Strengthen guardian regulations

Children without family members to safeguard their interests, along with some elderly and disabled people, sometimes need court-appointed guardians. Most people given such duties attempt to do them well and conscientiously.

But in many areas of Ohio, protections to ensure that happens are lacking.

A study of rules for court-appointed guardians earlier this year found a mish-mash of requirements that can vary from county to county, judge to judge.

One striking conclusion of the study was that in three-fourths of the 88 counties, there are no requirements that guardians actually meet with those whose safety and interests they are supposed to be protecting. In many counties, there are no requirements that those considered as guardians pass criminal background checks.

And in some cases, unscrupulous guardians have done little for those under their care, while siphoning money out of their bank accounts.

After results of the study were published, state Supreme Court Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor said the court system can handle reforms.

She pointed to improvements made by judges in some counties.

But short of a mandate by the high court itself or legislative action, there can be no guarantee of uniform, effective rules for guardians.

Some state legislators already have called for action by the General Assembly to address the problem.

A start would be to hold hearings on it to determine the scope of concerns and what can be done about them.

If new laws seem desirable – and, again, they do unless the state Supreme Court takes its own action – legislators should approve them.

By definition, Ohioans young and old who need guardians have no one but the courts to turn to.

State officials should ensure that when they do so, they do not find their trust misplaced.