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Columbus School of Law Hosts 8th Annual Protective Services Conference

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Social workers, psychologists, and lawyers who work with vulnerable older people attended the Columbus School of Law’s 8th annual Protective Services Conference at the law school on June 12, 2015. CUA Law hosts this conference with the DC Office on Aging Adult Abuse Prevention Committee.

Professor Faith Mullen welcomed the group on behalf of the Columbus School of Law and The Catholic University of America. She told the group that if they were to go outside and look closely at the building they would see the words “justice, love, and mercy” carved along the upper edge of the building. “These are not just ideals; these are things we are exhorted to do — to implement in our daily lives. This law school hosts this conference because we believe that the work you do every day makes this a more just, loving, and merciful world. It is our hope that this year’s conference will help you do your work with greater ease.”

The conference was entitled, “Another Look at Guardianship to Protect At-Risk Adults.” The focus of this year’s topic centered on understanding guardianships, with an emphasis on how different diciplines (law, social work, and psychology) define “incapacity.”

The conference, now it its eight year, provides a wonderful opportunity for professonals who work with older people to learn from each other. This year's presenters included lawyers from Legal Counsel for the Elderly and the DC Office of Disability Administration, as well as three lawyers from different divisions of the Office of the Attorney General for the District of Columbia.

To illustrate how an individual with diminished capacity would be evaluated by an attorney, Mullen presented a simulation of a will interview. In the simulation, “Mrs. Adler’s” newphew is eager for his aunt to prepare a will that leaves him her property. Brian Connor, a third-year law student, played the role of the nephew, who did not appreciate being excluded from the will interview. The presentation sparked a lively discussion about differences in how lawyers and social workers approach clients with diminished capacity.

Each year there are approximately 500 intervention proceedings filed in the District of Columbia. Lawyers and social workers play an essential role in protecting individuals who would otherwise be more likely than not to come to harm with out a court appointed guardian.

"By sponsoring this annual conference, the law school makes an important contribution to wellbeing of older residents of the District of Columbia. It is a rare opportunity for social workers and lawyers to spend that day together exploring issues of great importance to seniors," says Catholic University law school Assistant Clinical Professor Faith Mullen, who supervises students in CUA Law’s General Practice Clinic.