Disability and Abuse Project
March 4, 2015
New Model Bill on Medical Supported Decision Making Agreements
New model legislation on medical supported decision making agreements is now available. The new model bill has the support of the Disability and Abuse Project and the Disability and Guardianship Project of Spectrum Institute since it incorporates the principles in our "Framework for Supported Decision Making Legislation." The concerns we raised to the original model bill do not apply to the revised model bill. We are very grateful to attorney Jonathan Martinis, director of the National Resource Center for Supported Decision Making, and his partners, for amending the model bill to address our concerns. We believe that the new bill is something that should be used by advocates to promote state legislation that advances the rights of people with disabilities in medical settings, whether that would be in doctor's offices, clinics, and hospitals or in their interactions with other medical professionals.
To read more about our position on SDM as an alternative to guardianship, click here.
March 1, 2015
A "Rule Out Abuse" Campaign for Physicians
The Disability and Abuse Project is launching a "Rule Out Abuse" campaign for medical doctors. Dr. Nora Baladerian is spearheading the campaign after years of noticing that, when presented with patients with disabilities who have traditional symptoms associated with abuse, doctors generally do not consider such a diagnosis as a possibility to rule out. Click here for more information.
February 25, 2015
Additional Analysis of AB 128
We listened to and read the testimony presented to legislators at a hearing on February 23. We have published a response, calling attention to issues that were overlooked in the testimony and correcting some facts. We have also published an analysis of liability issues that may arise for medical providers, notaries and witnesses if AB 128 is adopted in its current form. Our response and the liability analysis are both published on the Legislature's website.
For links to the bill text and all of our analyses of AB 128, click here.
February 22, 2015
Analysis of AB 128 (Nevada bill on medical powers of attorney)
Two separate analyses are being published by our projects about Assembly Bill 128, a proposal to authorize a new form to be used for medical powers of attorney for adults with intellectual disabilities. The bill is being heard on February 23 in the Assembly Judiciary Committee of the Nevada Legislature.
We believe that AB 128, as currently written, poses a significant risk to the legal rights of and well-being of people with intellectual disabilities.
February 5, 2015
Article on Conservatorship Reform Published in Legal Newspaper
A commentary by attorney Thomas F. Coleman was published today on the opinion page of the Daily Journal, California's largest legal news provider. The paper is read by judges, attorneys and politicians throughout the state. Titled "Reform Long Overdue for State Conservatorship Process," the op-ed article suggests that the Judicial Council of California -- the rule making body for the judiciary -- is putting the cart before the horse in its consideration of training programs for attorneys and judges who handle conservatorships for adults with developmental disabilities. Instead, Coleman says that a thorough review of the limited conservatorship system, with an analysis of costs for systemic and operational changes, should come first. Then, when state and local officials are ready to implement these changes, should come education and training of probate judges and court-appointed attorneys. To read the commentary, click here.
Request to Department of Developmental Services
We have sent a
request to the Director
of the California Department of Developmental Services asking that DDS amend
regulations on client's rights to clarify that the freedom of association of
clients is protected. Clients have the right to associate with, or
decline to associated with, specific persons. The regulations mention
a "right to social interaction" but this needs to be clarified with greater
specificity. The First Amendment rights of Regional Center clients,
especially those who are placed under a conservatorship order, are being
violated. Amending the regulation on social interaction may decrease
the risk of violations of the freedom of association of limited conservatees.
We encourage people to email the Director, via the Deputy Director
Nancy Bargmann, to support this request.
January 21, 2015
Communications with the Judicial Council
After sending letters to the Chief Justice of California,
and after meeting with the Probate and Mental Health Advisory Committee to
the Judicial Council of California, we finally received an official response
to our list of concerns with the Limited Conservatorship System.
Justice Harry Hull wrote to us on behalf of the Judicial Council. We
responded. We also sent a follow up email to the Chair of the Probate
Advisory Committee. To read this correspondence,
January 7, 2015
Letter to the Presiding Judge of the Los Angeles Superior Court
We sent a letter to the Presiding Judge of the Los Angeles Superior Court today, with a copy to the Presiding Judge of the Probate Division asking for a meeting to discuss problems with the processing of limited conservatorship cases and how to fix those problems. To read the letter, click here.
Special Report on Supported Decision Making
We have gathered a variety of materials we have published
on the subject of supported decision making and are publishing them in a single report, titled, 'Supported Decision
Making: A Critical Analysis." Click here
to access the report.
December 27, 2014
Task Force Stimulates Changes in Indiana's Guardianship System
The Arc of Indiana spearheaded the creation of a statewide Task Force to examine the adult guardianship system in that state. After nearly three years of study and analysis, the Task Force recommended several major improvements to that system. The judicial branch and the legislative branch cooperated and many of those changes are now being implemented. For more information about these reforms, click here.
Listen to audio of our presentation at the Judicial Council
On November 14, 2014, members of the Disability and Abuse Project made a presentation in the conference room of the Judicial Council of California in support of our request for a Task Force on Limited Conservatorships. An audio recording of the presentation was sent to us and has been uploaded to this website. Click here to listen to the mp3 recording.
November 25, 2014
Letter Sent to the President of the State Bar of California
A letter was sent today to Mr. Craig Holden, new President of the State Bar of California. The letter requests that the Board of Trustees convene a Task Force on Limited Conservatorships to investigate the practices of public defenders and court-appointed private attorneys who represent adults with developmental disabilities in limited conservatorship proceedings.
November 24, 2014
California Coalition Joins Call for Conservatorship Reform
The Compassionate Care Coalition of California has issued a report focusing on the Limited Conservatorship System in California. Findings point to serious deficiencies in the system. The report recommends a thorough review of the system statewide with major reforms to all of its various components. The report cites our Justice Denied report and adds new information from a variety of informants.
After reviewing the report, we issued a news release which was sent to the Daily Journal, the legal newspaper for California lawyers, judges, and lawmakers. We also distributed a summary of the report to the Chief Justice and to other officials.
November 17, 2014
A Successful Trip to San Francisco
A few of us who are working on the Conservatorship Reform Project went to San Francisco last Friday for a meeting at the headquarters of the Judicial Council of California. The Judicial Council adopts rules that govern legal proceedings throughout the state, including proceedings involving limited conservatorships.
Along with my colleagues, Dr. Nora Baladerian and Jim Stream, I made a presentation in support of our request for a statewide Task Force on Limited Conservatorships. Also present was a young man, Stephen, who had almost lost his right to vote, Stephen's mother, and the stepfather of another young man whose First Amendment rights have been violated by the Limited Conservatorship System.
A news story appeared today in the Daily Journal, a statewide legal newspaper read by judges, legislators, and attorneys. I followed up with a letter to the Chief Justice. I also sent an email to Judge John Sugiyama, Chairperson of the Probate and Mental Health Advisory Committee -- the committee to which we made our presentation. That email included a document titled "Ten Statewide Concerns About the Limited Conservatorship System."
Prior to our meeting at the Judicial Council, our group spent some time at the Golden Gate Regional Center. Many thanks to the Executive Director and the staff for their hospitality. Also many thanks to Greg Byers, a filmmaker who came to San Francisco to video our activities for a documentary he is working on about the Limited Conservatorship Reform Project.
Other documents submitted to the Committee can be found on the Judicial Council page of our website.
(The photo depicts Stephen and me standing at the reception desk of the Judicial Council of California.)
July 22, 2014
A Review of "Model Legislation" on Supported Medical Decision Making
We have reviewed "model legislation" being proposed for supported medical decision-making agreements and find that the proposed bill has serious defects. The proposal violates the first principle of medical ethics to "do no harm" because it would give immunity to medical care providers who engage in treatment without informed consent. We cannot support any proposal that dispenses with current legal and ethnical requirements of obtaining informed consent from a patient or his or her legally empowered surrogate before conducting medical procedures. To read our review of the legislation, and to access the proposed legislation, click here. To read additional reviews of it, click here.
July 16, 2014
News Segment on Arise America
Arise America, a division of Arise TV, carried a segment on voting rights for people with developmental disabilities on their news show on Friday, July 11, 2014. The segment was just uploaded to You Tube today. Click here to watch the segment.
July 10, 2014
Voting Rights Complaint Filed
The Disability and Abuse Project filed a complaint today with the United States Department of Justice asking for intervention to stop the violation of the voting rights of people with developmental disabilities in California. The complaint explains that limited conservatees are having their voting rights taken away in violation of federal laws prohibiting states from using literacy tests and laws requiring states to allow people with disabilities to have assistance in the voting process. The Los Angeles Superior Court is named as the violating party. For more information, click here. Read the news stories about the complaint.
June 19, 2014
Position on Supported Decision Making
A position paper has been added to the website. It analyzes calls to repeal adult conservatorship laws and replace them with a non-judicial alternative called supported decision making. To access the position paper, click here.
Letter to Los Angeles District Attorney
Today the Disability and Abuse Project sent a letter to Jackie Lacey, District Attorney for the County of Los Angeles. Along with the letter, we sent her a copy of the Survey Report. We requested a meeting with her office to discuss ways to improve the training of investigators and prosecutors in order to prosecute abuse cases more effectively.
Letters to Area Boards
Today the Disability and Abuse Project sent a letter to Area Board 1 of the California State Council on Developmental Disability. A similar letter was also sent to the other 12 Area Boards. Along with the letter, each Area Board received a copy of the Survey Report, as well as a request to answer the following questions: What actions has your Area Board taken over the past 8 years with respect to the issue of abuse and disability? Have you adopted any policies? Published any educational materials? Conducted or sponsored any educational or training programs? Or taken any other actions on abuse and disability? We will be posting the results of this "mini survey" in the coming months.
Letter to the Department of Developmental Services
Today he Disability and Abuse Project
sent a letter to the Santi Rogers,
Director of the California Department of Developmental Services, along with
a copy of our report, Justice Denied. The letter asks for a
meeting with him to discuss ways to create a role for the department in
oversight or auditing of the Limited Conservatorship System.
May 23, 2014
Letter to the California Attorney General
Today he Disability and Abuse Project
sent a letter to the Kamala
Harris, Attorney General of California, along with a copy of our report,
Justice Denied. The letter asks the Attorney General to meet with
us to discuss the deficiencies in the Limited Conservatorship System and how
they can be corrected.
Letter to the Chief Justice of the California Supreme Court
Today the Disability and Abuse Project sent a letter to Chief Justice Tani G. Cantil-Sakauye in her capacity as Chairperson of the Judicial Council of the State of California. The letter transmitted our report, Justice Denied, and asked the Judicial Council to convene a Task Force on Limited Conservatorships to investigate the policies and practices within that system on a statewide basis. Update (May 30, 2014): We received a response from the Judicial Council that our proposal has been reviewed by Justice Harry Hull and that he has referred our report and the proposal to the Probate and Mental Health Advisory Committee for a recommendation.
Letter to the Los Angeles County Superior Court
Today the Disability and Abuse Project sent a letter to Judge Michael Levanas, Presiding Judge of the Probate Division of the Los Angeles County Superior Court. The letter transmitted our report, Justice Denied, and offered to meet with him to discuss ways to improve the Limited Conservatorship System operated by the court. Update (June 5, 2014): Judge Levanas acknowledged receiving the report as well as an invitation for the head of Probate Investigations to attend the Voting Rights Conference. He said that he passed the invitation and the report on to the her.
Letters to State Councils on Developmental Disabilities
Today the Disability and Abuse Project
sent a letter to the
Arkansas State Council on Developmental Disabilities along with a copy of
the 2012 Survey Report. The letter asks the Council to evaluate and
update its 5-year plan so as to incorporate information from the Survey
Report. Over the next few months, a similar letter will be sent to
State Councils in all 50 states and the territories. Update (March 10,
2014): As of today, all State Councils have received our letter and a copy
of the Survey Report.
September 5, 2013
2012 Survey on Abuse of People with
Today the Disability and Abuse Project released the first report from the 2012 Survey on Abuse of People with Disabilities. Some 7,289 people took the survey last year. The first report focuses on the responses of individuals who were victims of abuse and families whose loved ones had been abused. The report contains dozens of findings and recommendations that, if studied and implemented, will help improve response to abuse, justice for victims, and therapy for those in need. To access the survey, findings, recommendations, and the full report, click here.
July 18, 2013
Issue Brief Released on Sexual Abuse of People with Disabilities
In March 2012, the Center on Victimization and Safety of the Vera Institute partnered with the MS. Foundation for Women on a project to learn more about sexual abuse of people with disabilities. Participants were assembled from a wide range of backgrounds to offer background information, statistics, and recommendations. Dr. Nora Baladerian was one of the participants consulted by the project.
An Issue Brief released in March 2013 contains the findings and recommendations of this project. To access the Issue Brief, click here.
July 17, 2013
Social Rights Protection: A Case Study
The Disability and Abuse Project has selected the case of In re Gregory D. to be used in an educational program focusing on the social rights of people with intellectual or developmental disabilities. In this case, the California Court of Appeal ruled that a parent does not have the right to challenge on appeal a court order that violates the constitutional rights of an adult child.
The case has now returned to the trial court where, at the request of his conservators, the court is being asked to completely take away Gregory's right to make social and sexual decisions. The conservators want the court to vest authority for such decisions in them. The Disability and Abuse Project will be monitoring these proceedings and using the actions of the parties, attorneys, and the court, as a teaching tool to educate others throughout the state on how social rights were handled in this case. In re Gregory D. will become a model for how to, or how not to, protect the social rights of adult conservatees with intellectual or developmental disabilities.
For a statement about this case study, click here.
June 7, 2013
The Right of Adults to Say "No" to Forced Visitation
Two letters were recently filed in the California Supreme Court supporting the right of an adult with developmental disabilities to refuse to visit a parent if he does not wish to do so. One letter was filed by the Disability and Abuse Project. The other was filed by Dr. Nora J. Baladerian in her capacity as a clinical psychologist.
Gregory, an adult with a developmental disability, has on many occasions expressed his desire not to visit with his father. Gregory is subject to a conservatorship and the dispute over visitation was heard in Los Angeles Superior Court. Despite Gregory's wishes not to visit his father, the court ordered him to do so, and ordered the caregivers in the home where he lives to pressure him to see his father. Gregory's mother, Linda S., was a party to the conservatorship proceeding. She argued that Gregory should have the right to veto any visit. An attorney appointed to represent Gregory was mostly silent. He failed to advocate for Gregory's right to say "no" to any particular visit he did not want to participate in.
Linda S. appealed the order of forced visitation, claiming that it violated Gregory's constitutional rights. Gregory's attorney failed to participate in the appeal. The Court of Appeal ruled that Linda was not harmed by the order and therefore could not appeal. It concluded that she did not have the authority to argue for the protection of Gregory's constitutional rights on appeal. So the appeal was dismissed, without the Court of Appeal ever deciding the issue of forced visitation and the right to say no.
Linda petitioned the California Supreme Court to review the case. The petition is pending. The letters of the Project and Dr. Baladerian argued that the Court of Appeal should have appointed another attorney to represent Gregory on appeal since his own attorney failed to participate. The letters also argued that when, as here, a conservatee is ordered to visit a specific person, the conservatee should have the right to say "no" to any particular scheduled visit, and that the attorney for the conservatee should not be able to waive his client's constitutional rights in this regard.
We will advise our website visitors when the Supreme Court takes action in this case. A decision should be made before the end of June. (Conservatorship of the Person of Gregory D., Supreme Court No. S209942)
This issue is not going away. A growing number of mothers have contacted the Project about this issue. In each of these cases, an adult child with a developmental disability, has expressed a desire not to visit with the father. Often, the child acts out when the father comes near the child, and if a visit occurs, the adult child shows signs of anger and frustration, with adverse physical manifestations and resulting psychological harm, afterwards. The Project will be encouraging these mothers, and others like them, to form a support group to help each other and to advocate for the rights of their children.
April 9, 2013
Guide on Responding to Suspected Abuse
A Guide on Responding to Suspected Abuse of People with Disabilities has been added to the Resources section of the website. The Guide is for parents or family members whose loved one receives residential, transportation, day program or other services. To view of download the pdf file, click here.
May 21, 2012
Prof. Dick Sobsey Joins the National Survey Team
The Disability and Abuse Project is pleased to announce that Professor Dick Sobsey has become the Principal Survey Analyst for the 2012 National Survey on Abuse of People with Disabilities.
Dr. Sobsey is a Professor Emeritus of Educational Psychology at the University of Alberta in Edmonton Canada. He currently serves as Director of the JP Das Developmental Disabilities Centre and Director of the John Dossetor Health Ethics Centre.
He has worked with children and adults with developmental disabilities since 1968 as nurse, teacher, and transdisciplinary team leader as well as a researcher and advocate. He is the author of more than 200 books, articles, and commentaries related to health, educational, and social aspects of disability.
Prof. Sobsey will assist the Disability and Abuse Project in interpreting the results of the survey. He and other members of the National Survey Team will collaborate together to identify ways to use the results in a variety of educational, policy, and advocacy efforts
For more information about Professor Sobsey, click here.
May 1, 2012
National Survey on Disability and Abuse is Released
In collaboration with The Arc of Riverside County, the Disability and Abuse Project is releasing the National Survey on Abuse of People with Disabilities. For more information about the survey, and for a link to the survey itself, click here.
April 6, 2012
OVC report includes section on victims with disabilities
The Office for Victims of Crime issued a new report on the status of services to victims of crime. The report, "Rising to the Challenge: A New Era in Victim Services" includes a section on victims who have disabilities. That section, which begins on page 53, mentions a training manual and DVD, produced in 2009 with the assistance of Dr. Nora J. Baladerian, which has been distributed to more than 5,200 recipients. To access the complete report, click here.
March 20, 2012
A section has been added for Project Updates
A short email newsletter will be sent to supporters of the Project periodically. It will keep them advised of our activities. The first Project Update was sent today. To access this new section of the website, click here.
March 18, 2012
Resources section is added to the website
A new section for Resources has been added to the website. The first material was added to this section for use in the presentation of Dr. Nora J. Baladerian at the National Symposium on Child Abuse in Huntsville, Alabama this week. Material will be added to this section as time permits. To access the Resources section, click here.
March 9, 2012
Archives section is added to the website
The former website of the Disability and Abuse Project (2000 - 2005) is now available through the Project Archives section of this website. To access the Project Archives, click here.
February 12, 2012
Profile of Lori Brown: Forensic Interviewer
The Athens Banner-Herald published a
feature story today focusing on Lori Brown, a forensic interviewer with the
Sheriff's Office in Oconee County, Georgia. Lori will be a presenter
next month at the National child Abuse Symposium in Huntsville, Alabama.
Lori is a consultant to the Disability and Abuse Project. To read the
full story about Lori,
February 11, 2012
Autism Light: Focus on Autism's Diverse Heroes
Autism Light is a blog that honors diverse heroes to the world of autism. Yesterday's blog featured Dr. Nora J. Baladerian. Alan Stokes, the author of the blog, wrote: "It is my experience both as a parent of a child with autism and as one working in the field of abuse prevention that Dr. Nora Baladerian's specialization and expertise is very much needed today." To read the full story, click here.
February 9, 2012
APA Issues Guidelines for Assessment
The January 2012 issue of American Psychologist contains several new practice guidelines for several specific populations: seniors, LGBT clients, people with disabilities, and parents. Among the 22 guidelines for clients with disabilities is one directed to disability and abuse.
Guideline 11 recommends that psychologists should strive to recognize that people with disabilities are at increased risk for abuse and they should address abuse-related situations appropriately. The guideline recognizes that people with disabilities are victims of violence and abuse at a much higher rate than the population at large. This is true for men as well as for women. Abuse and neglect can be the initial cause of a disability or abuse may exacerbate an existing disability. To read more, click here.
February 3, 2012
Combating Violence Against Women with Disabilities
Thanks to Russell Butler for bringing to our attention the
following article in the American Bar Association Criminal Justice Section
Newsletter: "Barrier Free Justice: Combating Violence Against Women with
disabilities." To read the article, on page 7 of the newsletter,
Georgia school found liable for disability-abuse by teacher
An administrative law judge filed a decision yesterday finding the Fulton County School District liable for repeated physical, verbal, and emotional abuse committed by a special education teacher against students with developmental disabilities. The decision followed administrative trial arising out of a complaint filed by a parent (on behalf of her child) alleging abuse by the teacher, knowledge of the abuse by administrators, and a cover-up of the situation by the school district.
For a copy of the full decision, and quotes from various portions of it, click here.
Click here to view a new comment about the value of the newsfeed.
Click here to view and listen to a You Tube video of public defender Billy Edwards discussing how Fetal Alchohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) is relevant to the work of a criminal defense attorney.
Dr. Nora's Blog has been added to the website. She, and guest bloggers, will periodically post commentaries to the blog. To access the main page of the blog, click here.
Dr. Nora Baladerian was quoted in a newstory which was added
today to the website. The Associated Press story focused on the
financial abuse of people with intellectual disabilities. To read the
story, click here.
September 10, 2011
A tribute was added for International FASD Day.