As a BSA merit badge counselor, I once asked a group of Scouts for the definition of “community”, as in how to be a good member of a community. One Scout answered, “It means, I’ve got your back.” Of all of the definitions I have heard over the years, this is the one that really grasps the concept. A good member of the community watches out for his neighbors.
This is the concept behind Volunteer Guardianship One on One, a Hunterdon County volunteer group which provides volunteer guardians for those who have no family to act on their behalf. Guardians are needed for those who have become incapacitated, that is, people who can no longer make decisions about their finances, healthcare, or living arrangements due to issues such as dementia. A guardian is appointed by a Court and has the decision-making authority for the incapacitated person. In the majority of cases, the guardian is a family member. Increasingly, though, others are needed due to the lack of family members available.
When there is no one available or willing to become a guardian, the Court will notify the New Jersey Office of the Public Guardian, who will assign one of its state case workers. The state employees are hard workers, but due to the increasing incidence of dementia in our state population, they have many wards under their care. Through no fault of their own, their wards do not get the personal attention they deserve. It is just impossible. This is where Volunteer Guardianship One on One comes in.
The central role of Volunteer Guardianship is to provide and train volunteers from the community who will act as guardians for those who have no one else. At the time of this writing, the organization has approximately 25 volunteers handling as many wards, and it has been assisting people for the past fifteen years. Behind each guardian are other volunteers: doctors, nurses, social workers, lawyers, accountants, financial advisors and other professionals, who not only compose the board of trustees, but are available to each volunteer guardian to answer questions and assist with problems. The motto of Volunteer Guardianship is “You Are Never Alone”.
Volunteer Guardianship One on One has been solely a Hunterdon County, New Jersey organization, largely successful due to the support of Hunterdon County Surrogate, Susan Hoffman, the Court and its benefactors. It has been contacted by the courts in other New Jersey counties and by several states, seeking to build similar organizations in their jurisdictions. It can only survive with your support. Those interested in being a guardian, making a financial contribution, or further information can view the organization’s website at www.volunteerguardianship.org, or write to Volunteer Guardianship One on One, Inc., P.O. Box 331, 188 Rt 31, Flemington, New Jersey 08822.
Bob Shanahan is the President of the Board of Trustees for Volunteer Guardianship One on One, Inc.
© Law Offices of Robert J. Shanahan, Jr., LLC 2014
BE ADVISED that these comments are not legal opinions and are not to be relied upon as legal advice. If you need legal advice, contact your county bar association; most of which have referral services.