Guardianship is the management of the affairs of someone who has been judged unable to manage their own affairs. Generally, guardianship is ordered by a court on behalf of someone who is called a ward of the court. A guardian assumes the rights of the ward to make decisions about many aspects of daily life. A guardian is directed by ethics and statute to make decisions in the best interest of the ward. -- Florida State Guardianship Association
They come from all walks of life. One is the former owner of a grocery store. Another is a retired veteran. Yet, another is a former professional musician.
What these and numerous others in Pinellas County share is a love for helping people -- especially those who are incapable of helping themselves, by meeting those people's needs as professional guardians.
According to Professional Guardian Irene Rausch, 70, president of the Pinellas County Guardian Association, who has worked in the profession for 30 years and devotes a good deal of her time these days to providing training classes in guardianship, a vast number of students in her 40-hour course tend to be in "the 45 to 60 age range," although anyone over the age of 18 who does not have a felony conviction may serve as a guardian.
For Correy Pastore, a long-time professional guardian in St. Petersburg, this trend toward many candidates for guardianship being older people these days makes a lot of sense. "You need to have many life experiences to help you in filling your obligations (as a guardian)." Self-employed throughout his life, in one job or another, including previously as a grocery store owner, Pastore says he has found being a guardian to be a deeply-rewarding experience. In fact, so much so, he would encourage other local mature adults who have found it difficult to find a job or who are seeking to start a "second career" to consider guardianship as an option.
While he admits it is not always easy, you can make a career out of it Pastore says. "Look at me. I've been doing it for 20 years." He noted in the past he has had caseloads as high as serving 50 wards at one time, although these days his workload is more like 20. But that keeps him busy.
Karen Dumke, 49, also of St. Petersburg, shares much of Pastore's perspective on guardianship -- especially the fact that people who make the best guardians are those of a more mature age because of their life-long experiences. "A lot of it is common sense and having the ability to know resources available in the community to help people." A former full-time musician with the Florida Orchestra, Dumke says those thinking of becoming guardians need to be "financially stable" at least for a few years, since it will take time to build up a guardianship practice.
Other traits she says candidates for guardianship need include: being well-organized, good communicators with people and having a caring deposition
John Hill, 64, a retired boat captain from the U.S. Army, found his "calling" as a professional guardian thanks to his wife. After getting out of the service, he was seeking work that would be close to home and hopefully rewarding. His wife, who at the time was a social worker, suggested he would be great at guardianship. Initially, he admits he didn't even know what a guardian was. But after looking into it, training for it and actually doing it, he found he loved the work. He has now been a guardian in St. Petersburg for 11 years and has come to specialize in a particular area of guardianship that is quite appropriate for him. He works with military veterans, making sure they have "a place to live and money in their pocket," noting that a big part of his job these days is managing the funds of veterans he serves.
Hill says being a guardian isn't for everyone, noting that you need to be able to "handle stress and have a good head on your shoulders." But he says one of the biggest awards for him is that the vast majority of vets he works with appreciate what he does for them.
This was echoed by Dumke. "Yes it is a big commitment, but I enjoy the personal satisfaction that comes with it." Unlike other types of work where she said you are not always appreciated, being a guardian it is a different story. "I get to see first hand what a difference I am making in people's lives and know they appreciate my work on their behalf. That means a lot to me."
For more information on guardianship, please visit the Guardian Association of Pinellas County's website: http://www.GuardianAssociation.org, or call (727) 323-9380. For information on upcoming guardianship training classes, visit: http://www.guardiantraining.com or call Irene Rausch at (727) 784-4200, or via e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.