There is strong and growing evidence that people with disabilities are happier, safer, and healthier when they are empowered to make choices about their own lives.
“WINGS are court-community partnerships that will drive changes affecting the ways courts and guardians practice, and improve the lives of people who need help in decision-making. What distinguishes WINGS from previous state task forces on guardianship is:
“(1) WINGS is broad-based and multi-disciplinary, including judges and court staff, the aging and disability networks, the public and private bar, mental health agencies, advocacy groups, medical and mental health professionals, service providers, family members and individuals affected by guardianship, and more.
“(2) WINGS is an ongoing, consensus-driven, problem-solving mechanism. It offers a permanent forum for considering how adult guardianship is working in the state, where the pressure points are, and what solutions might work.” (National Guardianship Network)
Working Interdisciplinary Networks of Guardianship Stakeholders (WINGS) are part of a national movement for improving systems for supporting persons with disabilities, including specifically guardianship and conservatorship practices. Minnesota’s WINGS was initially supported by grant funding from the National Guardianship Network. Current support for WINGS MN comes from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Administration for Community Living through a grant to Volunteers of America Minnesota (VOA MN), to establish the Center for Excellence in Supported Decision Making and to support the work of WINGS MN. Our members include disability advocates, lawyers, judges, state and federal agency staff, social service professionals, healthcare providers, guardians, and conservators.
People seek guardianship or conservatorship because they are worried about a loved one or a client. They are concerned that a person has an intellectual, psychiatric, or age-related disability and is having trouble making choices about healthcare or other matters. Guardianship and conservatorship are not the right tools for every situation.
There are many alternatives to protect the autonomy and well-being of adults with disabilities. The law requires that we exhaust those alternatives before moving to guardianship or conservatorship – the last choice option under the law. Even when a person has significant difficulty understanding choices, there are reasons why other options might be a better fit.
People with guardians and conservators are entitled to accountability from the guardianship and conservatorship systems, to be free from abuse, neglect or financial exploitation, to exercise the maximum possible autonomy, and to have their legal rights protected.
WINGS MN is dedicated to Supporting elders, persons with disabilities, family members and helpers, service providers, guardians and conservators through education to understand:
- The rights of all adults to make their own decisions, including adults with dementia and other disabilities;
- The many ways to support disabled adults without depriving them of their civil and legal rights;
- Many less restrictive alternatives to guardianship and conservatorship and how to make use of them to protect vulnerable adults while preserving their autonomy;
- How to determine when guardianship or conservatorship is the right option;
- Guardianship best practices;
- Guardian duties and responsibilities, including the duty to maximize the ward’s participation in decision about their life;
- The rights of a person with a guardian; and
- How to center planning around the choices and the needs of the vulnerable adult.
Additionally, WINGS MN endeavors to build a system that prioritizes supportive decision making and less restrictive alternatives to guardianship, and that maximizes autonomy for persons under guardianship, as well as sustain cooperative conversations where all guardianship stakeholders work to improve outcomes and increase self-determination for people who may need assistance making legal or medical choices.
Contact us to learn more about WINGS, including training and educational opportunities for community and professional groups, and how you can help shape the future of WINGS MN.