Turning 18 is typically a joyous moment for both a child and their parents. However, when a child has autism or other developmental disabilities and relies on parental care and decision-making, this transition can be fraught with anxiety. Once a child with developmental disabilities reaches adulthood at 18, they legally gain autonomy over their medical, mental health, social, educational, and living decisions.
For concerned parents faced with this situation, the solution lies in becoming a guardian advocate. In Florida, the legislature has established a guardian advocacy statute, Fla. Stat. 393.12, specifically designed to address this need. While the process may initially seem complex, it is crucial for the welfare and safety of your developmentally disabled child or young adult.
The first step is to appoint one or both parents as guardian advocates, ensuring that you have the legal authority to act on behalf of your child, particularly in emergencies. This step is essential and should be undertaken promptly when your child turns 18.
The second step involves applying for government benefits, which often include obtaining Supplemental Security Income (SSI) from the Social Security Administration, Medicaid benefits, or other benefits from the Agency for Persons with Disabilities (APD). When a guardian advocate is appointed, the court order should explicitly grant the authority to apply for these government benefits on behalf of your autistic or developmentally disabled child.
To navigate this process effectively and ensure the safety and well-being of your child, it's highly advisable to enlist the assistance of a competent and experienced attorney. They can provide invaluable guidance through the paperwork, background checks, and court hearings required in this important journey.