July 26, 2017

Parents of Children with Disabilities Can Learn about Guardianship & Transition Planning at March Workshop

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When children reach their eighteenth birthday, it is a coming of age, a rite of passage into adulthood. When children with disabilities reach eighteen, the passage into adulthood presents a number of challenges for families.  Parents of children with disabilities need to be prepared for those challenges. To provide parents with information on this important time in a child’s life, The Greater Fall River Interagency Transition Team is presenting a “Workshop on Guardianship, Alternatives, and Other Transition Topics” on Wednesday, March 29 6:00 to 7:30 p.m. in the Seekonk High School library.

The workshop is free and open to anyone interested from throughout the area, not just Seekonk. This workshop is for parents who have concerns regarding quality care and legal decision-making for their child as he/she becomes an adult. The speaker is Attorney Annette Hines, who has nearly 20 years experience in special needs law. She is the founding partner of the Special Needs Law Group of Massachusetts, which specializes in guardianships, transition planning and special needs. She knows firsthand the challenges and legal requirements of a child with special needs.

Hines said a small part of the workshop will be a lecture and a big part will be taking questions from the audience. “Because families are getting smarter and more savvy, I will leave time for questions and discussion on individual concerns,” Hines said. One of the topics Hines will be discussing is Guardianship. “It’s important for families to consider otherwise their ability to make decisions for their children and get information once they turn 18 is going to be limited,” Hines said. “Once your child turns 18, you can’t talk to the doctor without guardianship,” said Janet Fitzgerald, Transition Coordinator at Seekonk High School who helped organize the workshop.

Hines will also talk about transition planning. “I will be looking at it holistically, looking at the individual needs of a youth with a disability, in order to make them the most successful adults they can be,” Hines said. “It’s like a jigsaw puzzle, but everyone’s puzzle looks different.” There’s a lot of information that parents need to know, especially if your child has significant disabilities, says Fitzgerald. “There are health care issues, financial and legal concerns, insurance and social security benefits that parents should be informed about so that they can make decisions,” Fitzgerald said.

Hines says that each child needs an individualized plan. She will give an overview of the most common things parents would want in their plan. “It’s important to be informed about options and procedures and who to talk to,” Fitzgerald said.

The workshop is also an opportunity to meet other parents of special needs children. “It was meaningful for them to connect with other people going through similar situations,” Fitzgerald said.

The workshop was held last year and was well-attended. “Parents last year were surprised at how much they didn’t know,” Fitzgerald said.
The workshop is presented by the Greater Fall River Interagency Transition Team, a group of school personnel and adult support agency personnel that help inform and provide resources to families of students with disabilities who are transitioning into the adult world.  “It was formed to help families navigate the process,” Fitzgerald.

If you are planning to attend, please RSVP to gfrtransitionteam@gmail.com or call 774-322-1301 or if you require special accommodations.

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