Does Your Child Need a Legal Guardian or Power of Attorney?



 Does Your Child Need a Legal Guardian or Power of Attorney?

Most providers of services, including physicians, dentists, government agencies and school personnel, do not question parental authority when a parent is making decisions, recommendations, and participating in all of the areas where a child needs to be represented. However, the minute a child with disabilities turns 18-years old, parental authority ends. Parents must decide to seek a decision-making authority for the child or to allow their child to take on the independent responsibility of making smart financial, medical and social decisions in their parents' absence.

The person assigned the authority to engage in supportive decision-making is called a guardian or a power of attorney (POA). Guardians and POA's can possess many different levels of authority, and their benefits hold fundamental differences as well.

Andy Brennan highlights the necessary balance between independence and least restrictive, supported, decision-making options. If able, a guardian or power of attorney, should allow some level of “dignity of risk” for a person with a disability, so that independence and self-determination become a learning process.



  • Learn the differences between a guardian and a power of attorney.
  • Identify the characteristics of a child with a disability that requires the assignment of a guardian or power of attorney.
  • Understand the different ways in which a guardianship or power of attorney is assigned.
  • Recognize how a guardianship or power of attorney may benefit a child with a disability



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Andy Brennan, AttorneAndy Brennan headshot squarey, Disability Rights Ohio

Andy Brennan is an attorney at Disability Rights Ohio, where he's worked to provide legal advice and advocacy to people with disabilities for 9 years. His areas of expertise are guardianships and supported decision making, Social Security representative payees, and advocating for people with disabilities in jail and prison. He enjoys ultimate frisbee, reading science fiction and singing.