Adult Public Guardianship

The Adult Public Guardianship program exists to safeguard the welfare of persons with disabilities. Public guardianship is a legal procedure in which the court determines if a person’s ability to make health and safety decisions for themselves is significantly impaired by disease, accident or disability. If so, the court will appoint a guardian to act as a substitute decision-maker. Public guardianship in Maryland is administered by local Departments of Social Services for those aged 18-64, and the Department of Aging for those aged 65+. Public guardianship is a situation of last resort, when there are no family members, friends and loved ones to serve in this capacity.

There are two types of adult guardianship:

  • A guardian of the person is authorized by the court to make decisions for the disabled person about their health care, shelter, or other daily needs.
  • A guardian of the property is a person or agency appointed by the court to manage the property of a disabled person. A public agency may not be the guardian of the property.


Adult Public Guardianship Review Boards (available in each county) are interdisciplinary teams that act as consultants to the public guardians.


Adult Public Guardianship Review Boards review public guardianship cases every six months. They make recommendations to the court to either continue, modify, or terminate guardianship of the person.

There is no mechanism for state agency oversight of private guardianship cases.


  • A professional representative of the local department of social services;
  • A physician’s assistant, nurse practitioner, or physician who is not a psychiatrist;
  • A psychiatrist (or psychologist in St. Mary’s County);
  • A representative from the local commission on aging;
  • A professional representative of a local non-profit social service organization;
  • An attorney;
  • Two citizen representatives from the local community;
  • A Registered Nurse;
  • A professional in the field of disabilities; and
  • A person with a physical disability

To VOLUNTEER or for further information, contact your local department of social services.

Please click here to view and download the Adult Public Guardianship brochure!

For further assistance, contact your local Department of Social Services.