Financial Abuse Program Focus: San Mateo County’s Elder and Dependent Adult Protection Team
By Nicole Fernandez, Training and Outreach Specialist, San Mateo County Aging and Adult Services
August 01, 2019
Like most communities in Silicon Valley, San Mateo County (California) is a wonderful place to live and work. We have diverse recreational opportunities, lots of natural beauty, a thriving economy and a healthy housing market all in less than 750 square miles. Just south of San Francisco and north of San Jose, it is an ideal place to raise a family, which many are choosing to do – or grow older here. By 2030, the number of older people in San Mateo County is expected to increase by 70% – and Adult Protective Services (APS) has received an increasing number of abuse reports as the community ages. In a location where the median home value is $1.4 million, the most frequent type of elder abuse perpetrated against older people in our community is financial and often involves high-dollar real estate.
Leaders in San Mateo County’s Aging and Adult Services, the District Attorney’s (DA) Office, and County Counsel’s Office developed the Elder and Dependent Adult Protection Team (EDAPT) as a team of law enforcement, social workers, and attorneys to respond quickly and effectively to the growing issue of elder financial abuse in our county. Working together, the team has shortened the response time to complex cases of financial elder abuse, created a robust prosecution unit dedicated to these cases, conducted direct outreach for residents and community agencies, and provided investigative training and case consultation for local law enforcement. EDAPT has succeeded in holding more perpetrators of elder abuse criminally liable, working jointly with our probate court to identify and pursue abuse cases, and providing restitution and services for victims.
EDAPT provides for five full-time financial abuse investigators (two APS social workers, two Deputy Public Guardians, and a DA Inspector). Two prosecutors and two civil attorneys advise the team and pursue the abuse cases in criminal and probate court. Financial abuse investigations are complex, multi-jurisdictional, and document intensive. Our investigators have the training and ability to decipher, digest, and explain financial records. Three years into the EDAPT program, these investigators take on approximately 80 percent of our County’s financial abuse cases. Additionally, the multidisciplinary makeup of EDAPT allows the team to benefit from the expertise and legal tools of its diverse members. APS social workers and the DA’s office victim advocates ensure the safety of elders and connect them with social services and court support. The DA Inspector conducts a criminal investigation and can write search warrants for evidence and arrest offenders. The public guardians and social workers use their authority to gather medical and financial records and pursue conservatorships for elders who lack decision-making capacity. Since its inception in 2016, the DA’s Elder Abuse Unit has consulted on over 500 cases.
In April 2019, the EDAPT program was honored to be named recipient of the Financial Restoration Award from the United States Department of Justice’s Office for Victims of Crime because of the innovative and collaborative program developed to serve victims of financial abuse like Ms. K, whose story is featured in this video;
Successes like the story of Ms. K., both big and small, keep members of EDAPT motivated and inspired to help all older people who have experienced financial abuse in San Mateo County.