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Guardianship Process to Be Streamlined in WA

Shannon Beigert's son, left, has autism and a third-party guardian now that he's turned 18. (Courtesy of Shannon Beigert)
Shannon Beigert's son, left, has autism and a third-party guardian now that he's turned 18. (Courtesy of Shannon Beigert)
May 16, 2019

SEATTLE – Washington state lawmakers passed bills this session to make the guardianship application process easier for parents.

Sterling Harders, president of SEIU 775, says her union represents thousands of parents who take care of children with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

She says she’s heard from members that when their children turned 18 the path to guardianship was complex and expensive, often requiring a lawyer to understand the process. It also differs from county to county.

Harders says two pieces of legislation are addressing these issues, easing some of the burden for parents.

"Life is difficult enough for these folks having to take care of special needs kids,” she states. “They don't need one more thing to worry about, and so we are really hopeful that these two bills will make life just a little easier for parent providers."

The Uniform Guardianship Act, Senate Bill 5604, will standardize the guardianship process across the state's 39 counties and create a monitoring system and model training program.

The bill currently is on Gov. Jay Inslee's desk.

The other measure, House Bill 1329, creates alternatives to full legal guardianship. The bill was signed in April and goes into effect at the end of July.

Shannon Beigert, the mother of two children with very different needs, is the legal guardian for her daughter, who has an intellectual disability. Her son has autism, which manifests in challenging and oppositional behavior to her and her husband and has led to third-party guardianship of him.

Beigert says one-size-fits-all laws around guardianship don't work well for people as different as her two children.

"In today's world, you're either an incapacitated person or you're a person that is not incapacitated with full legal rights, and creating an opportunity for there to be some different options within that continuum, I think, is very important," she states.

Beigert says she appreciates Washington state lawmakers' capacity to help the state's most vulnerable.

Disclosure: SEIU 775 contributes to our fund for reporting on Budget Policy & Priorities, Health Issues, Livable Wages/Working Families. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.
Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - WA