Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Women Take Guardianship Fight to State Lawmakers

Posted on May 9, 2010 at 11:04 PM

Families ripped apart in guardianship court hearings plan to take their fight to the State Capitol. They call themselves victims of the state's system.
Kathie Seidel is one of four North Texas families planning to testify at a May 12 Senate committee hearing on Health and Human Services.

Four years ago, she lost guardianship of her adopted daughter, Katia. Seidel was declared unfit to take care of her. The 24-year-old, who has mental health problems, is living at a group home.
"I haven't seen my daughter in more than a year on a holiday," Seidel said. "Her brother is suffering. They are both adopted and he misses her. It's like we really don't have the family any more."

The family's pain is one Sharon Richardson knows all too well. Richardson's guardianship over her mother, Ernestine Starks, was revoked nearly a year ago.
Starks is living at a nursing home.

"We have limited access to our mother, so it has been really hard on the family," Richardson said. "It's just not the same."

In both cases, guardianship was removed in an ex-parte hearing; that's when a judge issues an order or verdict without all the parties involved being present.

"I was removed in a secret hearing, and didn't even know it was happening," Seidel said.
Seidel and Richardson want to stop these hearings. They also want transparency and to extend the time period families can appeal a judge's decision on guardianship.
"We would like laws to be put in place so this does not happen to other families," Richardson said.

They hope their experiences lead to change and bring their loved ones home.
"We brought her [Katia] here to give her opportunities," Seidel said. "Her brother is doing well. We just want that same opportunity for her to learn and grow."
Richardson hopes all the families participating in the hearings get the homecoming they've been waiting for.

"We want the laws to protect the people," Richardson said. "We want our mother's civil rights restored. We just want her to come home."
E-mail mdiaz@wfaa.com

Related:Aging in America: Family struggles with guardianship issues

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