35th Anniversary Edition
Update: Ryan King Testifies in Washington, D.C.
Ryan King at work.
Since Ryan and his family were featured on the cover of Impact in 2019, his story was also featured in The New York Times as part of its coverage of the Britney Spears guardianship case. In March 2023, he was invited to testify before the Senate Special Committee on Aging as part of a hearing on guardianship. Ryan lives in Washington, D.C.
I was about to say no [to testifying] because I didn’t want to do it. I wasn’t scared, but I was nervous. Then, I thought maybe I’d give it a shot. There were a whole lot of people there. When the questions were over, Sen. Casey said “I heard you!” to me. Congressmen don’t always really hear people.
I still work at Safeway. I am on a board, Lifeline Partnership, at my church, and I’m also part of Project Action, an advocacy group. I am still involved with Quality Trust for Individuals with Disabilities. I sit on their board, too.
Ending my guardianship and doing the advocacy work that I do has changed my life. I’m 40 now, and I’m able to do a lot of things that not everyone is able to do. It has let me meet people, tell my story, and travel.
As I get older, making my own decision is important to me. I have a sister and a cousin who I can turn to for support if my parents are not able to support me, and I also have a power of attorney in place.
I still think about starting my own limousine business someday. I haven’t been in a limo since the Make-A-Wish Foundation gave me my wish, to go in a limo to meet Steve Austin, the wrestler. Limos are really big inside and fancy, with all those shot glasses and everything. I guess I’ve just always liked celebrations.
The Senate Special Committee on Aging – Guardianship Hearing Testimony of Ryan H. King - March 30, 2023
Good morning, everyone. My name is Ryan H. King. I live in Washington, D.C. I have disabilities, and I am independent. I was under guardianship for 13 years, but not anymore. I can do many things on my own. But sometimes I need help. I cook three days a week with support, wash my clothes and dishes, take out the trash, go to the movies, go to WWE wrestling matches, and travel. I work at Safeway. Come October, it will be 23 years as a courtesy clerk. I love what I do. Metro access transportation service takes me to work. In 2003, I graduated from high school and wanted to own a limousine business. To get started on my business I had to go to the government agency for help. My parents were told they had to get guardianship for me if I wanted to get their service. Why? I was already independent with support for the things that I wanted to do. I can make choices. I didn’t like being under guardianship because I had to let the court know everything I did, like going to events, doctor appointments, and church. No one else in my family did that. In 2007, my parents went to court to end guardianship. The court gave me a lawyer. The lawyer said I needed to stay under guardianship. The judge agreed. I did not win my case. I read about Jenny Hatch in the paper. Jenny Hatch was the first person to use Supported Decision Making to end her guardianship. Quality Trust for Individuals with Disability helped with ending her guardianship. I got them to help me tell the court about the things I can do. They used Supportive Decision Making to show what I could do and all the people who help me. My family, my friends, and programs I am in are part of my team. I am in Project Action for advocacy, Lifeline Partnership for spiritual and activities, and Quality Trust for leadership and advocacy support. We went back to court in 2016. The judge said he read about everything I can do. He was ending guardianship. I won. I know I can do some things by myself. I know I need help sometimes. Everybody needs help sometimes. I tell people not to judge me before you get to know me. Thank you.
Our Journey of Supported Decision-Making for Ryan
Excerpted from Impact, 2019. Read the full story at bit.ly/3Mlmysp
By Susie J. King
Ryan’s high school years gave him so much pride in who he was. He attended regular classes with an aid, school dances, sports activities, the prom, and graduation. Ryan received support to work through the Bridges program, which trained him to work in a competitive job in the community. We supported Ryan by helping him work with the program and his counselor, Mr. Smith, and also by helping him learn how to dress for the job, complete the job application, and be interviewed. We also made sure he took responsibility and pride in his achievements. When he would say, “Mr. Smith got me the job,” we’d remind him that he got the job on his own, with help from Mr. Smith. Ryan has been successfully employed for 19 years. Recently, Ryan’s manager gave him additional responsibilities because of his great work.
In 2016, Ryan and his family celebrated his victory when the court terminated his guardianship status in response to his petition.
In 2003, Ryan exited the public school system. We applied for support services with the local government agency. The agency told me we must get guardianship over Ryan for him to receive their services. This upset us because Ryan had always been independent, with our support and help from others. I asked them, “Why would I need guardianship for my son when we have always cared for him and will continue to care for him?” They told us that was their practice. Because we had no choice, we applied to the court and became Ryan’s guardian. We knew this was not needed because our family has always had a network of family and friends to support and encourage Ryan. We knew that Ryan should not have to lose his rights to get the services he needs. Our goal was always to help Ryan be independent.
Our experiences with the court system were frustrating. The court seemed more interested in our filing reports than on Ryan and what he needed to be independent. When we asked the court to end the guardianship in 2007, a lawyer met with us for less than two hours. He did not visit Ryan’s work or any of the programs where he volunteered, and did not observe Ryan making his own decisions with our support. The court did not end Ryan’s guardianship.
Our family followed Jenny Hatch’s story about using Supported Decision-Making and ending her guardianship. Ryan said, “I could do that.” He made it clear that he did not want a guardian and we, as we always had, did not want him to have a guardian. We contacted Quality Trust for Individuals with Disabilities, who represented Jenny. That’s when we “officially” began using Supported Decision-Making, even though we had always supported Ryan to make his own decisions (we just didn’t call it Supported Decision-Making). For two and a half years the legal team of Jonathan Martinis and Morgan Whitlatch worked on preparing an appeal on behalf of Ryan to show the court that Ryan does not need a guardian because he uses Supported Decision-Making. On October 6, 2016, the court terminated Ryan’s guardianship. Later, Ryan signed a Power of Attorney protecting his right to use Supported Decision-Making.