By: Dawn Adams, J.D., Executive Director
June 14, 2018

Think back to your childhood. Do you remember how it felt to be told what you may or may not do? Did you long for the day when you would be an adult and be able to make your own decisions?  To choose to eat cake for breakfast? To stay up as late as YOU wanted doing whatever YOU wanted to do?  And then when you became an adult, you learned that maybe that cake isn’t the best choice for breakfast  and  that maybe you needed to go to bed early to make sure you would be on time for work the in the morning. We learned many of these things the hard way. We were given the freedom to make our own decisions and then learn from the outcomes. We should take pride in seeing ourselves grow and develop and take on important adult tasks with the support of our loved ones.

But not everybody gets to transition to adulthood in the same way. For many individuals with disabilities, they are placed under a guardianship as soon as they turn 18 years of age and may spend their entire adult life being told what they may or may not do. For many of these individuals, guardianship becomes a barrier to the person’s ability to grow and develop by making their own decisions and choices about how they live their life. The good news is that there are alternatives to guardianship and Supported Decision Making is one of the most creative and simple legal tools available that preserves a person’s right to live their own life while still allowing for a formal team process to support the person make some of life’s tougher decisions.

Thanks to the open hearts and minds of those in the Judiciary, like Judge Gregory Horn, and those who serve as legal guardians, like Dan Stewart, June 13, 2018 is a historic day in Indiana as the guardianship of Jamie Beck was terminated in favor of a Supported Decision Making agreement. Ms. Beck’s life is now changed forever in the best way possible – she is empowered to make her own decisions! At 28 years of age, that is an exhilarating feeling for this dynamic and determined young woman who decided to move from her hometown of Richmond so she could attend the Erskine Green Training Institute Muncie, Indiana. She also obtained full-time employment with full benefits before graduation, and she is proud to  have her own successful YouTube channel where she is the one that determines, directs, and produces the content. (Pictured L - R: Judge Horn and Jamie Beck)

The Indiana Disability Rights (IDR) team is proud to have had a part in changing the life of Jamie Beck. We would like to thank all of those involved in making this dream a reality because, as we all know, great things are not achieved by one person alone – a support team is always behind the scenes helping to make change happen in their own way. And so today we offer our gratitude to the following individuals and groups for their support along the way: Jamie Beck’s Support Team (Dan Stewart, Angie Belvins, and Karen Fisher); the Administration for Community Living; Indiana’s Working Interdisciplinary Network of Guardianship Stakeholders (WINGS); Erica Costello, Indiana Supreme Court, Adult Guardianship Office; Dan Stewart, Achieva Resources; Judge Gregory Horn, Wayne Superior Court II.

The mission of Indiana Disability Rights is to protect and promote the rights of people with disabilities through empowerment and advocacy. I believe that empowering individuals to make their own choices is the greatest goal we can achieve as advocates. The work of the IDR team members Melissa Keyes, Justin Schrock, Deliscia Lewis, and Jessica Trimble, has had a small part in helping Ms. Beck achieve her independence. Jamie is a relentless self-advocate and is constantly fighting for the rights of others. Jamie expressed her vision was to "set an example," and show others what is possible.  "I can help somebody out, and they can get to that point."

Indiana Disability Rights stands ready to support others who may be in a similar position as Jamie was or who may be turning 18 soon and would like to use a Supported Decision Making agreement instead of the more restrictive guardianship. Help us spread the word by sharing Jamie’s story and become educated about supported decision making.

Indiana Disability Rights stands ready to support others who, like Jamie, seek options including Supported Decision-Making as an alternative to guardianship. Help us spread the word by sharing Jamie’s story and become educated about supported decision making. Click HERE to read the Fact Sheet.