Although many people are unfamiliar with guardianship, the new Netflix film, I Care A Lot, provided quite an introduction. Those of us in the field know that the vast majority of guardians are conscientious and do, actually, care, but we at The Center for Guardianship Excellence feel it is nevertheless important that states take seriously their role in protecting people under guardianship. The Center’s Joanne Tompkins, Ph.D., shares thoughts on how courts can protect themselves from predatory guardians in this commentary:
Rosamund Pike ended her Golden Globe acceptance speech by saying, “[m]aybe I just have to thank America’s broken legal system for making it possible to make stories like this,” referring to her portrayal as Marla Grayson, a predatory guardian who swindles elderly adults.
And she was right. There is a need for proper oversight to safeguard against the real Marla Graysons of the world who pursue guardianship as a means of personal financial gain. Tragically, there have been real-life cases about guardians abusing senior citizens in a similar way. Nevada guardian April Parks, on whom Grayson’s character appears to be based, did essentially kidnap, imprison, and rob elderly adults. Fortunately, she is currently serving up to forty years in prison.
While the film demonstrates deficiencies in the guardianship system, Massachusetts and other states are advocating for guardianship oversight to ensure that guardians are properly monitored and the people under guardianship are protected. A new report, based on a review of a national sample of court programs, suggests that states must collect data on guardians, follow standards for monitoring, and properly train guardians.