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Task force recommends changes to Florida's broken guardianship system

Group met for 30 hours to consider recommendations
Ilse Schafer
Posted at 5:41 PM, Sep 23, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-23 17:48:09-04

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — For the past three months, the Guardianship Improvement Task Force has met to come up with ways to better protect Floridians in guardianship. Thursday, the group finalized their top recommendations.

The group was formed by the Florida Court Clerks and Comptroller Association. The members of the task force include judges, clerks, lawyers, elected officials, and reform advocates. The task force met six times across the state since July when the first meeting was held in St. Petersburg.

“The purpose of this is to make legislative recommendations that will be enacted and protect the wards,” said Pinellas County Clerk of Courts Ken Burke, Chairman of the task force.

Victims have had enough

The ABC Action News I-Team has reported for years about how under the current system, guardians can isolate, abuse, and exploit people under their care. Victims of the broken system told task force members they’ve had enough.

One man described how a professional guardian pillaged his mother’s estate after an attorney provided a judge misleading information to have her placed into guardianship.

“In the first six months of the guardianship, she was billed $250,000,” he said.

Another woman spoke about how her mother was isolated by her guardian and forced to spend holidays and even her birthday alone.

“She was denied access to receive letters, telephone calls, mail, food delivery,” she said.

“Let’s stop shuffling the deck chairs on the Titanic and deal with the issues,” guardianship reform advocate Rick Black told the task force.

Recommendations to go to Florida legislators

Among the final recommendations:

  • Create uniformity in guardianship across Florida’s counties
  • Increase education requirements for guardians, who now take only a 40-hour course
  • Ease the process for people in guardianship to get their rights restored
  • Create a statewide guardian database that shows how many cases each guardian has, information about each case, and any disciplinary action taken against a guardian

The next step is to provide those recommendations to lawmakers before the 2022 legislative session. Taskforce members have agreed to testify before legislative committees in the coming months.

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