Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Dsiorder (FASD) is a lifelong disability that affects the brain and body of people who were exposed to alcohol in the womb. Each person with FASD has both strengths and challenges and will need special supports to help them succeed with different parts of their daily lives.
Canada FASD Research Network
“I need legal authority to assist my 18 year-old adult child.”
As a matter of law, a child becomes an adult at the age of 18. General legal authority for a parent to make decisions ceases at 18, regardless of the adult child’s special needs and/or limitations. If a parent wants legal authority to help support their children at 18 and beyond, there are two options: Power of Attorney and Guardianship. Thought should be given to these options before the child turns 18 so that you are ready to take action at the appropriate time.
Power of Attorney
A power of attorney (POA) may be a “shoe that fits,” if an 18+ year-old adult has the mental capacity to execute this legal document; mental capacity is determined by the attorney who you engage to execute these legal documents. The adult, called the “principal” in the document, gives authority to an agent to act for the principal. A POA, routinely drafted by an attorney, does not engage or involve the Court system. There are different types of POAs that you can discuss with your attorney: financial, health, healthcare directive/living will, and HIPPA, which allows healthcare information about your child to be released to you, but does not allow you to make any decisions about that health care. By law (Chapter 32A of the General Statutes), the agent must always act in the best interests of the principal and may not be compensated for their services. Also, the form must not only be notarized during signature time but also witnessed by at least two (2) persons. It should be noted that the adult can change or terminate a POA at any time.
Obtaining full or limited guardianship for an 18+ year-old adult child provides a parent with the legal authority to assist and/or make medical and financial decisions for an 18+ year-old adult child. Becoming a guardian is a legal process, which engages the Clerk of Superior Court and may involve ongoing oversight, depending on the type of guardianship.
The Clerk of Superior Court, in each of NC’s 100 counties, presides over the petition, application, appointment, and oversight of guardianships. Obtaining guardianship is not “walk in, walk out;” rather, it is a legal process. Though applicable laws and forms are uniform statewide, a parent should reach out to the Clerk’s office in their county of residence for County specific “next-step” information; especially, if proceeding without an attorney. Find a Clerk’s name and contact information at www.nccourts.gov.
A guardianship may be full or limited in scope. NC adopted the UAGPPJA (Uniform Adult Guardianship and Protective Proceedings Jurisdiction Act) so that transferring a guardianship from another state to NC may be possible. Check with an attorney and/or the Clerk. Also, see Transferring Guardianship Between States. Once established, a NC guardianship may be modified or terminated, which engages a different legal process through the Clerk’s office.
The Clerk is an information resource and, also, presides as a judge for guardianship cases. Be mindful that the Clerk provides legal related information; the Clerk cannot provide legal advice. For example, the Clerk cannot tell a person what to do. Legal assistance from an attorney may be needed or desired by the Petitioner (the person requesting guardianship). A petitioner can be anyone, not only a parent. If without counsel, the petitioner acts as his/her own attorney in the presentation of evidence to the Clerk.
In a nutshell:
- A parent(s) may petition the Clerk of Superior Court for guardianship of a child after the child reaches the age of 17½ years old and any time after 18 years of age. (All mentioned forms can be downloaded from www.nccourts.gov or provided by a Clerk.)
- A petitioning parent may use Form AOC-SP-200. A completed petition is filed with the Clerk’s office. Online filing is not available.
- A letter from the 17½ child’s or 18+ year-old adult’s medical doctor may be required. The letter should state/describe the nature of the special needs and/or limitations and include the medical doctor’s opinion regarding the need for a guardian.
- A $120.00 filing fee may be payable to the Clerk of Superior Court when the petition is filed. The filing fee may be waived if the 17½ child or 18+ year-old adult’s child is deemed to be indigent.
- North Carolina law requires that a County Sheriff’s Department serve the 17½ child or 18+ year-old adult with a copy of the filed Petition and the Notice of Hearing.
- A hearing date is normally set at least 3 weeks following the date of filing the Petition. The hearing date must be at least 10 days from date of service on the 17½ child or 18+ year-old adult by the Sheriff.
- At the time when the Petition is filed and a hearing date is established, the Clerk’s office appoints a Guardian ad litem (GAL). The GAL is an attorney that represents the 17½ child or 18+ year-old adult and advocates for his/her best interests.
- Prior to the hearing, the GAL will meet with the 17½ child or 18+ year-old adult, attend the hearing, and provide the Clerk with a recommendation regarding capacity and need for guardianship.
- The Clerk presides over the hearing, in a location determined by the Clerk’s office. The 17½ child or 18+ year-old adult may or may not be required to attend the hearing. Though a public hearing, generally only interested parties attend.
- Usually one parent files as the Petitioner. While consent from a non-petitioning parent is not required, parents should understand, discuss, and decide if one or both parents shall apply to become a guardian.
- At hearing, the Clerk first decides if a 17½ child or 18+ year-old adult needs a guardian. If yes, the Clerk next decides the type of guardianship and who shall be appointed to serve as guardian. There are 3 types of guardianship:
- Guardian of the Person – One who manages personal and medical affairs
- Guardian of the Estate – One who manages the financial affairs
- General Guardian – One who is both a Guardian of the Person and Guardian of the Estate
The types of guardianship are explained in a pamphlet, “Responsibilities of Guardians in NC” (Form AOC-SP-850), which is available at a Clerk’s office or online (www.nccourts.gov).
For videos, see:
Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) is a lifelong disability that affects the brain and body of those who were exposed to alcohol in the womb. Each person with FASD has strengths and challenges and will need supports to help them succeed with different aspects of their daily lives.
NCFASD Informed, Inc. is a charitable, educational, 501c3 organization. All donations will pay for start up costs, operating costs, and program expenses.
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Connecting with Others
In addition to support groups listed in another section of this website, there are other ways that caregivers of those with an FASD can connect. It is important to find the kind of connection that works for you and that may be a combination of what is available. Those with these connections find hope, strength, strategies, and support that often are not available from those who do not walk the path caregivers are taking with their loved ones.
There is an annual outstanding conference regarding FASD in Vancouver, British Columbia. This conference alternates between the International Research Conference on Adolescents and Adults with FASD (even years) and the International Research Conference on FASD. The Adolescents and Adults Conference in Vancouver is not only rich in information about FASD, but also provides an outstanding opportunity to network with other caregivers over a period of days, which often results in ongoing support from others who “get it” via email and phone. Adolescents and adults attend the Vancouver conference (no fee as of 2018) and have a separate track of programs for those with an FASD; they also participate, if they so desire, in the closing ceremony.
There are other conferences focusing on FASD in the United States. As those occur in North Carolina, our newsletter will highlight these. Also, here are two scholarships available to residents of North Carolina that may cover some of the expenses.
- Bonnie Schell Scholarship Information
Connecting with others electronically
Facebook pages specific to FASD abound. Some are for caregivers only, some for those with an FASD only, others for caregivers of certain ages, etc. Explore the options through the search function on Facebook.
- One FB page was started by adults with an FASD: “Flying with Broken Wings.”
- Another, “Shifting the Paradigm” focuses on the neuro-behavioral approach to FASD, which is highly recommended in living with and helping a person with an FASD.
- FASD Caregiver Success Support Group with Jeff Noble is very popular. He also offers webinars and speaks around the US.
- Fetal Alcohol Resource Program post information that we can use every day.
The Virtual Support Group through A Renewed Mind Double ARC Center for FASD Services is ideal if you do not have a support group in your area or if you want another dose of support on a monthly basis. This offering is one of many services offered by this nationally recognized leader in FASD which has been in existence over 25 years.
Craig Peterson writes an insightful blog entitled “Adopting Faith: A Father’s Unconditional Love”
Email List Servs
- FASlink (for individuals, parents, professionals who deal with FASD) : http://www.faslink.org/faslink.htm
Other Resources for Parents
Sex and FASD
- Fetal Alcohol and the Rule for Sex
- Tips: Dating and Sexuality
- Tip Sheet: Relationships and Sexuality
- Sexual Education Resources
- Elevatus Training
- FASD: Trying Differently Rather than Harder (Diane Malbin)
- Moment to Moment: Perspectives on FASD in Adolescents (ed. Ira J.Chasnoff)
- Guided Growth:Educational Interventions for Children with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders
- Our FAScinating Journey (Jodee Kulp)
- The Best I Can Be (Liz Kulp)
- Braided Cord (Liz Kulp and my 12 strand crew)
- Fantastic Antoine Grows Up (ed. Judith Kleinfeld)
Selected Resources to Utilize with Children with FASD
- Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (Ellen Rodger and Rosie Gowsell) (recommended for teens)