New York State has several “guardian of last resort” schemes for individuals who need a guardian when there is no family member or friend available to serve.
In New York, there is no statewide public guardian system, as there is in other states. Instead, judges generally seek to appoint private attorneys or community organizations to be guardians, and local Commissioners of Social Services are authorized for appointments if no other guardian can be found.
The lack of a public guardian system, along with the limited role of Adult Protective Services (APS) and disincentives for professionals to serve has created a gap in the provision of guardianship services in New York. Some guardianship advocates support a statewide public guardianship system with flexibility to meet local needs to fill the gap.
Role of Adult Protective Services and Community Guardian Programs
APS is a government program, under the oversight of the New York State Office of Children and Family Services, that investigates referrals of abuse, neglect, and financial exploitation for adults who live in the community. APS occupies multiple roles within New York's guardianship system. Sometimes it is APS that will petition for the appointment of a guardian for a person receiving APS services.
In New York City, increasingly, for these APS-petitioned cases, it is APS that will contract with three New York City agencies that provide Community Guardian Program services and will accept guardian appointments. Community Guardians must relinquish a case when a person enters a nursing home or similar residential facility, leaving a serious and sometimes life-threatening void where there is no one to make health and personal decisions and oversee facility care.
Lastly, APS itself may serve as the guardian (which is typically the case outside of New York City), upon an appointment by the local Commissioner of Social Services.