The Center for Social Gerontology received a foundation grant in 1996 to conduct a first-ever, three-year national study of the practices of Guardianship Service Providers (GSPs), i.e., non-family guardians. The overall goals of the study are to learn about the practices and characteristics of GSPs in order to develop needed policy recommendations and "best practice" standards.

The impetus for the study came from the recognition that a major new service industry has emerged in the guardianship arena: publicly and privately funded agencies and individuals that are appointed by probate courts to handle the personal care and/or financial affairs of adults, unrelated to them, who have been judged to lack the capacity to mange these matters for themselves. Yet, very little is known about these GSPs, and their emergence has generally been unaccompanied by standards of practice or other monitoring mechanisms to assure the delivery of quality services to vulnerable adults.

TCSG's national study has several phases. First, since there is no "national registry" of GSPs, TCSG asked hundreds of individuals across the country to help identify the GSPs in their areas. The Identification Survey was mailed to judges and court personnel; adult protective services and social services personnel; those involved in the aging and disability networks; and a host of others knowledgeable about guardianship issues in their states. Second, TCSG developed a survey to assess the characteristics of the GSPs and their operations. The topics under study include:

The survey is being conducted telephonically by a data collection and research firm in Detroit, Michigan. TCSG hopes to have the preliminary results of this national phone survey in December 1999.

Third, TCSG has conducted legal research of the pertinent laws in all 50 states and Washington, D.C. to identify existing regulations governing the authority and practices of GSPs. Fourth, because TCSG wishes to gain the depth of knowledge necessary to develop model standards for the operation of high quality guardianship programs, it is conducting on-site research in several counties in three (3) states, Michigan, Florida, and Washington. These "in-depth" explorations involve a review of court files and interviews with GSPs and others, to better learn about the approaches, policies and techniques used by GSPs that produce, or tend to detract from, the delivery of high quality guardianship services.

Next, the survey results and the final reports will be prepared, along with the recommended policies and "best practice" standards, and will be broadly disseminated to GSPs, policy-makers, courts, individuals within the aging and disability networks and other interested individuals .

For further information, contact TCSG at 734-665-1126 or e-mail Penny Hommel at: