I read, with some dismay, the latest effort to return Good Will-Hinckley to its original purpose — the care of children who are indigent (“After embarrassing time, return Good Will to its true mission,” Jan. 27). Mr. Drinkwater and his associates claim that “the Establishment” and “elitists” are acting illegally with the aid of the Legislature.

They are correct in their assertion that Good Will-Hinckley was established for a different purpose. At the time of its establishment, we did not assume public responsibility for children whose parents were not available or able to care for them. Good Will-Hinckley was a much better alternative to a “poor farm” or the streets, the common alternatives for people who were economically destitute.

Unfortunately, Drinkwater has missed (or ignored?) several decades of history and social change. We have made sweeping changes in social policy reflecting a public commitment to support children and families who live in poverty. While far from perfect, no child needs to be sent to an orphanage for economic reasons. It was in recognition of this change, and recognition of the needs of a new group of children with behavioral problems, that Good Will-Hinckley embarked on a new direction.

As to funds being raised for a different purpose, the endowment to which Drinkwater likely refers was raised largely through the fund-raising efforts of its executive director. These efforts were extremely successful and occurred after the change in mission. Donors knew to what they were donating.

Very successful fundraising was augmented by changes in public policy that made state and federal funds available for the operation of facilities like Good Will-Hinckley. Child welfare and children’s mental health programs poured new money into Good Will-Hinckley.

Unfortunately, public support did not last forever. Changes in our clinical knowledge about the care and treatment of children with behavioral challenges resulted in dramatically reduced referrals to Good Will-Hinckley and other programs like it. The administration at Good Will-Hinckley did not accept this change and used its endowment to continue.

One can argue that this decision was very inappropriate. It had, however, nothing to do with the founder’s intent. The current board of directors inherited this history and have been acting in a manner consistent with current needs. This new mission in support of young people with educational challenges is very consistent with the best thinking on alternatives for the support of this group of young people.

I hope the board will continue and wish them well.

Dean Crocker is the former executive director of the Maine Children’s Alliance.


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