Nebraska's First Public Guardian Announces Retirement in June

Nebraska's First Public Guardian Announces Retirement in June

Nebraska's first Public Guardian, Michelle Chaffee, has announced her retirement, effective June 3, 2024. Chaffee, who serves as the Director of the Office of Public Guardian (OPG) leaves behind a legacy of dedicated service to Nebraska's Judicial Branch.

Established under Nebraska's Public Guardian Act, the Office of Public Guardian assumes the role of guardian or conservator for individuals facing circumstances where no alternative is available. Guardians and conservators are legally necessary for individuals who cannot make decisions for themselves due to mental illness, developmental disabilities, or cognitive impairment.

Beyond its primary function, the office is committed to offering education, training, and support for volunteers and family guardians and conservators. Additionally, the office actively recruits individuals to serve as guardians and conservators for Nebraskans in need.

In her retirement announcement, Chaffee expressed gratitude for the appointment, stating, "I am so very appreciative of your 2014 appointment of me to Public Guardian.  It has been a wonderful opportunity and an immense challenge to be the first Public Guardian for Nebraska, responsible for the implementation of the Public Guardian Act.”  She added, “I am exceedingly proud of the work by the management team to get the Office of Public Guardian up and running, and the outstanding service provided to vulnerable adults through the OPG.”

Chaffee's impact is evident in the creation and oversight of an interdisciplinary team, comprising support staff and outreach workers, including 19 Associate Public Guardians. These Associates are the front-line last resort guardians and conservators for individuals throughout the state whose needs cannot be addressed by less restrictive alternatives to guardianship.

Each Associate Public Guardian manages the well-being of 20 individuals, offering comprehensive case management that includes monthly in-person visits, communication with service providers, financial case management, medical consents, and response to emergency needs. A multidisciplinary team, organized by Chaffee, provides crucial support in resource development, financial case management, and clerical assistance.

In her retirement notice, Chaffee extended her appreciation to Judicial Branch Administration and the Nebraska Supreme Court writing, "Thank you again for giving me this opportunity to serve.  It is a very rare professional experience to be chosen to initiate a new statewide entity; I am deeply gratified to have been given the chance.”