Rights taken, rights restored

Tosha smiling for the cameraTosha has a developmental disability, and up until she was in her 30s, she was gainfully employed, living as a contributing member of society with no need for guardianship. Many people with disabilities are able to live in the community, some with different levels of support and without the need for guardianship which takes away all of their rights.

Unfortunately, her father was mistakenly told that he needed to file for guardianship for her to live in a group home. Tosha did not want the guardianship, and during the initial hearing, many of her due process rights were violated. For instance, her court-appointed attorney did not arrange for Tosha to participate in the hearing and signed an agreed order that removed all of her legal rights including the right to vote, to choose where she lived, and even to work where she wanted.

Guardianship had a serious and detrimental impact on Tosha’s life. She ended up in a segregated, sheltered workshop where she was paid subminimum wage for a job that underutilized her abilities. Her job was to take a filled bag of birdseed from the hand of a peer, rotate her body, and then drop the bag in a bin. Also, immediately following the instatement of the guardianship, she was moved into a group home with very restrictive rules. “I did not like all the rules that the group home and my guardian made me follow,” said Tosha. “I had no freedom and wasn’t allowed to make decisions for myself.”

DRTx learned about Tosha when they met her while doing routine monitoring of sheltered workshops that paid subminimum wage. We informed her of her right to seek restoration from guardianship, and she asked us to represent her in this effort.

Her guardian and the group home put up many obstacles in the attempt to keep us from successfully restoring her from being under guardianship, such as putting more restrictions on her life and moving her outside of the jurisdiction of the court. And then sadly, her guardian died which made for a more complex and lengthier process to finally achieve restoration for Tosha.

When we were finally successful in getting Tosha rights restored, she cried in relief, “I am so happy to have my freedom back. I get to make my own decisions again about where I work and live.” She is now working again in the community making a fair wage at a job she enjoys.