LINCOLN — A group advocating for disabled Nebraskans plans to look into other “guardianship mills” following last week’s arrest of a Gering woman who had been named guardian for hundreds of people.
Judith Widener, 70, has been charged in Scotts Bluff County Court with stealing money from her wards.
Court records show that her company, Safe Haven Inc., had been assigned to act as the guardian for 688 people in more than 60 counties. The total includes inactive and closed cases, as well as ongoing ones.
Tim Shaw, CEO of Disability Rights Nebraska, said Widener’s firm is not the only organization that has sprung up recently to handle the affairs of elderly, blind and disabled people in Nebraska.
He said the firms need greater scrutiny, given the size and scope of problems uncovered with Safe Haven.
“I think there are questions to be asked about how these other guardianship mills are acting,” Shaw said. “Who’s watching them?”
Disability Rights, which provides legal representation and does other advocacy work, is pushing for Nebraska to create a public guardianship program that could end the reliance on private companies.
“Our current guardianship system needs reform,” Shaw said. “This case is yet another example of that need.”
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New scrutiny for guardians of vulnerable Nebraskans