Siblings becoming guardians of disabled adults through Envision Unlimited

December 21, 2013

Zemul Shackelford is one of them.

Ten years ago, Shackelford, 43, became the legal guardian to his 41-year-old non-verbal, autistic brother, Toussaunt.

"When Envision asked us to become the guardian, you know, my wife and I we talked about it. We really weren't sure what that all entailed. We did a little research on it, you know, and found out we were doing this anyway," Zemul said.

Toussaunt lives in a community group home that is part of Envision Unlimited. It is a not-for-profit organization that provides services to people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families.

Getting Zemul to become Toussaunt's legal guardian was ideal, says division Director Donna Ennis.

"Z is an outstanding advocate for his brother, and he's also an outstanding advocate for all of the participants at Envision. He's very involved in our programs. He is very much his brother's keeper," said Donna.

Ennis says more than 50 percent of families that have members with intellectual and developmental disabilities have unclear future plans.

"We'll get calls that there's an emergency placement because a caregiver a family member a parent has either died of become unable to care for their adult child," said Donna.

"Once adults in Illinois turn 22, there is no entitlement. There's a waiting list for services. Families have to reach out of state. Often times, they're on a waiting list and they're waiting for programs that could support them residentially," Donna said.

For siblings like Zemul, he is relieved knowing his brother is in good hands.

"I don't worry about things nearly as much as I used to," said Zemul. "I don't know if anybody else would care the way I do."

For more information on Envision Unlimited's services and guardianship program, call 312-346-6230 or go to

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