship is the wrong remedy for a lack of an intentional circle of support.  

Relationships may very well be lacking in a person’s life and people might need to be recruited to make a commitment to involvement. This requires someone to be intentional. One might think that people won’t be interested or willing to be involved or committed but in fact, there are many examples of success.  

Michael has been involved in six pilot projects via the Center for Public Representation. While the pilot projects have ended, the relationships and supported decision-making arrangements have continued.  

Advice to parents: Do not underestimate one’s potential. 

Over 80% of people with disabilities have jobs in the community at typical pay in Washington State. Eighty percent! This makes it clear that how we support people to reach their potential has more to do with achievement than one’s disability.  

We need to have positive presumption about people with disabilities. Presume that people have more potential than people are currently living. People are likely to live in a deprived environment in regards to opportunity. The positive presumption is that the person could achieve much and our responsibility then becomes to create an environment that engenders growth.  

If relationships are lacking in the life of someone you care about who has a disability, you will learn a ton in our quickly approaching expert speaker series about building relationships in the lives of people with disabilities. Check it out! It is free, online and interactive.

Thanks for Listening! 
Resources & Links Mentioned: 

Centre for Supported Decision Making 

Supported Decision Making 

Cory’s story https://supporteddecisions.org/cory/ 

Contact Michael: [email protected] 

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Special thanks to Michael Kendrick for joining me this week. Until next time! 

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To share your thoughts:

  • Leave a note in the comment section below.
  • Ask me a question by email.
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  • Talk about this show in your Instagram Stories.

To help out the show:

  • Leave an honest review on iTunes. Your ratings and reviews really help and I read each one.
  • Subscribe on iTunes.

Genia Stephen
Genia Stephen

Sister, mother, midwife, writer, speaker and perpetually curious. Dedicated to bringing you the voices, ideas and conversations of world class mentors and thought leaders in the field of disability.