Nancy Latimer, The McKnight Foundation
Thank you. I’m honored by this wonderful award. But the honor, of course, goes to all those who supported these efforts in child abuse prevention:
- my colleagues at the Foundation who were so supportive and helpful
- the Foundation's Board, especially Ginny Binger, founding mother of the Foundation, and Noa Staryk, who took an active role in it's development
- the County and State staff who helped create and then carefully implimented the program
- our evaluators from Wilder Research Center and the excellent national advisory committee who helped design the evaluation
- and especially the families who participated and helped us document the process and outcomes
Before I begin to sound like an Academy Award presenter, let me go on to a question I've often been asked: why McKnight chose this issue and this approach. The big question, “why so many kids are being abused” was asked by Ginny Binger. She saw the newspaper articles describing kids who had died from abuse and asked “Isn’t there something we can do?” To answer Ginny’s question, I spent nine months researching the issue, talking to experts, visiting community and government agencies working in the field, held focus groups, and going back to the Board with ideas.
We decided our role was secondary prevention, helping families who were at risk had been reported several times, but not yet taken into the child protection system in two metro-area counties. We developed a family-friendly approach, providing help, not punishment. Critically important was the documentation and evaluation. The documentation helped us refine the program along the way. The evaluation was a true experimental design with a control group. We also did a cost-benefit analysis. The results were positive, with less abuse and neglect, and also cost-savings to the counties. The evaluation helped us convince policymakers that the approach was successful. It also encouraged the state to ask for our help in taking the program first to a 20 county demonstration, and later statewide.
In my current work in early childhood, and other areas the Foundation is undertaking, we’ve had to create new connections—with business, the faith community, rural communities, law enforcement officers, etc. We’ve also had to use more intensive communications and convening to help move policymakers.
Throughout this process, and others you all work on, it’s important to use both head and heart. From nurturing relationships, to research and evaluation—and of course, injecting money where it can be used most beneficially to change policy—all are important. But without Ginny Binger's Big Heart, probably none of the child protection work would have happened.
Our society seems to be losing that kind of heart—the kind that cares for the common good, rather than frontier individualism. My final message to all of you is: BE PERSISTENT IN REAFFIRMING VALUES FOR THE COMMON GOOD.