Volunteer Guardians provide lifeline for Allen County needy
April 10, 2023
Volunteer Guardians provide a lifeline to vulnerable adults in Allen County. An individual might need end-of-life care; another has mental health issues; some are estranged from family. All are victims of crime including financial exploitation, domestic violence, sexual and physical assault and need a guardian to manage their major affairs.
This is where the Guardian Program of Crime Victim Services steps in, meeting a growing need of both our community and the Allen County Probate Court. Probate Magistrate Mark Van Dyne said, “For the court, it’s both a necessity and convenience. For these people, it’s a lifeline. Sometimes it’s actually lifesaving. These are people who are placing themselves in harms’ way in multiple ways.”
Since the program’s inception in 2017, the CVS Guardian Program has trained and accepted 14 volunteers into the program, 11 of whom have been appointed as guardians by the Allen County Probate Court. According to Magistrate Van Dyne, the impact of this program on Allen County is “so vast, you probably can’t even compute it.” He explains “The benefit for the court is simple – we have these cases; we need caring, diligent people who are willing to serve and the Guardian Program provides exactly that.” He adds, “If it weren’t for them, I don’t know where the court would be or what the wards - these people [in need of a guardian] - would be doing.”
The program covers adults who are a victim of crime and deemed incapable of making important life decisions or managing their own affairs. This incapacity could be due to developmental disabilities, severe mental illness, Alzheimer’s Disease and dementia, or traumatic brain injury, to name a few.
Typically, an individual would have a family member become their guardian. But in an increasing number of cases, there is no appropriate or available family member to take on this role, and this is where the CVS Guardian Program steps in.
Over the years, the program has expanded to include referrals from not only Allen County Probate Court, but also community organizations, long-term care facilities and families in need. The program also provides information about guardianship, referrals to resources or alternatives to guardianship, and supports family guardians with annual reporting and training requirements. This expansion was made possible in part by recent funding from Mercy Health Community Investment Committee.
As the program supports volunteers, it is important for those cases that are accepted to have stable housing, involved service providers and behaviors that do not put others at risk. Staff take time to ensure cases are appropriate to match with a volunteer, as well as matching the right volunteer to the right case. Van Dyne, who was himself an attorney guardian prior to becoming a magistrate, had nothing but praise for both the program and the “wonderful” volunteers.
Whether due to mental health issues, increasing age, or homelessness, the need for volunteers and services continues to grow. Van Dyne said, “I see the need being great and probably only increasing, unfortunately.” Before the guardianship program, the probate court would appoint a local attorney, but the supply of attorneys who are willing to take on attorney guardianship is dwindling. Van Dyne points out the CVS Guardian Program is meeting a vital need in both the community and the court system, since the need for a person to be protected by a guardian is growing.
If you’re interested in becoming a volunteer guardian, register for an upcoming Information Session on Wednesday, April 12, from noon-1 p.m. at Crime Victim Services, 330 North Elizabeth Street, Lima, which includes a light lunch. Additional Information Sessions will be May 16, June 14, and July 19. Individual sessions can also be scheduled. For more information or to register for an upcoming session call Katie Campbell at 419-204-4618 (firstname.lastname@example.org).