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Guarding the disadvantaged


March 19, 2008

Germantown resident Noleta Jansen is part of a pro bono clinic that helps parents of special needs adults become court-appointed guardians.

Caring for a developmentally disabled child often brings challenges, and sometimes more so when the child reaches adulthood. "The age of 18 is the time when parents no longer have the legal right to make decisions for their child," according to Germantown resident Noleta Jansen, an attorney with the firm Whyte Hirschboeck Dudek, Milwaukee. It can make an already difficult situation more complex, which is why Jansen, along with a small group of her colleagues, established a pro bono clinic to help parents who would otherwise not be able to afford an attorney to become court-appointed guardians.

The Childrenís Hospital of Wisconsin Inc. Guardianship Clinic has assisted 18 families since it was set up in 2005. The children have a wide array of disabilities, from autism to severe mental retardation. When Childrenís Hospital social workers identify a family who needs the clinicís help, they contact Jansen and her colleagues. The guardians of a child might not always be the parents. Sometimes they are grandparents or other family members. "We want to make sure we have someone who is able to make medical decisions," Jansen says. "Each situation is different and has different circumstances."

Jansen would like to see the clinic reach more people. "Itís gratifying to be able to give something that makes these families lives a little easier."


This article was featured in the February 2008 issue of