Families throughout South Carolina are often told to seek guardianship without a thorough explanation of the costs, long-term impact, or alternatives. We would encourage you to explore ALL the options before taking a step that is often costly and intended to be permanent, when there may be alternatives that will address any support needed. Remember that professionals are typically trained in their field of expertise and may not understand the support systems that exist outside of their arena that can support individuals with disabilities. Studies show people with intellectual and developmental disabilities who do not have a guardian are more likely to:
Have a paid job
Have friends other than staff or family
Go on dates and socialize in the community
Practice the religion of their choice
The South Carolina Supported Decision Making Project aims to educate parents, professionals, and individuals with disabilities about alternatives to guardianship that promote self-determination and value quality of life.
About Supported Decision Making
Almost everyone has relied on someone else to help them make a decision. For example, we may consult someone for a second opinion if we think our auto mechanic is overcharging us, we allow a real estate agent to help us navigate the home-buying process, or we reach out to friends for input on their experiences before contacting a plumber or electrician. People with and without disabilities occasionally need support in the decision making process.
Supported Decision Making is “a recognized alternative to guardianship through which people with disabilities use friends, family members, and professionals to help them understand the situations and choices they face, so they may make their own decisions without the ‘need’ for a guardian.” In Supported Decision Making, individuals can choose “Supporters” to assist them in different areas of their lives—employment, education, services, finances, health, etc. The Supporters and their duties are listed in an agreement that is shared with all of the individual’s service providers to ensure the Supporters are included in discussions surrounding important decisions. The Supporter does NOT make decisions for the individual or discuss matters without the individual present. Instead, the Supporter helps explain information in an understandable way, guides the individual in weighing the courses of action, and advises the individual on the consequences of the decision. Some benefits of Supported Decision Making include:
Individual is always at the center of decision-making
Individual decides who offers support
Individual retains legal rights
No expensive attorney fees or court fees
Teaches individual about decision making, self-determination, and details of his or her affairs
Supported Decision Making can be combined with other assistance when needed to fully support an individual’s success.