A guardianship may be established when a person loses the capacity to make decisions because of mental disability. While the goal of guardianship is to protect, people under guardianship can lose many important right, including the right to vote, the right to drive, the right to decide where they will live and the right to decide how their money will be used. It is estimated that 250,000 to 500,000 adults are under guardianship in the United States.
After a guardianship is established, the court, because of shortages in staffing and resources is often unable to follow up to make sure that the ward-the person under guardianship-is receiving adequate care. The guardian may be required to report periodically to the court on the status of the ward's property. However, the court may wish to go a step further to ensure the well-being of persons under guardianships by providing for monitoring by trained volunteers who conduct personal visits with wards, guardians and caregivers.
The AARP has worked collaboratively with the Bergen County Surrogate's Court to recruit and train volunteers to serve as the court's "eyes and ears" in the community. These programs are now run under the oversight of the local Surrogates in their role as deputy clerk of the Superior Court, Chancery Division, Probate Part working in tandem with the local probate judge.