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Richard Wexler Retires

March 29, 2012 permalink

Richard Wexler is leaving his work and NCCPR to pursue a career in another field. The blog post below is his last as an advocate for child protection reform.



Thanks for the 4,683 gifts

By all logic, NCCPR never should have been funded at all.

There’s the fact that we had to convince people that, just because we wanted to bring fundamental concepts of civil liberties to child welfare, we’re not a bunch of right-wingers who want to let parents do whatever they want to their kids.

Then there was the problem of convincing potential funders of the importance of changing the way media cover child welfare; or if they understood it was important, convincing them it could be done.

And finally there was the matter of persuading foundations, which tend to be genteel by nature, to fund NCCPR’s blunt-spoken approach to advocacy.

Given all that, it’s no wonder that it took eight years from our founding in 1991 to raise enough funding to hire a full-time executive director.

When I started, in June of 1999, it was with enough money to last eight months. I’ve been on this job for nearly 13 years. But logic, finally, is catching up.

Earlier this year, it became clear that NCCPR would not be able to continue in its present form much longer. So effective at the end of the day tomorrow, (March 30), NCCPR will suspend operations. This Blog and NCCPR’s main website, will remain online but, for the foreseeable future, they will not be updated. Starting Monday I will have a new job with an organization that does superb advocacy work in another field.

I leave NCCPR knowing that we have left child welfare a lot better than we found it. In 1999, on any given day there were 565,000 children trapped in foster care. Years of smears against efforts to keep families together and created a climate so hostile that some in the field seriously considered abandoning even the term “family preservation.” Today there are about 408,000 children in foster care – and family preservation is back. The progress has been amazing – and also not nearly enough.

It would be ludicrous to say that NCCPR was solely responsible for that. It would be equally ludicrous to say that NCCPR did not play a role in it far disproportionate to our size. Indeed, to some extent our funding problems are a result of our success.

I want to thank the two foundations that were our principal funders, the Open Society Foundations and the Annie E. Casey Foundation. Each funded us for more than a decade – that’s an eternity in “foundation years.” And during the entire time neither foundation pressured us in any way concerning what to say or, more to the point, what not to say.

Over the past 13 years, I’ve had the privilege of meeting many true heroes. I won’t name them because I’m afraid I’ll leave someone out, and because in a few cases, being praised here won’t help their efforts. They include people who provide direct services and do advocacy, people who work on changing the system from within and without at the same time. They include people who have transformed entire child welfare systems, some by running those systems, some by pressuring those systems.

But I have to take this opportunity to thank NCCPR’s “founding mother” Betty Vorenberg, who first wrote to me in 1990 asking if I wanted to try to start an organization based on the principles in the book I’d just written, Wounded Innocents. And NCCPR’s “founding father” Prof. Martin Guggenheim, who has been NCCPR’s President for most of the past 13 years, and whose guidance and wisdom have been vital to keeping it going. His work at NCCPR is only a tiny fraction of what he has accomplished in the field of child welfare law and policy.

To those who say: “You could have stayed alive if you’d been nicer to those standing up for the status quo” I say: “No kidding.” But from the very beginning we had no intention of doing traditional “goody two shoes child advocacy.” The family preservation movement nearly “niced” itself to death in the 1990s, and we weren’t going to make that mistake again. As a result, I believe NCCPR achieved far more in just under 13 years than traditional groups do in 30.

As I said, when I started we had eight months of funding. There was almost never a time when we were funded for more than a year at a time. That’s why I resolved at the outset to try to treat every day I got to do this work as a gift.

On the internet, there is some website somewhere where you can calculate just about anything. Thank you all for the 4,683 gifts.

Source: Richard Wexler blog