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Cardozo Law School hosted a conference on November 15, 2011 to coincide with the launch of its new Guardianship Clinic. “Guardianship in New York: Developing an Agenda for Change” was a day-long convening of attorneys, advocates, court personnel, judges, and service providers, designed to foster dialogue and develop consensus about the next wave of guardianship reform in the state. The conference focused primarily on Article 81 but some of the recommendations bear on Article 17-A guardianships as well. The day began with a morning plenary that offered a variety of perspectives on guardianship, including an overview of national developments, discussion of alternatives to guardianship, and descriptions of public guardianship and similar programs.

After the plenary, participants broke into four working groups: 1) Streamlining Without Steamrolling; 2) Monitoring Issues; 3) Problems of Poor People in the Guardianship System; and 4) Alternatives to Guardianship. Each group was charged with discussing the problems in their particular area, envisioning ideal solutions, and then developing workable recommendations for reform. There was not a formal approval process for the working group proposals; rather, each group arrived at a consensus or majority view on core recommendations and identified some issues about which there was disagreement. The recommendations were presented initially as part of a final plenary during the conference. Afterwards, reporters for each group wrote summaries of the proceedings and circulated them to the participants for comment and revision.

The core findings and recommendations from the conference are summarized in this report. It was noteworthy that while the working groups’ agendas were disparate, in many cases they arrived at the same reform recommendations. Some of the suggested reforms require amendments to Article 81 and/or contemplate major changes in the guardianship system. But many recommendations are operational tweaks that could be fairly quickly accomplished with great benefit to parties and the courts alike.

The summary in this report captures what the conference organizers have identified as the key recommendations. It was not possible to repeat every recommendation of all the working groups and still produce a summary. The working group reports, all attached in their entirety as appendices, describe the various problems and suggested solutions at greater length and contain additional detailed recommendations.

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