Virginia's public safety net includes public guardianship for adults who are:
- Indigent; and
- In need of someone to help them make medical, financial, or daily living decisions, but who have no suitable person to serve as their guardian.
The Division for Community Living contracts with human service agencies across the Commonwealth to provide public guardianship services. A public guardian visits with each client, personally, at least once a month, and depending on the client's needs, supervises medical care, oversees residential care, monitors social service benefits, and advocates on the behalf of the client. A public guardian can, at the direction of a Virginia Circuit Court, also serve as conservator for individuals who are indigent and in need of public guardianship but have some minimal financial assets that need to be disposed of or managed. The Virginia Code provisions governing the program appear in Sections 15.5-149 et seq. The regulations appear in 22 Virginia Administrative Code Section 30-70-10 et seq.
Here are links to two short videos with additional information about the Virginia Public Guardian & Conservator Program: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j5HXcg_OZD0 and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YXnQI1l4jkE.
Every two years the Department for Aging and Rehabilitative Services provides a report to the Virginia General Assembly on the status of the program. Copies of the two most recent reports can be found here.
2024 Biennial Report of the Virginia Public Guardianship and Conservator Program
2022 Biennial Report of the Virginia Public Guardianship and Conservator Program
How to Obtain a Public Guardian
The steps to obtain a guardian through the Virginia Public Guardian & Conservator Program are:
- A local referral source identifies a person who needs guardianship services. The referral source may be any individual who is familiar with the person’s need for guardianship services, but most typically is an adult residential facility, a local office of the Virginia Department of Social Services, a hospital, or another community service organization.
- The referral source completes the Public Guardian Program Referral Form, which can be found here and sends a copy of the completed referral form to the local public guardian service provider (LPGSP) that provides public guardianship services in the geographic area where the person needing services resides. The referral source also may contact the appropriate LPGSP directly to ask questions before submitting the referral form. Here is a list of the local public guardian service providers.
- After receiving a completed referral form, the LPGSP will evaluate the referral to determine if the referred person appears to meet the criteria for public guardianship services through the LPGSP.
- If the referred person is accepted by the LPGSP for public guardianship, the referral source must engage an attorney to initiate a legal proceeding before a Virginia circuit court under Virginia Code Section 64.2-2000 et seq., requesting the court to find the referred person to be incapacitated and appoint a guardian as their legal decision-maker. No one can receive public guardianship services until a Virginia circuit court finds that the individual is incapacitated and meets the criteria for public guardianship and appoints a LPGSP to serve as the public guardian.
- Following a court’s appointment of an LPGSP as guardian, the LPGSP will begin serving as the guardian for the incapacitated person.
In the case of individuals who were diagnosed before the age of 18 with an intellectual disability, or before the age of 22 with another developmental disability, the referral for public guardianship should be made through the Community Services Board (CSB) serving the community where the person in need of guardianship services resides rather than directly to the LPGSP. CSB support coordinators should use the procedures found at http://www.dbhds.virginia.gov/developmental-services/training-centers to make the referral.