Revisiting S.C.P.A 17-A: Guardianship for People with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities
More than four decades ago, in 1969, the New York State Legislature enacted Surrogate's Court Procedure Act, Article 17-A (17-A) authorizing a Surrogate to appoint a guardian over the person and/or the property of a person with mental retardation. At the time, various organizations and advocates for this population, primarily parents and parent organizations, voiced the need for an abbreviated proceeding for individuals with mental retardation when they reached the age of eighteen. The underlying assumption was that the mentally retarded were perpetual children, such that the legal powers all parents had over persons under eighteen should simply be extended indefinitely for the parents of the mentally retarded; 17-A was the outcome. In 1989, despite a substantial change in the understanding of disability, including intellectual and developmental disability, now based on a social, rather than a medical model, and without any significant discussion, S.C.P.A. Article 17-A was amended to include other "developmental disabilities."