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FSA Service Spotlight: Guardianship

Since 1895, Family Service Association of NEPA has helped local children, individuals, families and communities achieve their full potential. In honor of their 125th anniversary, this nonprofit organization will share the stories behind their services. Join us every month to learn more about their diverse programs and how you can support their vision of building resilient families and thriving communities—one person at a time.

Standing Beside the Most Vulnerable

What happens when someone needs help navigating daily life, but they have no one to turn to?  When local agencies raised this concern, the Family Service Association of NEPA (FSA) took the lead and answered the call for assistance. They started the Guardianship Program, which has been in service since the 1990s.

Through the program, FSA can serve as the guardian of person and/or finances for people ages 18 or older who have been deemed incapacitated in a court of law. They can also serve as power of attorney. Essentially, FSA stands in when the client’s family isn’t available to help.

Area agencies, nursing homes, personal care facilities, lawyers, medical offices and hospitals can refer clients to the Guardianship Program. Once FSA is appointed guardian, a caseworker develops a plan of care. They make sure that the client has food, housing, transportation, medical care and other basic needs. They ensure that the finances are in order and the bills are being paid. They also discuss end-of-life decisions with the client and set up an irrevocable burial trust. Overall, the caseworker strives to keep the client safe, healthy and happy in the least restrictive environment possible.

A guardian must always act in the best interest of the clients. FSA caseworkers go above and beyond state requirements and make sure that each individual’s needs are met with the dignity, caring and respect they deserve.

Caseworkers and FSA staff participate in many of the clients’ daily lives. They take clients out to lunch and visit local fairs and festivals. The FSA staff even held a birthday party for a client who was living alone for the first time in his life. He smiled from ear to ear as he opened his presents and enjoyed his cupcakes.

Over the years, the Guardianship Program has had many success stories, like a longtime client named John. John lives in a personal care home. One day, the facility staff reported that he wasn’t eating his meals, and he was often falling and walking into furniture and doorways.

John had been a guardianship client since 2006, and his caseworker knew that this wasn’t like him at all. The caseworker took John to the dentist, who discovered that several teeth were causing him pain. The dentist repaired the teeth, and John started eating again. Then, the caseworker took John to the eye doctor, who found him to be legally blind. John was given glasses so he wouldn’t fall or run into objects anymore.

Today, John is back to his cheerful, happy self. Thanks to the Guardianship Program, he had a caseworker who understood his needs and dedicated the time and energy to search for a solution.

Though COVID restrictions have made contact challenging, the caseworkers have been creative in interacting with their clients. They visit through windows, send cards, conduct Zoom meetings and call the staff at facilities to check on the clients. And no matter what, they’re always on call 24/7, 365 days per year through the 211/Help Line.

FSA is committed to the Guardianship Program and provides it year after year at a significant loss. FSA contracts with various government entities and federal insurances, but the reimbursements do not cover the cost. Sadly, less than 2% of foundations in America give funding to guardianship programs.

Your support helps FSA keep the Guardianship Program up and running. Please consider making a gift to FSA so they can continue serving the most vulnerable residents of our community.

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