Protecting Children With Special Needs

The Florida legislature this year actually managed to pass some meaningful legislation protecting children with special needs.  One such law was the Regis Little Act which is designed to protect children in foster care who have special needs and are aging out of the system.  Governor Scott signed this act into law on June 10, 2015.  The act came into being because of Regis Little, a child with an IQ of 65 who aged out of the foster care system in 2008.  He was diagnosed as bipolar, hyperactive and aggressive.  He hated being alone and was afraid of the dark.  When he turned 18, he left foster care and died alone in an Orlando parking lot after being stabbed.

This legislation will enable a guardian to be named for foster children with disabilities.  Vulnerable young adults who age out of the foster care system and have no guardian are subject to all kinds of safety issues – they can be exploited by unscrupulous people, and taken advantage of in other ways.  This legislation ensures that children with special needs will continue to have a guardian who can look out for them and make sure they are cared for.

It amazes me how many people are unaware of the fact that, once a child turns 18, they become an adult regardless of the fact that they may have special needs.  And whether they are lucky enough to have parents who are capable of caring for them, or if they have foster parents, either way, once a child turns 18, parents lose any rights to make decisions for them – decisions about where to live, financial decisions and medical decisions.

Therefore, it is important, whether your child is healthy, and especially if you have a special needs child, to seek the help of an attorney prior to the child turning 18, so that options can be discussed.  In the case of a health young adult, or a special needs child whose issues are such that they can still understand, comprehend and appreciate the documents they are singing, it is as easy as signing a durable power of attorney and health care surrogate designation so that the parent can continue making financial and healthcare decisions.

Sometimes, it is not so easy – especially in a case where the special needs child does not have the ability or capacity to sign documents.  In that case, then a guardianship or guardian advocacy proceeding needs to be done to ensure that someone can act on behalf of the adult disabled child.  CLICK HERE FOR AN EXPLANATION OF THESE PROCEEDINGS –  This is especially important where the child is still going to school and needs their parent to continue advocating for them for IEP’s, or where the child has health issues that require a decision to be made regarding medical care.

If you have questions about issues pertaining to children with special needs, or simply obtaining a durable power of attorney, living will and health care surrogate for your child, please contact the Law Offices of Laurie E. Ohall, P.A.