It is easy to become overwhelmed with paperwork, especially when you do not know what the first step is. As a compañera I was lucky to be able to learn from a compañero who taught me the process of assisting clients with adult guardianship. At Taller de José our staff accompanies each other teaching and sharing knowledge which is what makes it possible for us to in turn accompany our clients.
I remember going with my colleague and his client for the first time to the Daley Center’s 12th floor and feeling overwhelmed by the maze of signs and clerks. The compañero directed himself to a clerk where we received two applications and then received assistance from a help desk. The volunteer at the help desk guided us in filling out the forms, and then we were directed to many different floors, clerks, and even a courtroom. After going up and down the elevators a couple times, I was confused. I did not know what order the 17 page application was supposed to be in. On one floor we made a ton of copies, and on another floor a clerk took away those copies. I was taking notes, but it seemed as if everything that I was writing down no longer made any sense. At the end of the day we reached our last destination, the 7th floor, and I felt completely exhausted. As soon as our client thanked us for going with him, however, that exhaustion disappeared. Throughout the whole process Santiago* was so grateful that we were able to help him with obtaining the adult guardianship of his disabled son. Santiago was all smiles and was excited to know that he was finally going to be able to advocate on behalf of his son without all the barriers that had been placed upon him when his son turned 18 years old.
The process of petitioning the court for guardianship of an adult child with disabilities is a long one. The longest amount of time I have spent at the Daley Center has been about 8.5 hours. That day, I was there with my client Rocio* and her daughter. The experience quickly became an illustration of Murphy’s Law, “Anything that can go wrong will go wrong.” When we arrived at the Daley Center, we were very prepared. The Daley Center, however, had made a few changes in courtrooms as well as in their application. They were not accepting certain documents until 2pm. This new way of filling out the adult guardianship application was very different and significantly delayed all of the steps necessary in completing the process. At the end of that day, though I felt tired, I realized the importance of helping to create an encouraging experience for clients that will empower them to recognize their capacity to navigate these complex systems. I used it as an opportunity to learn and grow as a compañera. The next day I started creating a guide; I didn’t want any compañera to miss a step. I wanted to feel prepared and ready for the next time that I or another compañera went to the Daley Center to fill out this application.
My next experience assisting with adult guardianship at the Daley Center was completely different, and I finished the whole process in less than three hours. The following day I went to the Daley Center again and finished in two hours. The adult guardianship application is not a race; it is a process that has many steps. One of my clients, Elena*, told me “You are so smart. You know this building so well.” In response, I simply smiled and said, “thank you.” Elena was never aware of that 8.5 hour day, and that makes me happy. I want to continue to learn and grow so that our clients have someone to rely on. Every time that I assist in this process of adult guardianship, I learn something new about the lives of our clients and their struggles. Ultimately, they are hardworking people who, like most parents, only want to continue to advocate for their children and give them a voice.
When a client finally receives the letters of office, the last piece of documentation in the process that indicates official guardianship, I truly feel like I have helped the family complete something. However, the feeling I have is nothing compared to the commitment that they swear to in continuing to care for their children.
*Names and details have been altered in order to preserve client’s privacy