Center for Excellence in Supported Decision Making

In 2016, Volunteers of America Minnesota and Wisconsin opened the Center for Excellence in Supported Decision Making (expanding the services offered by VOA’s Protective Services) with funding provided by an Elder Justice Grant through the Administration for Community Living. In partnership with Lutheran Social Service Minnesota, Minnesota Department of Human Services, Minnesota Elder Justice Center, and Minnesota’s Working Interdisciplinary Networks of Guardianship Stakeholders (WINGS MN), the central focus of the grant is to develop and establish a replicable statewide model based on Supported Decision-Marking (SDM) to promote safe and viable alternatives to avoid unnecessary guardianship and conservatorship in Minnesota.



The Center for Excellence staff consult with families and professionals, providing in-depth phone-based consultation, information, advice, and referral, with an emphasis on identifying suitable alternatives to guardianship where possible. The Center Social Workers can also provide objective in-person assessments regarding the need for guardianship and available alternatives. VOA MN’s Estate & Elder Law Services provides legal and technical advice, as well as facilitation of legal tools such as Supported Decision Making Agreements, Power of Attorney and Health Care Directive Documents, and where necessary, petitioning for guardianship/conservatorship.


In collaboration with Lutheran Social Service MN – family serving as decision makers or supporters can receive education, coaching, and support to ensure the family can continue to function in the best capacity for the person.

Impacting the Community

A key part of the Center’s activities is to impact guardianship systems, working toward a reduction in unnecessary guardianships; this is accomplished through outreach, advocacy, education and training of community and professional groups through Minnesota’s Working Interdisciplinary Network of Guardianship Stakeholders (WINGS MN).

WINGS MN was initially established as part of a national movement for improving guardianship and conservatorship practices.  Moderated by the CESDM Project Director, WINGS includes membership from legal, advocacy, court, state, county, and social service organizations.

WINGS Minnesota is dedicated to:

  • Supporting elders, persons with disabilities, family members and helpers, service providers, guardians and conservators through education to understand best practices, rights of persons with guardians, and responsibilities of guardians.
  • Building a system that prioritizes supportive decision making and less restrictive alternatives to guardianship, and that maximizes autonomy for persons under guardianship.
  • Sustaining a cooperative conversation where all guardianship stakeholders work to improve outcomes and increase self-determination for people who may need assistance making legal or medical choices.