Save Aunt Lillie - Bring Her Home
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88-Year-Old African-American Woman Abducted by Guardian in Florida and Continues to Be Isolated From Family In An Institution For Over A Year
Urge the Guardian Sara Caldwell, Esq. to Allow the Family to See Aunt Lillie and Bring Her Home
Release Aunt Lillie from what has been called the "Grey Prison"
Imagine you go to the doctor with your mother/ sister/ aunt (anyone you love) and you are called in the other room to fill out papers. When you return, your loved one is gone. She was "taken" and the person who took her refuses to even tell you her location. How would you feel? What would you do? At the same time, that person is billing against the estate along with a team of other attorneys... AND a Judge is signing off on it all. That's what is happening to Aunt Lillie in Florida right now. Does that sound like that's in her "best interest"?
We need your help to urge the court-appointed Guardian Sara Caldwell, Esq. to allow Aunt Lillie's core family -- her 81-year-old sister (my mom), her niece and caregiver for five years (my sister), and the rest of her 50+ nieces and nephews (including me) -- to see her. We also need your help to urge Sara Caldwell to bring Aunt Lillie home as soon as possible -- since she never should have been taken in the first place. There is no justification for her abduction and extended isolation from her core family support system. It goes against her expressed wishes and it is inhumane. Sara Caldwell has ejected my mom and sister from Aunt Lillie's house where they continued to stay to help defend her and get her home. Now, it appears Sara Caldwell is pushing to sell the house.
The bottom-line is: It was never Aunt Lillie's intention to leave her home and not see her family again. Now, she is probably in a state of "learned helplessness" like a human trafficking victim. It has been ONE YEAR with absolutely no contact with us. She spent every day of the last five years with her niece as her constant companion and her sister there to help defend her -- and other family coming in and out to visit. How jarring was it psychologically to have them suddenly removed from her life? What did the Guardian say to her about us? Does Aunt Lillie think we abandoned her? How heartbreaking do you think this is for my mother -- Aunt Lillie's only living sibling and best friend? Among all of the sisters, Aunt Lillie was the matron of honor at Mom's wedding. Aunt Lillie deserves to come home as soon as possible - alive and back to the house she loves AND back with the family she loves. We miss her.
Watch the overview video and "meet" Aunt Lillie at www.elderdignity.org. More videos can be seen here. Does that woman seem incapacitated? For more background, read my Huffington Post article, "Is Elder Guardianship a New Form of Human Trafficking?" More articles can be found here.
On August 30, 2016, Aunt Lillie left her home in Palm Coast, Florida with her niece (my sister) to go to the doctor and then vote in the local election. She did not leave with a suitcase or the intention of never returning again. She loved the house she designed and built with her late husband as their retirement "dream home." Yet, that day, she was prevented from casting her vote and has not stepped foot in her home since.
For all intents and purposes, Aunt Lillie was abducted. The court-appointed Emergency Temporary Guardian Sara Caldwell, Esq. and the court-appointed Attorney Ad Litem Tance Roberts, Esq. (both appointed unnecessarily) "seized" Aunt Lillie from the doctor's office while her niece was in the other room filling out paperwork. It was done with no notice, no hearing, no danger and no emergency. No Florida agency to date has stepped in to help since there is a Judge signing off on every action of her court-appointed agents. On September 23, 2016, while Aunt Lillie was sequestered somewhere in an institution, her last two rights were apparently stripped away from her in a closed hearing. She no longer has the right to vote or the right to choose with whom to socialize. She was rendered a "non-person" at the hands of her estranged granddaughter, the Guardian and team of attorneys. How is that in her "best interest"?
Reasons to Bring Aunt Lillie Home
Here are the basic reasons why Sara Caldwell should allow Aunt Lillie's family to see her and for Aunt Lillie to come home. There are many more reasons, but these should be enough:
- Aunt Lillie's expressed wishes were to be in her home with her sister and niece. That was reiterated multiple times in her own court testimony to Judge Theotis Bronson and Judge Belvin Perry in Orange County and multiple court documents, videos and audio recordings for the past six years. The act of taking her is inconsistent with her preferences, yet that basic fact has been ignored in the Flagler County proceedings under Judge Margaret Hudson. How is that in her "best interest"?
- There was no emergency or danger for Aunt Lillie to be in her home with her family. On July 1, 2016, after Sara Caldwell filed a false "missing person" and "abandoned house" claim, the female Deputy Sheriff in Flagler County stated in her Case Report: "I observed the home to be clean and orderly. I observed [Lillie] to be in apparent good health. She spoke with me at length about her career and life. At the time of my visit, [she] was not incapacitated... I did not suspect abuse or neglect." Yet Sara Caldwell has apparently stated that the family "agitates" Aunt Lillie. Is that statement made in good faith? The July 2016 videos clearly show a good relationship between Aunt Lillie, her sister and nieces. In the videos, Aunt Lillie says herself that she is agitated by the estranged granddaughter and the other people who are exploiting her. She specifically says she does not trust "those two women" who made the false missing person claim -- Sara Caldwell and the Attorney Ad Litem Tance Roberts. After another unannounced visit by Sara Caldwell and Tance Roberts to read a court document which was already read to Aunt Lillie previously, the August 11, 2016 Incident Report from the Sheriff's office stated: "Contact was made at the home where Lillie was in bed trying to rest. Lillie became upset at the presence of LEO [the police] and Tance. Tance read the document and left the home. The home was clean, tidy, and all necessities appeared to be taken care of... Sara did not enter the home, only Tance did so. Lillie had calmed down prior to LEO leaving the home." Was it necessary to get Aunt Lillie out of bed and upset her? She was fine with the family. She only became agitated by the presence of these strangers trying to control her life and her estate.
- On August 29, 2016, there was an Injunction Motion filed in the Court against removing Aunt Lillie from her home yet Sara Caldwell "seized" her before the Judge could rule on it. The Motion (which I had input in drafting) asked for a “qualified, disinterested geriatric care manager” to do an assessment. That afternoon, Sara Caldwell hurriedly sent a woman who introduced herself initially as a physical therapist. The woman talked about herself and had Aunt Lillie walk across the room. That was her "assessment." Then, the next day, Sara Caldwell "seized" Aunt Lillie before there could be a proper hearing. She apparently used that woman's "assessment" as justification. Is that in good faith?
- Aunt Lillie retained the right to choose with whom to socialize. Aunt Lillie has been caught in this Elder Guardianship web since 2012. To help defend her, she asked her sister (my mom) to get involved. In addition, her niece (my sister) was asked to be Aunt Lillie's caregiver during this guardianship process by Judge Theotis Bronson in Orange County. In June 2013, Mom was duly appointed Aunt Lillie's Limited Guardian by Judge Belvin Perry in Orange County. That support system was successfully in place per Aunt Lillie's specific request. We actually don't think Aunt Lillie should have been in the guardianship system at all. However, the two rights she retained at that time were to vote and to choose with whom to socialize. When the case was moved to Flagler County, my mom was suspended as Limited Guardian with no due process and no evidence of any wrongdoing. It was a shock. Sara Caldwell was appointed Emergency Temporary Guardian on July 1, 2016 and on that day stated as part of the false missing person claim that she was "going to make living arrangements" for Aunt Lillie. She had not met her yet or been inside her home. It appears she had a "one-size-fits-all" guardianship plan. When Sara Caldwell took Aunt Lillie on August 30, 2016, Aunt Lillie still retained the right to choose to be with her family. As F.S. 744.361(1) states: "The guardian of an incapacitated person is a fiduciary and may exercise only those rights that have been removed from the ward and delegated to the guardian." Sara Caldwell overstepped her authority.
- Aunt Lillie is the matriarch of a large, loving family waiting to see her. She missed the family reunion and we missed her 88th birthday last year because she was sequestered. My mom petitioned to the Court and it was ignored. This year, we want to celebrate Aunt Lillie's 89th birthday on September 6th and have her present at our next family reunion. Yet, she has been isolated from her only sibling and 50+ nieces and nephews for over a year with absolutely no contact. How is that in her "best interest"?
Why then, Sara Caldwell, did you take Aunt Lillie and block visitation for over one year? Isn't it time for Aunt Lillie to see her family and for her to come home? Studies show that isolation from family for a senior can lead to cognitive decline, depression and premature death. Is that the intent? We found out recently that Sara Caldwell is allowing the estranged granddaughter to visit -- although Aunt Lillie repeatedly refused her visitation in the Orange County Court for years. The granddaughter -- who no one in the family knows -- is the person behind the crusade to strip away all of Aunt Lillie's rights to get her out as Trustee of her own Revocable Living Trust. Is any of this truly about Aunt Lillie's "best interest"?
Florida Statutes & Standards of Practice
Recognizing the abuse of some guardians of their authority and wards' rights to have their wishes and desires properly considered and the least restrictive alternative imposed on incapacitated persons, the Florida legislature made major changes to the Florida Guardianship Code in the last couple of years. In addition to violations of civil and constitutional rights, Aunt Lillie's abduction and extended isolation seem to violate multiple Florida Statutes:
- F.S. 744.361(13)(a) - "Consider the expressed desires of the ward as known by the guardian when making decisions that affect the ward."
- F.S. 744.361(13)(j) – "When not inconsistent with the person’s goals, needs, and preferences, acquire an understanding of the available residential options and give priority to home and other community-based services and settings."
- F.S. 744.3215(1)(m) "1. A person who has been determined to be incapacitated retains the right: (m) To receive visitors and communicate with others."
- F.S. 744.361(13)(b) – "Allow the ward to maintain contact with family and friends unless the guardian believes that contact may cause harm to the ward."
- F.S. 744.361(4) – "The guardian may not act in a manner that is contrary to the ward’s best interests under the circumstances."
- F.S. 744.361(1) – "The guardian of an incapacitated person is a fiduciary and may exercise only those rights that have been removed from the ward and delegated to the guardian."
- F.S. 744.361(3) – "The guardian shall act in good faith."
- F.S. 744.361(13)(c) – "Not restrict the physical liberty of the ward more than reasonably necessary to protect the ward or another person from serious physical injury, illness, or disease."
- F.S. 744.3215(1)(f) - "1. A person who has been determined to be incapacitated retains the right: (f) To remain as independent as possible, including having his or her preference as to place and standard of living honored, either as he or she expressed or demonstrated his or her preference prior to the determination of his or her incapacity or as he or she currently expresses his or her preference, insofar as such request is reasonable."
- F.S. 744.3215(1)(d) - "1. A person who has been determined to be incapacitated retains the right: (d) To be treated humanely, with dignity and respect, and to be protected against abuse, neglect, and exploitation."
- F.S. 744.359 – "A guardian may not abuse, neglect, or exploit a ward."
- F.S. 744.20041(1)(a) - "Making misleading, deceptive, or fraudulent representation in or related to the practice of guardianship."
- F.S. 744.20041(1)(b) - "Any departure from, or failure to conform to, the Standards of Practice of Professional Guardians as established by the Office of Public and Professional Guardians."
- F.S. 825.103 (1) - "'Exploitation of an elderly person or disabled adult' means: (a) Knowingly obtaining or using, or endeavoring to obtain or use, an elderly person’s or disabled adult’s funds, assets, or property with the intent to temporarily or permanently deprive the elderly person or disabled adult of the use, benefit, or possession of the funds, assets, or property, or to benefit someone other than the elderly person or disabled adult."
On June 23, 2017, Governor Rick Scott signed into law the Office of Public and Professional Guardians (OPPG) Standards of Practice on Guardianship. Any departure from, or failure to conform to, the OPPG Standards is a violation -- and there seem to be multiple violations of the Standards.
Let's urge Sara Caldwell to do the right thing and free Aunt Lillie ASAP. Let's urge her to come out from under the "color of law" protection and have compassion.
It's important to note that everything in this Petition is true and provable. Nothing violates confidentiality. The public has a right to know about this new "growth industry" of professional guardianship and profiteering through the Probate Court. This Petition is not meant to prosecute Sara Caldwell. If she has indeed violated Florida Statutes and other laws, then we expect the Florida agencies and law enforcement to properly investigate. As a family, our first priority is to see Aunt Lillie and have her rightly brought home after one year of isolation from us.
The stress of Aunt Lillie's abduction and isolation from us is almost unbearable. My mother was in the ER twice, my sister once and I was hospitalized for two weeks at the beginning of this year. The anger from fighting this injustice caused my body to become inflamed in an autoimmune response. Every day when we wake up, we worry about whether Aunt Lillie is even alive. On July 25, 2017, I called the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office for a welfare check. Once again, Sara Caldwell would not allow them to tell us where Aunt Lillie is but the Deputy was apparently allowed to see her. Deputy Patterson said, she is “alive and well.” I asked, “How do you know she is well?” He responded: “There is nursing staff.” That was unnerving. Aunt Lillie did not need nursing care prior to being abducted. Is she being medicated or "chemically restrained"? The Deputy also said that she was not in Flagler County. When I asked what county she was in, he answered: “Volusia County.” Apparently they moved Aunt Lillie. Why? It just so happens that is the county were Sara Caldwell is and where Judge Hudson's husband was a Captain in the Sheriff's Office. That did not provide us with much comfort.
Today, I heard sobbing in the other room. It was my mother crying uncontrollably in realizing that the one-year anniversary of Aunt Lillie's abduction is upon us. As a daughter, who is often the "fixer," it made me feel helpless. It is not my nature to sit in that space. I know we must move to action.
Please sign this petition and help #FreeAuntLillie.
Please share this link with as many people as possible.
Please help us get Aunt Lillie home before she "suddenly" dies in the institution where she is being held like too many other seniors in this situation.
Our elders have the right to be protected and respected. Let's create a society where we can all age with dignity.
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