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Mother fighting both removal of her guardianship rights and eviction

The mother of a man with a developmental disability has found herself having to fight both an effort to limit her co-guardianship of her son and a move to evict her from her subsidized apartment.

For Valerie Loveland, whom we have written about before, this two-front battle is the latest chapter in her years-long struggle with a system that seems to be designed to override rather than uphold her and her son’s rights.

Valerie is co-guardian of her 24-year-old son who is non-verbal and needs 24-hour care. He has been a resident for the past six years in three separate group homes on Cape Cod run by the May Institute, a corporate provider funded by the Department of Developmental Services (DDS).

Valerie has asked that her son’s name not be published.

A motion to limit Valerie’s guardianship rights was filed in early March in Barnstable County Probate Court by her son’s other co-guardian – an attorney who is employed by DDS.

Valerie Loveland

This is one of a number of cases we have reported on in which DDS has sought, or is seeking, to limit guardianship rights of family members or remove their guardianships altogether. (See here, here, here, and here.)

Valerie said DDS had first attempted to remove her as her son’s guardian when he turned 18, but then agreed to the co-guardianship arrangement.  The other co-guardian has other wards as well.

Valerie contends that the DDS co-guardian virtually always sides with the May Institute, which she says has failed to provide adequate care for her son. The co-guardian also opposes Valerie’s use of prescribed natural medicines for her son’s care.

Emails show the DDS co-guardian also objected last year when Valerie temporarily removed her son from a previous May Institute residence after he was allegedly sexually assaulted there. More recently, the co-guardian opposed a decision by Valerie to remove her son temporarily from his current residence after she said she was informed he had suffered a head injury there.

Eviction notice based on apparent technicality

The eviction proceedings were launched against Valerie in December by her landlord, Lake Street Limited Partnership, and its managing agent, The Community Builders, Inc., a nonprofit corporation. The eviction notice is based on what appears to be a technical violation of the lease for her Chatham apartment.

Valerie said she has never failed to pay her rent on time. The issue raised by the landlord in the eviction notice is that Valerie is a full-time college student. The notice states that as a full-time student, Valerie is in violation of a provision of her lease stating, among other things, that a household with a full-time student must also include a single parent with children.

Valerie said that after receiving the eviction notice, she emailed the attorney for the landlord, asking whether her son’s weekly visits home satisfied the lease provision. She said she received no response to her query.

A DDS official even wrote to a housing official involved in the management of Valerie’s apartment complex on March 2, confirming that Valerie’s son needs to have a room maintained for him in the apartment. That message from DDS, however, apparently has had no effect on the decision to evict her.

Both issues are coming to a head this month. A Southeast Housing Court mediation session has been scheduled for April 11 in the eviction case; and a hearing on the motion to limit Valerie’s guardianship rights has been scheduled for April 19 in Barnstable County Probate Court.

Son’s care has taken a financial toll

Valerie estimates that it cost her thousands of dollars in lost income while she cared her son at home last year and drove him each day to his day program in Mashpee.

She works in grocery delivery and part-time in aromatherapy, Reiki, and low-carb diet counseling, and is pursuing an online college degree in alternative medicine.

Valerie and her ex-husband were divorced in 2002. She said her ex-husband has been completely uninvolved in her son’s life and hasn’t seen him since her son was about two or three years old. Valerie cared for her son at home until he was 18.  Her ex-husband owes her child support, she said, but has disappeared.

Valerie takes pride in her studies in alternative medicine. She is a sophomore in the online Bachelors in Alternative Medicine program at Everglades University of Boca Raton, FL. She is studying to become a qualified naturopath, and passed her ethics semester with high honors (597/600 points.)

DDS co-guardian seeking to and limit Valerie’s ability to make medical decisions

In a motion filed March 2 in Barnstable County Probate Court, the DDS co-guardian stated that he was seeking to transfer Valerie’s authority as “representative payee” regarding her son’s Social Security funds to either the May Institute or to himself.

The co-guardian’s motion also asked that Valerie’s medical decision making be limited to consenting to medical decisions made by others, and that Valerie be barred from removing her son from the May Institute home in the future.

The motion further stated that “it is believed” that Valerie’s “motivation” in bringing her son home to her “is primarily based on it being the only way for her to retain her present housing.” The motion referenced the eviction proceeding against Valerie.

Valerie said the co-guardian had been threatening for years to seek her removal as co-guardian of her son.

Not seeking financial remuneration

In a statement she sent to the Probate Court this week, Valerie said that she isn’t paid for caring for her son and isn’t seeking payment for that. “I want what everyone parent wants for her child. For him to be successful at his program, happy at his home life, and stable enough to mature,” she wrote.

Son’s behaviors and health are linked to his diet

Valerie said that while her son was at the first May Institute group home in Cotuit, his aggressive behaviors started to escalate, including banging his head against walls and tearing up his mattresses.

Valerie maintains that dietary changes that she insisted upon reduced the head-banging. Those dietary suggestions included giving him whole foods, including fresh vegetables, fruits, and whole-grains and essential oils supplements.

Last May, however, the DDS co-guardian stated to her in an email that her changes to her son’s diet constituted “a major step, especially if the reason is not medically required.”

Natural medicines and supplements are prescribed by doctor

Valerie said her son’s diet has been prescribed by his doctor, who has supported her request that the May Institute not feed him packaged processed foods. “The additives and chemicals are too much for his system,” she said.

Valerie added that alternative medicine has been her son’s primary medicine. She said he had strong allergies  as a baby, including an allergy to infant Tylenol. “It’s no secret that a child with autism already has a compromised immune system. I had to work very hard to build his system up to be tolerant of vaccinations, and antibiotics and over-the-counter meds,’ she said. “ I knew a day would come where I wasn’t going to be in his life.”

Removed son temporarily from home in February

Valerie said that this past fall, she was informed by her son’s doctor that her son had been banging his head frequently in his group home. She said she had not been made aware of that by the group home staff.

The situation has continued, she said. In late February of this year, she took him home after a repeat of the incidents last fall. She said she again received a message that her son had been banging his head and had not received medical attention for it. “No one was returning my calls, so I went and got him,” she said.

That was when the DDS co-guardian filed the motion in court limiting her guardianship and preventing her from removing her son from the group home. In response, she said, she returned her son to the May Institute residence.

In an affidavit attached to his motion to limit Valerie’s guardianship, the DDS co-guardian maintained that Valerie had indicated in emails that she intended to bring her son home permanently. The co-guardian alleged that she was doing this to avoid eviction from her apartment.

Valerie maintained, however, that her intention in bringing her son home was to protect him. “My son communicates with behaviors,” she said. “When he’s frustrated he bangs his head. When he’s sick he bangs his head. I’m very concerned that with six residents in his group home and with only three and sometimes two staff on hand, that it’s a safety issue.”

Co-guardian opposed removal from group home despite abuse allegation

In March 2021, Valerie said she was informed that her son had been abused sexually by a staff member. She has still not been provided with details of the abuse or information as to whether there have been criminal charges filed in the matter.

In the wake of that incident, Valerie said she took her son home with her and sought placement of her son in another facility. But the DDS co-guardian objected to an alternative placement to the May Institute residence.

In a May 25, 2021, email, the DDS co-guardian stated, “I trust the May Institute and its staff to be working for the best for (Valerie’s son). I am not in favor of looking for another residential placement… I am unaware of any other residential program that would accept (her son) or be in his best interests.”

As late as June 2, 2021, the co-guardian said he continued to “fully object to his (Valerie’s son’s) removal from May until a response from DDS is obtained.”

Valerie said the co-guardian finally relented regarding removing her son from the first group home, and later in June of last year approved his move to the new residence.

Disregarded and disrespected by co-guardian and staff

After Valerie’s son was placed in his latest May Institute residence in Cotiuit last year, it appeared things were getting better. The staff appeared to be making an effort to follow her requests to improve her son’s diet, and were carrying out his occupational therapy plan.

But Valerie said her son’s continuing head-banging incidents earlier this spring and the co-guardian’s motion to limit her guardianship rights have convinced her nothing has really changed.

Valerie maintains she has been continually “disregarded and disrespected” by the DDS co-guardian and by the group home staff. “My son needs someone in addition to me who is willing to educate themselves in occupational therapy and willing to listen about alternative medicine, and, if necessary, advocate for my son,” she wrote in her recent statement to the probate judge.

We hope that DDS will reassess this case and the track record and actions of its co-guardian. Valerie’s rights as her son’s guardian should not be limited. We also intend to advocate for Valerie in her fight to stay in her apartment.

As a parent whose interest is maintaining the wellbeing of her child, Valerie should not also have to fight a system that is apparently trying to make her homeless.

  1. Valerie A Loveland
    April 1, 2022 at 11:18 am

    Thank you Dave! I appreciate all the help and time you’ve given to my son’s situation.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. (Carmen)Carmine Tocco
    April 1, 2022 at 2:04 pm

    The Governor or Mayor needs to do something,like I said before these Agencies have way to much power what are we living in North Korea in every case they need to have an advocate to stand up for the Client and her son or daughter and someone who’s not in the cronyism group.
    We are going through the same thing with our son and let me warm you they will li and make up faults stories l ideas
    up stories Good lick

    Liked by 1 person

  3. itanzman
    April 1, 2022 at 3:25 pm

    There seems to be a growing trend among providers to pressure parents/guardians to turn representative payee authority over to them. In this case, there was a motion in court, but there are other ways they exert extreme pressure. The fiscal department of my son’s provider harassed me regarding this issue. After a few battles with them, they accepted “no” for an answer, but I’m sure I haven’t heard the last of it. The burning question is – why? Why is it so important for them to have control over our loved one’s money?

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Anonymous
    April 1, 2022 at 3:47 pm

    So they want to replace a parent who is and can be accountable with someone who has a conflict of interest and is not going to be accountable, which doesn’t make sense, because it’s wrong.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Anonymous
    April 2, 2022 at 11:59 am

    It appears it may not be in an individuals best interest to have DDS as a co-guardian for a family member.

    Liked by 1 person

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