This paper constitutes the scan of the data landscape portion of a four-part environmental scan of the issues of abuse by guardians and systemic guardianship abuse, requested in 2021 by the National Institute of Justice (NIJ).
The results a four-part environmental scan of the issues of abuse by guardians and systemic guardianship abuse, requested in 2021 by the National Institute of Justice (NIJ), reveal the need for more work and reform related to abuse and fraud by individual guardians and the guardianship system. The scan consisted of a literature review of research; a scan of the data landscape; a scan of legal, policy, and practice context; and considerations for data collection. This paper constitutes the scan of the data landscape portion of the study and examines state collection of data on adult guardianship. The findings show that a growing number of states can readily identify the total number of adult guardianship cases the court system is responsible for monitoring; however, comparability across states and the ability to eventually produce national estimates are hindered by numerous inconsistencies. The paper also focuses on state court administrative approaches to identifying, analyzing, and acting on abuse and fraud by guardians. Finally, the paper highlights state champions for data collection as well as challenges in acquiring the information courts need. The investigation implemented a mixed-methods approach, seeking qualitative information through key informant interviews and quantitative information through a survey, both directed at the offices of state court administrators. As shown in the interviews and the survey, one important key to bolstering guardianship data is the advocacy of champions, who push to have better data collection systems and adequate funding to support such systems. These champions were frequently the chief justice, the directors of state court administrative offices and their staff, and national organizations such as NCSC.