New leadership promises change for Philadelphia's guardianship system


PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Pennsylvania's guardianship system has made headlines in recent years due to abuse after abuse of the elderly and infirm. Now the court in charge of that system in Philadelphia has a new leader.

Judge Sheila Woods-Skipper was appointed administrative judge for Philadelphia's Orphans Court last month. 70% of their workload deals with guardianships, where a third party is appointed by the court to make financial and medical decisions for a person because they lack mental capacity due to age or disability.

But the system has been rife with abuses, with stories of felons becoming guardians and stealing estates right under the noses of judges. Pennsylvania has worked to implement changes, like the Guardianship Tracking System, which allows judges to identify red flags in cases statewide.

"In that unit is a guardian investigator who looks at the reports that need to be filed but he guardian to see if there are any red flags that need to be brought to the attention of the court," explained Woods-Skipper.

Woods-Skipper set policy for the Philadelphia's Court of Common Please, and her focus has been on accessibility, for instance, using videoconferencing during the pandemic.

"I've had people come in my courtroom on gurneys, in wheelchairs because they have the right to be present, they want to be present," she said.

The Girls High graduate said she dealt with many of these issues with her own mother. She added that she plans to focus not only on accessibility to the court, but also to information.

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