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   from the issue of March 13, 2008

Extension program helps train better guardians


Keith Andersen had to make a big adjustment for his family.

His mother lives in a nursing home because of Alzheimer's disease. His dad had been her guardian, but after he died, Andersen was appointed guardian to take over his mother's care.

To get help, Andersen took part in University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension's Guardianship Training Program. Anderson said the program taught him to deal with his situation.

"Probably of the main things I took away, a lot of it was to do with the financials," he said. "How to handle a person's money, what your responsibilities for guardians are."

"And a lot of it also was the responsibilities towards the person and a lot of the legalities you have to go through for that."

The Guardianship Training program became available to all Nebraska judicial districts, except for Douglas County, in January 2006. The Nebraska Supreme Court has approved the program for the education requirements set by the Nebraska Probate Code for guardians and conservators.

Guardianship training is being provided through Volunteers Assisting Seniors in Douglas County and statewide by UNL Extension educators.

York County Judge Curtis Evans helped begin the guardianship program with UNL Extension to create better training for guardians and conservators.

"We just felt that we could present something better," Evans said.

Maureen Burson, a UNL Extension educator in Lancaster County, said the training program had to be improved because many guardians didn't have a clear idea of their duties. She said many guardians couldn't get their reports to courts because the guardians didn't know what they needed to do.

She said a great benefit of the improved program has been to fill educational gaps in communities.

"We have the capacity to provide a program regardless of where you live in Nebraska," Burson said.

Burson said persons from 23 states have returned to Nebraska to take the training for their wards residing in Nebraska.

The one-time training is offered quarterly in the form of two half-hour programs mandated for individuals appointed by a court to be a guardian or conservator of a ward.

Conservators take care of only the financial aspects of a ward. Guardians of minors or seniors make all of the ward's financial and legal decisions. Guardians for adults work through county courts, while guardians for minors work through probate or juvenile courts.

Eileen Krumbach, a UNL Extension educator in York County and the co-writer of the training program's curriculum, said the training has been going on for two years and has trained close to 1,800 guardians and conservators.

"We know we are making a huge difference," Krumbach said. "The guardians and conservators are really appreciative. They know legally what they need to do and their responsibilities for their wards."

The training programs work closely with the Nebraska State Bar Association. Many volunteer attorneys teach guardians and conservators about the legal concerns of wards.

The program seeks to expand and get more individuals interested in training, Krumbach said. Burson said training packets are available in Spanish and UNL Extension is seeking funding to translate the court forms into Spanish.

For more information, contact Krumbach at (402) 362-5508 or a local UNL Extension office.



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