I had been anxiously awaiting your article on the National Coalition for Child Protection Reform [November], as I have so much admiration for the organization and for [CEO] Richard Wexler. I went from disgruntled foster parent to advocate for reform after the shocking death of a 5-year-old girl in my state, Maine. Over a seven-year period, I wrote op-eds, organized protests, met with lawmakers and gave talks at libraries around the state. Eventually I was asked to serve on reform committees.
All this time, NCCPR was my secret weapon. I consulted Wexler every step of the way because I am not an expert. He educated me so I could see the bigger picture. He made sure I wasn’t “over the top” or making factual errors that could cost my credibility. He encouraged me when I was feeling disheartened.
Once I got on the committees, top-heavy with people who have a financial stake in keeping reform from happening, he warned me how they work, and he was so right. They all claimed to agree with me on “almost everything.” But it turned out their only disagreement was always the important point. Like when to implement reforms: I thought now was the time, and they all thought some time in the distant future was good.
And as for Richard being a media hound, isn’t that in the job description? The issues are too emotional to accomplish change without first changing public opinion.
Things have changed dramatically here in Maine. There are hundreds fewer kids in care and the percentage that goes straight to kinship is much higher than it was seven years ago. There are a lot of people to thank for that. Richard is one of them.