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Guardianship Reform U.S. Government Accountability
The U.S. Government Accountability Office has undertaken several studies on adult guardianship, producing these landmark reports:
2017 Study - Elder Abuse: Extent of Abuse by Guardians Is Unknown
The report described what is known about the extent of elder abuse by guardians, and what measures federal agencies and selected state and local guardianship programs have taken to help protect older adults with guardians. The report also identified promising practices for reducing abuse related to screening potential and existing guardians, education and support for guardians, monitoring of guardians, and enforcement.
2016 Study - Elder Abuse: The Extent of Abuse by Guardians Is Unknown
The study found that the extent of elder abuse by guardians nationally is unknown due to limited data on key factors related to elder abuse by a guardian, such as the number of guardians serving older adults, older adults in guardianship, and cases of elder abuse by a guardian. Some efforts are underway to try to collect better data on elder abuse and guardianship at the federal, state, and local levels to support decision-making and help prevent and address elder abuse by guardians. The study also highlighted key state and local initiatives involving courts and organizations to address elder abuse and guardian performance.
2011 Study - Incapacitated Adults: Oversight of Federal Fiduciaries and Court-Appointed Guardians
The study states that monitoring court-appointed guardians’ performance can prevent financial exploitation of incapacitated adults and stop it when it occurs. Adopting promising monitoring practices could help courts improve monitoring. However, many courts have limited resources, so they may be reluctant to invest in practices that have not been proven feasible or effective. The federal government has an opportunity to lead in this area by supporting evaluation of the feasibility, cost, and effectiveness of promising monitoring practices.
2010 Study - Guardianships: Cases of Financial Exploitation, Neglect, and Abuse of Seniors
The study “could not determine whether allegations of abuse by guardians are widespread.” Nevertheless, the study identified “hundreds of allegations of physical abuse, neglect and financial exploitation by guardians in 45 states and DC between 1990 and 2010.” In 20 selected cases, the GAO found that “guardians stole or otherwise improperly obtained $5.4 million in assets from 158 incapacitated victims.” The GAO investigation also found that selected courts and guardianship certification programs failed to adequately screen potential guardians.
2004 Study - Guardianship: Collaboration Needed to Protect Incapacitated Elderly People
The study made findings on variations in guardian oversight, lack of guardianship data, problems with interstate guardianship, and lack of coordination between state courts handling guardianship, federal representative payment programs.