Purpose, Development, and Implementation of Guardianship Training
established by HB 2665 and HB 4366—Barry G. Lowy Program Director Illinois Office of State Guardian.
I came to be Director of the Office of State Guardian in January 2017. Prior to that I was employed with Illinois’ protection and advocacy agency, Equip for Equality from 1999 to 2017. The very first case I handled at Equip was a guardianship proceeding in Ford County involving a woman whose cousins were her co-guardians. The woman was mildly ID and very high functioning and in fact owned her own home. She was being financially exploited by the cousins who were restricting her liberties. The case went to contested hearing and the cousins were removed and OSG was appointed her Successor Guardian. Following that I handled a significant number “good cause” contested Probate Hearings, mostly involving removal of abusive personal guardians and hundreds of other adult guardianship matters that were resolved without need of a hearing. I also conducted more guardianship trainings than I can count. At one training a public guardian shouted at me “Why are you so anti-guardian?” My reply was that I was not anti-guardian, I was anti-bad guardian. With the cases that I resolved without hearing it often involved educating the guardian as well as the court on matters involving personal guardianship and the rights of the ward. One case I had involved a petition to compel the ward’s guardian to consent to an assessment for a community-based placement (the guardian wanted her son who had a significant level of disability to remain in a nursing home). I was before a judge in Sangamon County who had long been the Probate Judge. I argued that the Probate Act requires the guardian to maximize her son’s independence and self-reliance. The Judge’s reply, “That’s in the Probate Act?” Fortunately, I had my handy West’s Illinois Probate Act with me and after reviewing it the Judge changed his stance and granted the order compelling the consent. It occurred to me that the focus in Probate is on the money and that matters attending to the performance of the duties of the personal guardian were generally given short shrift. It seemed like the litigation and trainings I handled were a drop in the bucket of a larger systemic issue. I felt that if guardians were required to be trained as a component of their appointment that could go a long way toward helping guardians understand their duties and responsibilities when appointed as guardian of the person.
When I came to OSG, I was tasked with reviewing possible legislative proposals under consideration. To my pleasant surprise I realized Dr. Mary Milano, GAC’s Executive Director, was looking to introduce legislation that would compel guardians to be educated on the duties of the personal guardian. I got to work, made some changes, and to my delight it was given the green light to take to the Governor’s Office for advancement. Approval was given to introduce in the General Assembly and Representative Davis and Senator Harmon sponsored HB 2665. Meetings were held with stakeholders and the Cook County Chief Probate Judge opposed it for the reason the court had a hard enough time getting guardians for appointment. There was also a parent’s group that felt they did not need any training because they already knew what was best. Several compromises were made that essentially added a provision to exempt Cook County and a provision that the court could waive the training requirement. With those modifications the Bill passed and became Public Act 100-0483.
P.A. 100-0483 amended two statutory provisions: the GAC Act was amended to mandate OSG to develop a no cost training that outlines the duties of the guardian and the rights of the ward and the Probate Act (Order of Appointment) was amended to require all newly appointed guardians outside of Cook County to take the training and submit a certificate of completion within one year of their appointment. The Act became effective September 8, 2018. The next step was to develop the training and make it readily available to the public.
GAC is a small agency. The initial draft of the training was done using PowerPoint and was made available to the public for comment. A dedicated email inbox was set up and comments and suggestions were received, all positive. That prototype was completed during the summer of 2018 and the next step was to make it available to the newly appointed guardians so that they could obtain their certificates for filing. The initial approach was for GAC to host it on its website. It came to be realized that for the presentation to have interactive quizzes it could not be secured so anybody could modify it. The IGA explored whether it could be hosted on its website but that too turned out - not to be feasible. GAC therefore had to look outside its resources for help with getting the presentation out to the public. A couple of meetings occurred with the State’s I.T. division, DoIT. It was determined DoIT could indeed host the training, but it would have to be migrated to the State’s proprietary training platform. That took time. OSG missed the statutory deadline for implementation. The materials were ready to go but technology was the issue.
The final version of the training was made available on DoIT’s website on April 11, 2019, and that day 2 certificates were issued. Approximately two months after the training went live, I was contacted by an attorney from Nebraska whose client had been ordered to take the training and who did take it but was not able to get a certificate because certificates were tied to a drop-down menu where a specific Illinois county is selected (based upon the venue of the case). DoIT quickly added an “other” selection and the out of state guardian got her certificate. There seemed to be an irony that other states were looking for this type of training for their guardians, but Cook County had no interest.
Subsequent to the enactment of P.A. 100-0483 the Cook County Chief Probate Judge retired. OSG proceeded to draft a bill that would eliminate the Cook County exemption for the training. The Office of Public Guardian indicated it could support the bill. The new Cook County Chief Probate Judge was also receptive to it. HB 4366 was advanced to the legislature, and it was signed into law on May 16, 2022, as Public Act 102-0770. It becomes effective January 1, 2023.
GAC’s guardianship training is found on GAC’s website under the “guardianship training” tab: https://gac.illinois.gov/osg/guardianship-training.html. It actually is 3 modules. One is the training for certificate where the guardian has to register. There is also a training module that does not require registration and does not provide a training certificate. Lastly there is an excellent disability related resource guide developed by Director Teresa Parks. The training does not take long to complete and positive feedback has been received; and, it was well received at the National Guardianship Association meeting. As of the draft of this article, over 3,200 certificates have been issued. There have been 18,832 views of the guardianship training tab on GAC’s website from May 1, 2020, to November 30, 2022.
2022 Year in Review
Continuing Education Committee
By: Erin Nowlan, Disability Rights Manager
GAC-Human Rights Authority
The IGA is dedicated to ensuring quality trainings are made available to its members. All trainings are provided free of charge and organized by the 12 volunteers who currently serve on the committee. All trainings meet the certification requirements from Department of Human Services Division of Developmental Disabilities, Center for Guardianship Certification, and the Minimum Continuing Legal Education Board of the Supreme Court of Illinois (MCLE). Over the past year the Continuing Education Committee was able to organize and provide 10.25 continuing education hours and CLE hours to 243 people. In May 2022, the IGA facilitated a hybrid conference event in Springfield. This event had 115 attendees in-person and online.
In October, three webinars were facilitated and had 128 in attendance. The committee would like to thank all of the presenters who offered their knowledge and time, at no cost, to provide on trend educational opportunities to our members and community partners serving individuals with disabilities.
What is new for 2023? Please keep an eye on the IGA website as registration will soon be open for an online panel titled “Challenges in Guardianship Estate Administration”. The panelists will present in 15 minute increments on the topics of: Depressed Assets, Occupied Estates, Accessing Trust Assets, Jointly-owned Property with Non-spouse, and Ethics. It’s looking to be a most excellent educational opportunity and we hope you will be able to attend.