In 2012, before The Chronicle even launched its real website, one of our first Youth Services Insider columns lamented the shuttering of The National Coalition for Child Protection Reform (NCCPR). The organization, led and pretty much completely run by Executive Director Richard Wexler, was a tiny but effective champion for greater attention to family preservation in child welfare.
After a three-year hiatus, NCCPR is back. The organization has re-launched as a volunteer organization (at least for now), without any funding and with one employee: Wexler, who returns as a pro bono executive director.
Any special reason for the timing of Wexler and NCCPR’s return? “My 62nd birthday,” Wexler told Youth Services Insider.
He served for a few years as media relations manager for the Alliance for Justice, but recently reached retirement age, and told us he is content to work for free while he and the board seek support. The NCCPR home page and its blog both include links for individuals interested in making a contribution.
NCCPR re-enters the child welfare fray at an interesting time in the national landscape. On the one hand, there seems to be far more consensus in Congress and among advocates that the federal government should be leading states to greater investments in family preservation. Many national child welfare advocacy groups support the finance reform bill introduced by Sen. Ron Wyden, which would make limited family preservation services allowable under an entitlement currently reserved only for foster care spending.
On the other hand, the number of youth in foster care has risen for two consecutive years. The number of children entering foster care when Wexler and NCCPR began in earnest (1999) was 550,000. The total was 398,000 when the organization closed its doors.
“It would be ludicrous to say that NCCPR was solely responsible for that,” Wexler told YSI at the time. But “it would be equally ludicrous to say that NCCPR did not play a role in it far disproportionate to our size.”
The total in 2014 was just over 415,000.
Expect NCCPR’s early priorities to include opposition to what Wexler called a “jihad” against differential response (DR), an approach that offers voluntary services to certain families in lieu of the standard maltreatment substantiation track.
Wexler said he believes that skeptics of the approach – including Chronicle Publisher Daniel Heimpel – are cherry-picking research and using poorly run replications to paint a valid strategy in a bad light.
“It is so similar to the attack on IFPS [Intensive Family Preservation Services],” Wexler said. “We need to be a look at which [DR systems] are working best, find out why, and replicate it.”