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Independent Living News & Policy from the National Council on Independent Living

Adult Protective Services: Allies not Adversaries

By Jan Derry, Co-Chair of Violence and Abuse Subcommittee

At NCIL’s Annual Meeting on July 29, 2015, the NCIL membership voted to adopt the resolution that was submitted by the Violence and Abuse Subcommittee. This resolution recognized that violence and abuse against individuals with disabilities occurs at a much higher rate than for individuals without disabilities. It also recognized that Adult Protective Services, APS, is often the first responder to reports of abuse, neglect and exploitation and that the current structure of APS creates inconsistencies on types of abuse responded to, the population it protects, who is required to report, and the types of response varies from state to state. These inconsistencies can put the victim in further danger and it can result in the victim being re-victimized by the service system charged with protecting them.

The resolution calls for a national model of APS that will eliminate confusion, fear and mistrust; that will embrace a trauma informed response to abuse to serve victims with respect and compassion.

In October of 2014, the Administration on Community Living created the Office of Elder Justice and Adult Protective Services, becoming the first Federal “home” for APS. Consistent with the resolution adopted by the membership, NCIL began its collaboration with ACL to address concerns regarding the historical experiences of people with disabilities as they interact with APS.

On August 5th, Kelly Buckland, NCIL’s Executive Director and Jan Derry, Co-Chair of NCIL’s Violence and Abuse Subcommittee, joined a round table discussion held at ACL to learn of ACL’s current investments in APS in to building a National APS Resource Center, to learn about the proposed Voluntary Consensus Guidelines for state APS systems, the 10 state grants to enhance APS, and to join with other disability leaders to share what we know about the strengths and weaknesses of the current systems.

From July 13-October 30, 2015, ACL is launching a stakeholder engagement and outreach strategy to refine and finalize the draft “Voluntary Consensus Guidelines for State APS Systems”. The goals of the Guidelines are to provide a core set of principles and common expectations to encourage consistency in the policies and practices across the county; to help ensure that adults are afforded similar protections and services delivery, regardless of which state they are in; and to enhance effective, efficient and culturally competent delivery both of services to the victim and responses to perpetrators. These will be voluntary guidelines and not standards nor regulations.

Now ACL needs to hear from you!

ACL is hosting a number of virtual listening sessions via conference calls. ACL will host both open sessions and targeted professional stakeholder sessions. See the attached information for how to join the listening sessions. Each session is limited to 75 callers, thus registration is required. You may also view and provide comments on the draft guidelines electronically.

Example comments:

  • The caseload of APS workers should be reasonable so they can move at a reasonable pace.
  • We must ensure that all APS staff members are trained in cultural competency in working with people with disabilities, including communication, general awareness training, disability-specific, providing reasonable accommodations, assistive technology, barriers to reporting and unintended consequences, trauma-based interviewing, consumer directed service delivery systems, etc.
  • APS should use people with disabilities who are active in the disability community as the experts in the field.
  • The position of APS should be elevated within the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to the same level and pay as Child Protective Services (CPS).
  • Please standardize definitions of who should receive the protections and services provided by APS regardless of state or jurisdiction they are in.
  • APS should be able to provide consistent timelines for investigations.
  • Please define the scope of authority of guardianship.
  • Data should be maintained regarding the prevalence of investigations and outcomes specific to people with disabilities.

Lets’ make sure our voices are heard! If we don’t comment, then we can’t complain about what the final guidelines end up being. NOTHING ABOUT US WITHOUT US!


  1. Susan Molloy says:

    © 1997, Environmental Health Network of California, PO Box
    1155, Larkspur, CA 94977.
    Can APS learn to grasp the safety requirements for those of us with incapacitating environmental sensitivities?

    By Susan Molloy
    What measures can a chemically sensitive
    person take for protection against chemical exposure?
    To our knowledge, the Courts haven’t yet
    addressed this question in these terms, but how
    can the issue be avoided much longer?
    Chemical assaults on us are commonplace,
    no matter how cautious we are, forcing us to
    endure hours or days of painful reactions to
    chemical products used in our presence by those
    who don’t care about us or even hurt us deliberately.
    In a Bay Area Women Against Rape publication,
    Tiny Lyons states “Self-defense is defined as
    a reasonable personal defense, using only that
    amount of force necessary under the specific
    circumstances. Once someone begins an aggression
    against you, you have the right to defend
    yourself and to stay on top of the situation if it
    escalates. Bodily contact is not necessary before
    you can act in self-defense.
    The law excuses the use of force, even
    deadly force, when a person can show that she
    believed she was in danger of losing her life or of
    suffering serious bodily injury, and that only
    fighting the attacker would provide safety. This
    belief must be shown to have been sensible under
    the circumstances.
    California Penal Code Section 692 says
    lawful resistance to the commission of a public
    offense may be made by the party about to be
    injured. However, you haven’t the right to revenge;
    if someone hurts you and then turns away you
    can’t do anything in the name of self-defense.
    These are common assault situations: your
    ex-spouse comes to pick up the kids for the
    weekend with a lit cigarette; you’ve been waiting in
    a long checkout line when suddenly the person
    behind you starts trying on perfume; you’re at the
    hospital and the custodian shows up with a mop
    and bucket full of disinfectant; your neighbor
    warms up his car for several minutes under your
    window; you open your door to find your landlord
    spraying pesticide up and down your hallway.
    In such situations you’re injured and aggravated,
    as much as if you’d been beaten or abused
    in some more commonly acknowledged manner.
    If you protest, explaining that you’re easily
    injured by chemical exposures, you may be
    laughed at or told to get out as though the person
    using chemicals has rights and you don’t. After
    such encounters we cringe and leave, if we’re out
    in public, or pull up the covers and sob if we’re at

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