There are some individuals in Wood County who are unable to make decisions on their own behalf. Those individuals need help with making daily life decisions – from the simple to the more complex. Since 2011, the Wood County Probate Court has been appointing volunteer Guardians to assist those individuals with their health and placement decisions.
Guardianship is defined as a legal relationship established by the Wood County Probate Court in which a person (Guardian) is appointed on behalf of another individual declared incompetent by the court (Ward).
Wood County Guardians are appointed only as a guardian of the person, meaning they are appointed to help their Wards make health and placement decisions. Wood County Guardians do not make any financial decisions for their Wards.
The Wood County Guardianship program was spearheaded by Judge David E. Woessner after he found some individuals in need of a proper Guardian to help with decisions.
There are now eleven active Guardians and three current applicants, according to Jennifer Robeson, Office Manager for the Wood County Probate Court.
The need for guardians has been rising in recent years, according to Robeson.
“There is a greater need for Guardians today,” Robeson said. “I think part of the reason is agencies have a better understanding of the guardianship process, and the option to pursue it, which has led to an increase in requests for guardians.”
Guardians are fully trained on how to deal with situations regarding their Ward. After initial training, Guardians continue with ongoing training, meetings and speakers, and have resources available for questions, including attorneys and Robeson herself. Guardians are appointed by the probate court for an indefinite term.
The Guardianship program was made possible, in part, by a partnership with the Wood County Committee on Aging (WCCOA).
“We were putting a committee together, and WCCOA became a part of it,” Robeson said. “Since then, WCCOA has helped us in so many ways – from hosting meetings to helping with recruiting Guardians to just being a great source of advice.”
WCCOA and Robeson continue to work together, along with Judge Woessner to recruit volunteers and keep the Guardians informed.
Janet Delong, a retired public health nurse and current guardian, became involved with the guardianship program after speaking with Denise Niese, Executive Director for WCCOA.
“Denise approached me about the program and I thought it would be a great way to help someone in need,” Delong said.
Delong’s Ward is of an older age, but other Wards are as young as 18. She says her experience as a guardian has been very rewarding.
“I have learned so much from my Ward,” Delong said. “She was once lost in the system and it has been great helping her and learning about her life; she is so unique and I just find her delightful.”
Judge Woessner is very happy with the achievements of the Guardianship program.
“Since its start up in 2011, our Volunteer Guardian Program has been an outstanding success,” Woessner said. “Our committed volunteers have stepped up to help individuals throughout the county who have needed assistance – their experiences have been both challenging and rewarding.”
Woessner would encourage those interested in becoming a Ward to contact the Court.
The next training program is scheduled from 1-5 p.m. on March 25 and 26, 2015 at the Wood County Courthouse, located at One Courthouse Square, Bowling Green, Ohio.
Those interested in becoming a guardian can contact the Wood County Probate Court at (419) 354-9230 or print an application online at probate-court.co.wood.oh.us.