An Open Letter to “Jamie” Parnell Spears from a Guardian Mom.

Dear Mr. Spears,

It’s hard to be a parent these days especially when you need a little help. I was a divorced mother to two kids with disabilities. I get it. They are both adults now and one of my kids is perfectly able to manage his life with minimal help but one needed a Guardian (note that some states refer to a Guardian as a conservator but here I will refer to Guardianship).  I’ve written about how hard it was to file for Guardianship for my daughter. I even worked as a Guardianship case manager for a few stressful years with a caseload of around 30 individuals for whom I acted as their proxy. I have managed money for people who lived off SSI or disability and then for folks who had trusts, houses, boats and even a hotel or two. When I had a caseload, I worked for an agency with realtors, trustees and appraisers of all varieties at my disposal. 

All this to say, I know a little about the needs of someone who needs a Guardian but I’m not appealing to you as a professional, you obviously have advisors on that end, I’m appealing to you as a parent.

I can’t imagine what was like to see your truly beautiful, talented daughter shave her head on TMZ. I do know what it’s like when the police show up because your daughter can’t control her impulses and runs into four lanes of city traffic in a diaper. I’ve also had to sit in the vestibule of a YMCA with my adult daughter screaming because the staff would not allow her to have a balloon that was part of their “summer fit challenge” display, or the time it took three of us to continually throw her into the shallow end of Lake Erie because she was attempting to dog paddle past the buoys. She did cut her own long beautiful long, blonde hair in chunks last summer over her frustration over not being able to go anywhere due to a Covid lockdown.

And I also understand what it’s like to want to make a living from the kid that you spend the most time on. There was a point where I was sure my legitimately difficult and time-consuming unpaid parenting job could be compensated if I could only sell a book or at least become her Medicaid provider. You, like I, have spent most of our child’s lifetime going to meetings, seeing specialists and trying to steer the direction of our child’s life when other forces had their own agenda for her. I had a cadre of allied therapists, special education teachers, psychologists and medical doctors who gave me questionable advice at times and it always felt like me against the world. I spent many unpaid hours facilitating meetings when I was poor enough to be on Food Stamps and frankly, I was a little bitter about it. But the money that I wanted to get as payback would never make my daughter whole which is all we really want. Moreover, it’s a little, well, icky to make money off your kid.

Parenting is an odd job.  It’s the only job that you are trying to get fired from just as soon as your children can make decisions on their own and at the same time we can’t truly control when they make bad decisions. We want all good decisions yet they can’t learn unless they fail sometimes. There is a phrase we use in the Intellectual Disabilities community; the Dignity to Fail and we collectively struggle with daily. Sit with that a moment, sir. Even my adult daughter with the social skills of a 4-year-old has the right to fail, it’s her human right.

I have no idea how my daughter feels about her Guardianship but I would give almost anything to have a conversation about it.  You have that ability with Britney.

It’s hard to get a Guardianship reversed but it can, and in Britney’s case should, be done. It’s a horrific abuse of your daughter’s basic human rights that it ever happened in the first place and a disgusting miscarriage of justice that a Judge ever signed that Order.

Very Truly Yours,

Katie

Mom and Guardian

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