Keep Andrew thriving w/Guardianship

My son Andrew is a pretty amazing young man who happens to have autism and intellectual disability. He is my inspiration and an important person to so many. He will be 18 on August 14th. He needs help ensuring we can make his Guardianship appointment be in his best interests. That costs money, money we do not have and that's a hard thing to write. We need competent counsel to make this happen. We do not qualify for probono counsel.

I'm just a mom. Being the parent of 3 daughters and a son with special needs whose favorite things in the world are teddy bears and weather, takes up a lot of time. Professionally, I am a special education advocate and consultant, and spend my work days helping other families whose children have disabilities obtain appropriate educational programming. I believe in doing justice and being kind. I run a holiday drive for my indigent clients every year and have served on the Board of "People Helping People", my hometown and hometown church's, social service agency. I volunteer helping immigrants and fellow DV survivors. My daughters are also "helpers".

Guardianship seemed a simple enough process. It's one I don't wish any parent to go through, but it was the right decision for Andrew, who has an IQ in the mid 60's. His entire team of providers (neuropsychologists, neurologist, educators, social worker, primary care physician, ABA therapists, etc.) only know me because in all the years since Andrew has lived solely with me, I am the only parent who has been involved in his care and advocated for him. (His sisters help, too, and my oldest, who is of legal age, signed my petition for guardianship).

When we found out his father was opposing guardianship, it was a devastating shock. It is being done likely as a form of control (this is a man who smothered me with a pillow in front of all our kids and then ripped the phone out of the wall). This is now not an uncontested guardianship, it's a matter which can go to trial.

This case's costs went from $600, which I had saved and paid in full, to thousands of dollars potentially for a trial. Andrew needs a consistent, loving caretaker and I am that person. I have advocated for his educational needs (it helps that that is what I do professionally), but his dad has never once come to a school or IEP meeting, or medical appointment. I have worked collaboratively with his physicians and even dental providers to ensure he receives proper treatments. I have arranged for ABA therapists, music therapists, and recreation activities to be provided for him. His clinical team report supports appointment of me as his guardian.

This matters for Andrew and all the other young people turning 18 who live with autism and ID/D who need to have their needs met by the people who know them and have shown they can help them thrive. There can not be a precedent set of an absentee parent swooping in and saying he wants control, and God forbid getting it, as that is not what is in the intellectually incapacitated person's best interests. This can not continue a cycle of domestic violence.

With excellent counsel, this is something which can be resolved in Andrew's favor and in his best interests. Without counsel (my ex comes from a wealthy family), it's easy to get lost in the complicated Probate system.

In closing, this is hugely *embarrassing*. I never thought I'd need help from my village. However, many friends and colleagues have offered to help. I was born in poverty in India and lived in Mother Teresa's Missions of Charity Orphanage in Kanpur. I believe I am here for a reason and maybe part of that is carrying out her mission of helping others. I do that for others for work, but I do it for Andrew (and my other children) each and every day. He is my world, he is thriving, and his life should be kept as consistent as possible, with the person who has helped him fly continue to be the one who will make decisions for him once he turns 18. Our hearing is on August 14, 2017, his actual 18th birthday. Instead of an Order approving Guardianship for me, we expect temporary orders and a trial to be scheduled.

Please help this amazing young man by supporting this campaign so he can have his needs met and continue to thrive. It does, after all, take a village. Please be part of his.

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Laurel Brown Collins 
Woburn, MA