–Stephen Furnari, Special Needs Dad & Florida Guardian Attorney
Hi, I’m Steve, and like you, I’m a special needs parent. My 12-year old daughter Katie has a developmental disability caused by a genetic syndrome called Cri du Chat. I am also a lawyer.
While volunteering for my local legal aid society on guardianship cases, I began to see there was a big gap between the families who qualify for free legal services and those who can easily afford an attorney.
Many of these “gap” families simply chose to file for guardianship without the help of a lawyer. Most got overwhelmed by the process or experienced anxiety about doing it wrong, even if they were eventually successful.
Other families simply put off filing for guardianship and, as a result, jeopardized their child’s safety or created life threatening health risks.
When it comes to guardianship, the legal system, at least the traditional model for delivering legal services, is failing special needs families.
There’s a huge disconnect between lawyers’ fees and what the typical family can afford to pay.
And even if a family can easily afford an attorney, the money it takes to hire a lawyer could be better used towards a well-deserved family vacation, or to simply to put food on the table.
The Guardian Project is my attempt to solve this problem. It’s also my passion project.
The reality is, filing for guardianship isn’t so difficult that a non-lawyer couldn’t do it themselves, but it’s difficult enough to make the process overwhelming, and fraught with pitfalls if you don’t have guidance.
It’s my belief that with the right tools and a little bit of coaching, parents can file for guardianship with much less stress, and for a fraction of the cost of hiring a law firm.
I hope you consider using Guardianship Project’s resources to guide you through your guardianship, and you share this website with a friend who could use it too!
J.D. New York Law School
B.S. State University of New York at Geneseo
State of Florida
State of New York
Commonwealth of Massachusetts
United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York
United States District Court for the Southern District of New York
Pro Bono Attorney, Guardian Advocate Panel, Attorney Community Legal Services of Mid Florida, Inc.
Chairperson, ESE Parent Advisory Council, Flagler Schools
Administrator, Flagler ESE Support Group
Presenter, Guardianship: How to Best Protect Your Child When He or She Turns 18
St. Johns County School District
Five P- Society