U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar introduced legislation on Thursday that tries to bring more oversight and accountability to guardianship programs that have too often hurt the seniors and disabled adults they are intended to serve.
The bill comes in the wake of a federal study last year that identified hundreds of allegations of abuse, neglect and financial exploitation by guardians, who are often in control of financial and medical decisions for the elderly and vulnerable adults who are no longer able to make such choices for themselves.
State courts appoint guardians to these positions of trust, but they have lacked resources to properly oversee them. The vast majority of guardians are family members, but there is also a budding professional class of guardians who are lightly regulated in Minnesota and most states.
"This legislation would help crack down on those bad actors by increasing accountability and oversight," Klobuchar said in a statement issued by her office on Thursday.
The legislation would provide money to help state courts implement electronic monitor systems as well as create pilot programs to administer more background checks and increase audits. The Minnesota Democrat is co-sponsoring the legislation with Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fl).
Klobuchar held a pair of hearings and panel discussions on the subject in Washington and St. Paul. She said she hoped to pass the legislation outright or get it included in a broader package that will address a variety of issues in long term care.
In Minnesota, guardians who control financial decisions are called conservators. They are unlicensed, but a growing awareness of problems in the system have led to some changes in recent years.
In January, courts statewide started requiring conservators to file electronic reports, which make it easier to track their activities. In August, approval was given for regular, statewide audits of these reports. In Hennepin County, for the first time, all guardians and conservators will soon have to undergo minimal training.