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Tell Me Something Good: A Call For Volunteer Guardians

Posted at 7:40 PM, Mar 13, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-13 17:53:31-04

"Whether it's around financial services, budgeting, medical issues, or health and wellness, some of our folks need a little bit of support," Beth Scrutchins said.

Scrutchins is the director of Developmental Disabilities Services for the state of Oklahoma. She's talking about a program that takes care of clients like 20-year-old Hunter Biffle, who needs a little extra help making some of life's decisions.

Hunter works four days a week at a recycling center in Coweta.

"I separate and throw it into the bin," Hunter said.

Hunter makes his own money, but needs help managing it.

"What did we just buy the other day? What'd you just buy," asked Hunter's mother, Kelly Biffle.

"A big bean bag," Hunter answered. "Yeah, it took all my money."

Hunter's parents became his guardians when he turned 18. But not everyone is as lucky.

"Unfortunately, we have a large group of people who don't have family or friends involved in their lives," said Sean Ballard, guardian recruiter for the Department of Human Services.

Ballard says the state helps about 5,100 developmentally disabled people like Hunter, and there's a huge need for about 100 Volunteer Guardians. Each guardian works with a team of professionals to help their clients with an intellectual disability make all kinds of decisions.

"Psych services, residential services, vocational, speech," Ballard said. "They all work together and they provide a recommendation to the guardians."

"My heart is to work with individuals with disabilities in any way, shape, or form," said Carrie Schlenhuber, a volunteer guardian. "I thought it sounded like a really great fit for me."

Schlenhuber has a background in helping people with disabilities but it's not required to be a volunteer guardian. Applicants need to be at least 18 years old, live in Oklahoma, pass a background check, attend a two hour training course, and go to court to be appointed a volunteer guardian.

"I think the need is to be a person who recognizes that there are people within our community that need our help," Schlenhuber said.

There's no financial commitment and as far as how much time is spent with the client, it's up to the volunteer guardian.

"Go visit a couple of times a month, or once a month," Ballard said. "Even if that's just stop by to visit and say hi."

Biffle knows there will be a time when she won't be around to help her son with his decisions.

"Who would take care of him next and be the guardian?" Biffle said.

But says knowing there's a program that will watch out for her son, gives everyone peace of mind.

"I think the main thing is just for them to know they have somebody there they can count on, that cares about them," Biffle said. "I think that makes a big difference."

"Because it's called a giant bean bag," Hunter said looking at his mother. "That's why I thought it took all my money!"

If you'd like to get more information about becoming a volunteer guardian, please click here.

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