Working Interdisciplinary Networks of Guardianship Stakeholders (WINGS)

Creation and sustainability of state groups to advance adult guardianship reform was a key recommendation of the 2011 Third National Guardianship Summit sponsored by the National Guardianship Network. 

WINGS are court-community partnerships that can drive changes affecting the ways courts and guardians practice, and improve the lives of people who need help in decision-making. What distinguishes WINGS from previous state task forces on guardianship is:

(1) WINGS is broad-based and multi-disciplinary, including judges and court staff, the aging and disability networks, the public and private bar, mental health agencies, advocacy groups, medical and mental health professionals, service providers, family members and individuals affected by guardianship, and more. 

(2) WINGS is an ongoing, consensus-driven, problem-solving mechanism. It offers a permanent forum for considering how adult guardianship is working in the state, where the pressure points are, and what solutions might work.  

The National Guardianship Network has played a leading role in supporting state WINGS groups. At the 2011 Third National Guardianship Summit, sponsored by NGN, participants recommended that state courts create WINGS to advance guardianship reform.  In 2013 and 2015, NGN sought funding to launch selected state WINGS. 

In 2013, with funding from the State Justice Institute (SJI), NGN selected four states to receive technical assistance and support in creating and sustaining a WINGS group (NY, OR, TX, and UT). In 2015, with SJI and supplemental funding, NGN named five additional WINGS states (DC, IN, MN, MS, and WA). In its FY 2016 grants, the State Justice Institute provided support to the Guam Judiciary for a WINGS group.

In 2016, the U.S. Administration on Community Living made a grant to the ABA Commission on Law and Aging to establish, expand and enhance state WINGS; and the ABA made subgrants to seven state courts (AL, AK, FL, ID, IN, OR, UT).

Other states also have created such consensus and problem-solving groups, making a total of 25 states with some form of WINGS or a similar entity – varying in level of activity, breadth of stakeholders and objectives. The experience of these initial states can help other states create similar networks. Find out where your state stands!  

The Social Security Administration has designated a regional liaison for each of the ongoing state WINGS groups, to enhance coordination between state courts with guardianship jurisdiction and the SSA representative payee program.

Additional Resources

Stanford Social Innovation Review, Winter 2011, which postulates that "large-scale social change comes from better cross-sector coordination rather than from the isolated intervention of individual organizations..."
a steering committee launched Georgia WINGS in December 2015. 
Contact: Kim Grier, Coordinator
Georgia Department of Human Services
Indiana WINGS final report - May 2016

Becky Pryor
Indiana Adult Guardianship State Task Force
MN-WINGS final report - May 2016

The coordinator for the MN-WINGS is:
Anita Raymond
Volunteers of America 
MS-WINGS final report - May 2016

The coordinator for the new MS-WINGS is:
T’Shia Gordo
Administrative Office of Courts
MO-WINGS grew out of a broadly inclusive task force convened by the Missouri Developmental Disabilities Council. It has been working on a draft revision of the state guardianship code, which is currently open for comment.
Contact: Emily Hartley
Program Coordinator
Missouri Developmental Disabilities Council
In July 2015, the National Center for State Courts (Richard Van Duizend and Brenda Uekert) completed an Assessment of the Impact and Efficacy of Working Interdisciplinary Networks of Guardianship Stakeholders (WINGS).
The New York State Unified Court System, Office of Court Administration, convened a WINGS Summit at White Plains in March, 2014, bringing together a broad-based group of about 60 stakeholders representing over 30 entities, including those who work with both Article 81 guardianships (general adult statute) and Article 17A (developmental disabilities) under the banner of “Setting the Agenda for Guardianship in New York: Fewer Resources, Greater Collaboration.” Based on responses to the survey, the Steering Committee assigned each summit participant to one of three workgroups: (1) pre-commencement guardianship issues; (2) models of guardianship; and (3) post-appointment guardianship issues. Each workgroup had two facilitators and a structured process for reaching recommendations. The NY-WINGS Summit built on an earlier 2011 statewide meeting on adult guardianship under Article 81 sponsored by the Cardozo School of Law.  

The New York Summit resulted in formation of three ongoing workgroups:
  • Pre-Commencement Issues;
  • Models of Guardianship; and
  • Post-Appointment Issues.
Contact: Michele Gartner
Special Counsel for Surrogate and Fiduciary Matters New York State Unified Court System
the Rethinking Guardianship: Building a Case for Less Restrictive Alternatives initiative is in the third year of a grant awarded to the state’s Division of Aging and Adult Services by the North Carolina Council on Developmental Disabilities.  
Year 1 report
Year 2 report

The Jordan Institute for Families within the School of Social Work at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill is facilitating a large and diverse workgroup and using research findings and stories of those affected by guardianship to drive action.

Accomplishments, thus far, include 1) short-term and long-term strategies for change to NC legislation, policy and practice with a Guardianship Bill of Rights serving as a first step; 2) a website to provide comprehensive information and resources; and, 3) identification of training objectives and curricula for private guardians.   

In addition to the statewide effort, the initiative identified one pilot county to advance the goals of Rethinking Guardianship. The Catawba County pilot is focusing on youth transitioning into adulthood; providing supported decision making options; and raising community awareness about guardianship and alternatives.

Contact: Linda Kendall Fields
Clinical Assistant Professor
School of Social Work, UNC Chapel Hill
an Interdisciplinary Guardianship Committee is a permanent subcommittee of the state Supreme Court. The Subcommittee recommended new Supreme Court Rules, which were adopted in March 2015. In addition, work has begun on pre-service and continuing education for adult guardians.
Contact: Hon. Dixie Park, Probate Judge, WINGS Chair
Stark County Probate Court
Stephanie Graubner-Nelson

Policy and Research Counsel, Children & Families Section  
The Supreme Court of Ohio 
OR-WINGS first met in Salem in August 2013, followed by bimonthly or quarterly meetings thereafter. WINGS membership includes representatives from 28 aging, disability, legal, judicial, and mental health agencies and organizations. OR-WINGS developed a charter that states an objective to maintain interdisciplinary representation from these organizations. OR-WINGS has developed these workgroups: 
  • Training, Education & Supports for System Partners;
  • Support Services for Family, Lay & Prospective Guardians; and
  • Protected Person Advocacy and System Access.
OR-WINGS also has participated in legislative advocacy, including support for a successful bill to establish a statewide public guardianship program; and a successful bill concerning volunteer visitor programs.

Oregon WINGS Accomplishments
  • Oregon WINGS produced a brochure entitled “Guardianship in Oregon: Explained in Brief for Medical and Other Care Professionals.”
  • Oregon WINGS produced a booklet for families entitled Options in Oregon to Help Another Person Make Decisions: Guardianship, Conservatorship and Other Options in Oregon.
  • Oregon WINGS is completing a person-centered planning tool for guardians.
  • Oregon WINGS expanded key materials on an existing aging and disability site to create a consumer friendly web page on the Aging and Disability Resource Connection site that collects in one place all resources concerning decision-making options.
  • Oregon WINGS was profiled nationally at the 2014 conference of the National Adult Protective Services Association; and at the Spring 2015 conference of the National College of Probate Judges. 
Contact: Fred Steele
Legal Services Developer
State Unit on Aging
Oregon Department of Human Services
NGN has developed an online WINGS replication guide, entitled Wings Tips: State Replication Guide for Working Interdisciplinary Networks of Guardianship Stakeholders.

View a video introduction to the WINGS Replication Guide.
For a current list of state WINGS in action, see the ABA Commission on Law and Aging, WINGS Court-Stakeholder Partnerships

• Seven states have WINGS funded through the Administration on Community Living grant to the ABA Commission on Law and Aging.  These states are developing strategic plans and measures of success, and engaging in specific objectives concerning guardianship reform, promotion of less restrictive options and addressing guardianship abuse.  

• Nine states were funded through the National Guardianship Network project supported by the State Justice Institute in 2013 and 2015.  Three of these states also received ACL grants in 2016 as “focus WINGS” that have special emphasis on less restrictive options and/or court oversight.  Of the remaining states, a few are currently on hold, and the remainder continue to meet.  

• Additional states have created WINGS partnerships on their own, either at court initiative or outside of the court.  These states vary in their level of activity, but all seek improved lives for individuals subject to or potentially subject to the guardianship system. 
The Texas Office of Court Administration convened the first meeting of TX-WINGS in November 2013 in Austin. The meeting opened with a presentation of the results of a statewide survey on adult guardianship issues, completed by close to 300 participants. Top issues considered at the meeting included support for lay guardians, alternatives to guardianship, public guardianship, and capacity assessment. WINGS  reports to the Texas Supreme Court’s Elder Law Task Force, and will continue to meet regularly.

TX-WINGS held its second meeting in June 2014; and has created three ongoing workgroups:
  • Alternatives to guardianship (including supported decision-making);
  • Support for lay guardians; and
  • Person-centered assessments.
TX-WINGS conducted a study of guardianship files and practices in 14 counties without a statutory probate court and from which fewer than 100 guardianship cases were filed in FY 2013. See Texas Guardianship Cases: Improving Court Processes and Monitoring Practices in Texas Courts.

Members of TX-WINGS have participated in key legislative advocacy. 

Contact: David Slayton
Administrative Director
Texas Office of Court Administration

Scott Griffith, JD/MPA 
Director of Research and Court Services
Office of Court Administration

Amanda Stites
Research Specialist
Texas Office of Court Administration
SJI funded a Guam-WINGS, which convened an initial meeting in February 2016. Contact: Sonia Suobiron.
Working Interdisciplinary Network of Guardianship Stakeholders (WINGS) is a multi-disciplinary problem solving body that relies on court-community partnerships to:
  • Oversee guardianship practice;
  • Address key policy issues;
  • Improve the current system of guardianship and less restrictive alternatives;
  • Engage in outreach, education;
  • Enhance the quality of care and quality of life of vulnerable adults.
In April 2013 the Utah Administrative Office of the Courts convened a large working steering committee that meets bimonthly. Agendas are posted online here.
Current WINGS Steering Committee:
  1. Carol Fletcher, Licensed caregiver, private guardian, volunteer visitor
  2. Daniel Musto, Director, Long-term Care Ombudsman
  3. David Connors, Judge, Second District Court, WINGS Chair
  4. Ellen Silver, Director, Jewish Family Services
  5. James Brady, Judge, Fourth District Court
  6. James Toledo, Program Manager, Utah Division of Indian Affairs
  7. Joseph Taylor, Crisis Intervention Team, Utah State Coordinator, SLCPD
  8. Lisa Thornton, Private attorney, activist
  9. Kent Alderman, Elder law attorney
  10. Nan Mendenhall, Director, Adult Protective Services
  11. Nels Holmgren, Director, Utah Division of Aging and Adult Services
  12. Patricia Vigo, Latino Liaison, Utah Parent Center
  13. Robert Denton, Managing Attorney, Disability Law Center
  14. Shannon Alvey, Director, Office of Public Guardian
  15. Wendy Fayles, Criminal Justice Mentor, National Alliance on Mental Illness
Court Staff:
  1. Karolina Abuzyarova, WINGS and Court Visitor Program Coordinator
  2. Nancy Sylvester, Staff Attorney, Administrative Office of the Courts
  3. Holly Kees, Court Visitor Volunteer Coordinator
  4. Julie Rigby, Team Manager, Third District Court 

Utah WINGS accomplishments are:

  1. WINGS formed in April 2013 – groundbreaking initiative with funding from the National Guardianship Network with only three other states (OR, NY, TX, UT).
  2. Held statewide guardianship summit in November 2013.
  3. Published three papers from the summit in the 2014 Utah Bar Journal:
    • “Improving Service Delivery to Protected Persons and Their Guardians”
    • “The Challenge of Submitting Competent Medical Evidence of Incapacity in Guardianship Proceedings”
    •  “Person-Centered Planning and Supported Decision-Making.”
  4. Published guardianship webpages here.
  5. Created active WINGS listserv, February 2014.
  6. Formed Executive Committee, February 2014.
  7. International profiling of the Utah guardianship monitoring program at the Third World Congress on Adult Guardianship in Virginia, May 2014. 
  8. Adopted organizational bylaws, August 2015.
  9. Started collaboration with Social Security Administration and Veteran’s Administration.
  10. Established Guardianship Signature Program that provides free and low-cost legal representation to vulnerable adults in guardianship proceedings.
  11. Featured panel consisting of Utah WINGS leaders at the 13th Rocky Mountain Geriatrics Conference, September 2015.
  12. Organized three public classes for guardians and caregivers on alternatives to guardianship, guardianship procedures, and community resources in fall 2015.
  13. Interviewed on KUED, Channel 7 on the guardianship monitoring program in December 2015.

Activities in progress:

  1. Create an online training program for the public on guardianship resources.
  2. Reach out to the minorities, disseminate information and build partnerships.
  3. Translate guardianship web pages into Spanish.
  4. Organize live public classes on guardianship in Spanish.

WINGS brings together professionals in the fields of law, social work, medicine, aging services, Veterans Administration, Social Security Administration, non-profit agencies, private guardians, healthcare associations, AARP, Alzheimer’s Association and others. Connections are established between agencies that sometimes served the same population but did not communicate with each other or provide referrals. WINGS widens the understanding of gaps in the area of guardianship and beyond, and offers a platform for a dialogue, coordination and face to face learning opportunities. Large bureaucratic structures started sharing information, and that, hopefully, will make the life of vulnerable adults and their caregivers and guardians easier. 

Contact: Hon. David Connors

WINGS chair  
Second District Court

Karolina Abuzyarova
WINGS and Court Visitor Program Administrator
Utah State Courts

the Supreme Court launched VA-WINGS in November 2016, with four working groups on data, monitoring resources and training. Contact: Paul DeLosh, Virginia Supreme Court.
Washington WINGS final report - May 2016

Shirley Bondon
Administrative Office of the Courts
DC-WINGS final report - May 2016

The coordinator for the new DC-WINGS is:
Anne Meister
Probate Division, Superior Court 
Legal Aid has organized a broad-based Roundtable focused on adult guardianship reform. View the 2016 West Virginia WINGS update.
Contact: Jennifer Taylor
Ombudsman Attorney
Legal Aid of West Virginia
Stiegel, L. & Wood, E., “WINGS Court-Stakeholder Partnerships Boost Guardianship Reform,” Aging Today, American Society on Aging, November-December 2017.
Wood, E., “WINGS: Court-Community Partnerships to Improve Adult Guardianship,” National Center for State Court, Trends in State Courts, 2014, pp. 85-88. 
WI-WINGS held a summit on May 27, 2015. The coordinator is:
Hon. Andrew Bissonnette

Introduction to WINGS

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