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News Blog

Free film, new program focuses on vulnerable adults

by Stephen Dark
Posted // 2013-02-11 -

A little-discussed aspect of Utah's pro-family policies, namely, the struggle to monitor adoptions and guardianships, will be front-and-center Wednesday night at the Salt Lake City Library.

A documentary called Last Will & Embezzlement is being screened Feb. 13 at 6:30 p.m. in the Nancy Tessman Auditorium. It looks at the financial exploitation of vulnerable adults, and includes interviews with victims and discussions of possible solutions to the problem. 

The film is being put on by the Court Visitor Volunteer Program. It's a pilot guardianship-monitoring program set up in 2011 through a State Justice Institute grant. The program, which runs in the 3rd, 4th and 7th judicial districts for now, aims to help protect vulnerable adults from being exploited and abused.

The volunteer "visitor" undergoes training, then can opt for a number of different roles within the program, providing eight-to-10 hours a month for at least a year. The roles include an interviewer, talking to people close to the person who is under a guardian's protection; an auditor, who goes over a guardian's reports, looking for "indications of abuse, neglect, financial exploitation and other problems," according to the Utah courts website; a tracker, who looks for guardians the court has lost contact with; and a teacher, who trains visitors, guardians and the public.

Currently, the program has 25 volunteers, says coordinator Karolina Abuzyarova. While volunteers "haven't seen yet any case of abuse," she says, some co-mingling of funds between guardians and those they are caring for has been identified. Since the program is in its early stages, exactly how the court will follow up on concerns identified by volunteers hasn't yet been decided.

After the film, there will be a discussion with representatives from the Utah State Courts, the Salt Lake City Police Department and Adult Protective Services.

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