Alternatives to Guardianship Youth Resource Center

View on
Alternatives to Guardianship Youth Resource Center
Opportunity ID
Primary CFDA Number
Funding Opportunity Number
Funding Instrument Type
Cooperative Agreement
Expected Number of Awards Synopsis
Length of Project Periods
60-month project period with five 12-month budget periods
Project Period Expected Duration in Months
Eligibility Category
Independent school districts,Public and State controlled institutions of higher education,Native American tribal organizations (other than Federally recognized tribal governments),Nonprofits having a 501(c)(3) status with the IRS, other than institutions of higher education,Nonprofits without 501(c)(3) status with the IRS, other than institutions of higher education,Private institutions of higher education
Additional Information on Eligibility
Foreign entities are not eligible to compete for, or receive, awards made under this announcement.

Foreign entities are not eligible to compete for, or receive, awards made under this announcement.
Estimated Award Date
Funding Opportunity Description


When individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (ID/DD) have greater opportunities to lead self-determined lives, they are more independent and have an overall better quality of life. People with ID/DD who are independent and make their own choices are healthier, better adjusted, and better able to recognize and resist abuse. [2] In addition, individuals with ID/DD who are able to be more self-determined have higher rates of employment and as a result have greater access to benefits such as vacation time, sick leave, and health care. [3]

Self-determination refers to making choices and decisions based on one’s own preferences and interests, to monitor and regulate one’s own actions, and to be goal-oriented and self-directing. [4] The Developmental Disabilities Assistance and Bill of Right Act (DD Act) describes self-determination as:

….individuals with developmental disabilities, with appropriate assistance, having: The ability and opportunity to communicate and make personal decisions; the ability and opportunity to communicate choices and exercise control over the type and intensity of services, supports, and other assistance the individual receives; the authority to control resources to obtain needed services, supports, and other assistance; opportunities to participate in, and contribute to their communities; and support, including financial support, to advocate for themselves and others, to develop leadership skills, through training in self-advocacy, to participate in coalitions, to educate policymakers, and to play a role in the development of public policies that affect individuals with developmental disabilities. [5]

Opportunities for self-determination decrease drastically when individuals with ID/DD are under guardianship, which can lead to negative consequences. Being subject to guardianship may affect a person’s well-being including their physical and mental health. Individuals who are denied the opportunity to be a causal agent in their own lives often feel helpless, hopeless, inadequate, and incompetent and have low self-esteem. A lack or loss of autonomy and self-determination also result in decreased functioning.[6]

Although there is no national data available on the number of young adults with ID/DD who are under guardianship upon exiting high school, the majority (57 percent) of people with ID/DD ages 18 to 22 receiving publicly funded services have guardians, which suggests guardianship is common for this age group.[7] As noted in a 2018 report by the National Council on Disabilities (NCD), Beyond Guardianship: Toward Alternatives That Promote Greater Self-Determination for People with Disabilities, people with disabilities fall under guardianship because they are often inaccurately considered less competent to make their own decisions regardless of their actual abilities. [8] This can lead to guardianship petitions being filed when it is not appropriate and guardianship being imposed when it is not warranted by the facts and circumstances.

The NCD report discusses a number of issues with the guardianship system in the U.S., including what is referred to as the school to guardianship pipeline and how in many cases parents pursue guardianship of students with ID/DD at a fairly young age prior to these young adults having opportunities to practice greater independence. Parents are likely acting based on guidance from school personnel who frequently suggest to parents that they pursue guardianship and present it as the only option for young adults with ID/DD. [9] Many people believe that when a student becomes an adult in that state, typically at age 18, a parent will not be able to participate in Individualized Education Program (IEP) meetings because educational rights have been transferred to the student at age at which they are recognized as an adult. However, they could continue to participate if the transfer of rights does not occur if the student is under guardianship. The transfer also will not occur if the school uses a separately established non-judicial educational representative process to determine that the student cannot provide informed consent to educational decisions and to appoint another person (usually a family member) as the adult student’s educational representative. It is typically at this point when parents and school personnel may question the competency of the young adult and the parent seeks guardianship. As a result, whether intentional or unintentional, school professionals may be suggesting to parents that they seek guardianship as a way of keeping informed of their child’s educational plan.

Often guardianship is not necessary to meet the needs of an individual who may need support managing his or her personal and financial affairs. There are alternatives that provide a range of decisional supports for individuals with ID/DD. These include substitute decision-making authority in specific areas, Powers of Attorney, supported-decision-making, home-making assistance, joint bank accounts, daily call services, bill paying services, and medical or educational release forms to allow the sharing of confidential information with supporters.
There is concern, however, about the extent to which youth with ID/DD, family members, and school personnel are aware of these alternatives.

There has been increased effort to raise awareness about alternatives to guardianship to create more opportunities for individuals with ID/DD to have better decisional supports. From 2014 to 2019, the Administration on Aging (AoA) and AoD jointly funded the National Resource Center for Supported Decision Making (SDM) to increase awareness of the benefits of SDM as an alternative to guardianship. As a result, SDM has become a more widely accepted alternative to guardianship by a number of groups, including parents, school systems, case managers, court systems, and policymakers. [10]

Despite these and other efforts, there remains a need to pay particular attention to youth with ID/DD to break the school-to-guardianship pipeline. In doing so, it is essential that youth with ID/DD, their families, and the school personnel who support them have access to accurate information to make thoughtful and informed choices that lead to alternatives to guardianship and supports individuals with ID/DD leading fully self-determined lives, thereby improving their overall quality of life.

This Funding Opportunity:

AoD seeks to fund one (1) five-year grant to create and maintain an Alternatives to Guardianship Youth Resource Center (the Center) focused on diverting high school students with ID/DD away from guardianship to less restrictive decisional supports. As a result of this project, AoD envisions:

Students with ID/DD will have more decisional options upon completion of high school;
Fewer young adults with ID/DD will be subject to guardianship;
Parents and school personnel at all levels will be more knowledgeable about alternatives to guardianship; and
Youth participating in this project will experience improved post-school outcomes such as post-secondary education experience and/or employment.

Below are the key activities for the project that should be described in the application for funding.

The application should describe two distinct partnerships with key stakeholders and partners: (1) An advisory committee that will guide the overall work of the project; and (2) a national coalition that will work to raise awareness about alternatives to guardianship.

The advisory committee will guide the overall work of the Center. In terms of membership, at least 75% of the advisory committee should be youth and young adults (ages 14-25) with ID/DD, including those from unserved and underserved populations. The committee will advise the Center in all its activities listed in this FOA, including the following:

Overall plan for and evaluation of the Center,
Resource development and dissemination, and
Selection of states participating in the Community of Practice and Youth Ambassadors program participants.

The Center will establish a coalition composed of national organizations representing individuals with ID/DD, families, and various school personnel, such as teachers, school administrators, and other related service staff. The national coalitions will engage in a collaborative process with the Center, the states in the Community of Practice, and the Youth Ambassadors to raise awareness through their organizations about alternatives to guardianship. The application should provide proposed members of the national coalition and Memoranda of Understanding with the proposed partners outlining how the organization will assist with the dissemination and outreach.

Background Research:

The application should describe how the following background research activities will be conducted:

An environmental scan regarding guardianship and its alternatives consisting of at least a review and analysis of:

a) Current state laws/policies;
b) A sample of current State and local educational agencies policies/practices;
c) Alternatives to guardianship practices; and
d) Promising practices or success stories about youth transition strategies that lead to alternatives to guardianship.

2. An assessment from multiple and diverse perspectives, including youth with ID/DD, families, and school
personnel, on current practices and perspectives to identify where change is needed and effective strategies for making change.

Resource Development and Broad-Based Outreach/Dissemination:
The application should describe how the information generated from the background research will be used to develop a wide variety of culturally competent resources (e.g., materials, tools, instructional strategies, best practices) to divert youth with ID/DD away from guardianship. These resources should be 508-complaint and tailored to several audiences, such as youth with ID/DD, parents, teachers, vocational rehabilitation (VR) counselors, and school district officials. The resources will be used for a variety of purposes, including assisting youth with ID/DD learn how to make their own decisions and increasing parent and school personnel knowledge of alternatives to guardianship. The application should describe a dissemination and outreach plan that includes:

A variety of culturally competent strategies that will be used to disseminate the resources to multiple audiences, in multiple languages, and in a variety of formats including plain language, American Sign Language videos, and YouTube videos.
How evidence-based strategies will be used to tailor information to certain audiences, such as teachers and school administrators.
A plan for developing and delivering high quality trainings using technology and other means to train youth with ID/DD, parents and other family members, teachers, principals, VR counselors, and school district officials regarding alternatives to guardianship for youth with ID/DD transitioning from high school.
Outreach strategies using the national coalition, states participating in the Community of Practice, and the Youth Ambassadors.

Community of Practice:

The application should describe how a Community of Practice (CoP) comprised of between 10-15 state teams will be created to increase awareness, build capacity, and improve state strategies that will lead to increased use of alternatives to guardianship. The application should describe how the applicant will:

Recruit and select state teams comprised of youth, parents, teachers, and other school professionals;
Ensure cultural and linguistic diversity on the state teams;
Ensure state team is co-lead by a youth with ID/DD; and
Support and manage the state teams to include a plan for bi-monthly learning exchanges to discuss success stories, best practices, and challenges.

Youth Leadership Development:

A key feature of the Resource Center will be establishing a Youth Ambassadors (YAS) Program comprised of 8-10 youth annually for a total of 40-50 YAS over the life of the grant. YAS will receive training, leadership development, and mentoring to serve as a point of contact in their state and offer technical assistance to youth with ID/DD in transition and their parents or guardians. The applicant should describe how they will recruit and select YAS who are 14-25 years of age, have an ID/DD, and use SDM in his or her daily life. The application should describe the YAS program that will be offered to train and support youth with ID/DD to serve as an expert and point of contact in their state and offer technical assistance to youth with ID/DD in transition and their parents or guardians, including the:

Training, leadership development, and mentorship opportunities;
Plan for the national coalition to support, engage with, and provide information to the YAS.

Finally, the applicant should describe how they will develop the requirements and expectations for serving as an ambassador, including any financial supports that might be provided for serving as an ambassador.


The application for funding should describe an evaluation plan for how success will be measured. The evaluation plan will include a logic model that shows the relationships between the project’s goals, activities, outputs, and the following outcomes:

Students with ID/DD have more decisional options upon completion of high school;
Fewer young adults with ID/DD are subject to guardianship;
School personnel at all levels are more knowledgeable about alternatives to guardianship; and
Youth participating in this project experience improved post-school outcomes such as post-secondary school experience and/or employment.

The project is expected to employ formative and summative evaluation techniques for continuous progress monitoring to make performance adjustments and to ensure outcomes are being achieved.


An expected outcome of this project will be sustainability of the efforts to increase alternatives to guardianship for youth with the ID/DD and to provide resources that assist with diverting students away from guardianship. During the course of the project, efforts should be made to generate the sufficient resources and strategies for organizational, financial and/or community sustainability to continue and refine the work. This should include sustainability of YAS program.

Award Ceiling
Award Floor
Due Date for Applications

Last modified on 07/24/2020

Back to Top