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Disability Community Celebrates Guardianship Decision For Adult Woman With Down Syndrome

Guardianship request by estranged parents denied; disabled woman granted right to self-determination and citizenship

The Autistic Self Advocacy Network issued a statement today expressing full support and celebration at the decision handed down by the court today granting Jenny Hatch full legal control over her own life.

Jenny Hatch, a 29-year-old woman with Down Syndrome, had been living with friends, working, and making her own decisions until her estranged parents filed for guardianship in August, 2012. For the past year, Jenny has been forced to live in a group home where she does not want to be, cut off from her friends, work, and freedoms, while a legal battle has raged over her guardianship. On August 2, 2013, Judge David Pugh of the Circuit Court for the City of Newport News refused the request for guardianship and placed full control of her life back in Jenny’s hands. Jenny will live in the custody of her friends for one year; from that point on, she will be able to make her own decisions.

Guardianship, although common practice, is not the least restrictive option for people with developmental disabilities. There are many ways to support people with significant disabilities in making decisions about our lives which are less restrictive and support self-determination, agency, and citizenship. Options such as powers of attorney for health care or financial management, supported decision making, and others allow people with the most significant support needs to exercise full control of our lives and retain our civil liberties without sacrificing needed supports.

“We are thrilled that the court recognizes Jenny’s agency, right to self-determination, and right to make her own choices about what happens to her in her life ,” said Julia Bascom of ASAN. “Jenny was treated as an equal in the eyes of the law today. Progress is being made!”

Common practices regarding guardianship need to be challenged, and the ordeal Jenny has undergone over the past year serves as a stark example of why. We hope other people will benefit from this progressive decision, and that soon, people with developmental disabilities will be widely recognized as full citizens who can, with the right supports, make our own decisions about our lives.

The Autistic Self Advocacy Network (ASAN) is the nation’s leading advocacy organization run entirely by and for Autistic adults and youth. ASAN’s supporters include Autistic adults and youth, cross-disability advocates, family members, professionals, educators and friends. ASAN was created to provide support and services to individuals on the autism spectrum while working to change public perception and combat misinformation by educating communities about persons on the autism spectrum. The organization’s activities include public policy advocacy, community engagement to encourage inclusion and respect for neurodiversity, quality of life oriented research and the development of Autistic cultural activities and other opportunities for Autistic people to engage with others on the spectrum.

Melody Latimer
Autistic Self Advocacy Network
Phone: 202-630-7477

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