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green hall news

Guardian angels Law students help families take crucial steps to protect their children

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BY MINDIE PAGET

10 KU LAW MAGAZINE

anner Ornelas will turn 17 this summer, but he still needs help taking a shower. The Wichita boy has severe autism coupled with some mental retardation and requires almost constant care. He attends school but does not speak. It’s no secret that when he turns 18 next July, he won’t suddenly be able to move out and manage his own affairs. “We just assumed that we’d always be taking care of him,” said Tanner’s great-grandmother, Pat Dorr. “We never thought about the fact that when he turned 18 we could no longer say, ‘You’re going to do this.’” Yet that’s exactly what would have happened if Tanner’s family had not taken the proper legal steps and formed a guardianship. With help from a group of KU Law students and a coalition of Wichita organizations and individuals, Dorr and her granddaughter, Patti McGee, Tanner’s mother, obtained a co-guardianship this spring that will allow them to make crucial decisions about Tanner’s health care, finances, education and other matters after he reaches adulthood. “We have been so thankful for the help that we’ve received in getting this taken care of,” Dorr said. “It could have just slipped up on us if we hadn’t had any help on it. It will be such a comfort to know that we’ve got this taken care of and won’t run into any problems down the line.” Since the summer of 2006, KU Law students have been learning first hand about this critical legal tool through the pro bono Guardianship Assistance Program (GAP), in which they help create guardianships for Wichita-area families. The program is a partnership between The Arc of Sedgwick County, the Wichita Bar Association, the law firm of Hinkle Elkouri, the 18th Judicial District Court and Wichita financial planner Marti Johnson. Referrals come directly from case managers at The Arc, which serves people with developmental disabilities. The program has been growing steadily, and last fall, with second-year law student Ben Miller-Coleman as its president, the Public Interest Law Society (PILS) adopted it as a group project. Ten student volunteers worked on two or three guardianships each. All told, the program has helped 60 families and donated more than $100,000 in legal services.

KU Law Magazine | Spring 2009  

A magazine for alumni and friends of the University of Kansas School of Law. Story highlights include: Alumni spread legal roots in rural Ka...

KU Law Magazine | Spring 2009  

A magazine for alumni and friends of the University of Kansas School of Law. Story highlights include: Alumni spread legal roots in rural Ka...