Nicky’s Law: Next Level

It’s time for a

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When I worked as a person-centered planning facilitator, I always pushed for action items to be constantly “in progress” instead of “complete” – because there’s always a next level, a next step, to keeping things moving forward. The same goes for the abuse registry known across Massachusetts as Nicky’s Law, also known as Dana’s Law. We cannot stop with our own victory, described below both in words and voice. Next level – a federal abuse registry. Around 27 states already have their own version of Nicky’s Law; it’s time we rise up and make our entire country safer!

The following video presentation was recorded on May 15, 2020. It was the first time ever that I shared the most intimate details of what happened to Nicky that led me to begin this journey from tragedy to triumph.  Slides from this presentation can be downloaded here.

Many of us in the community are driven by the fierce love we have for someone living with disabilities. My son Nicky is my driving force. Nicky’s Law was born out of that ferocity of protective love I have as his Mom and the journey we have had together. That journey began with Nicky’s diagnosis of severe autism at 16 months old.  The journey is a story of discovery, courage, progress, faith, pain, heartbreak, joy and pride.  One of the darkest of those moments that define heartbreak and pain was learning that Nicky had been abused one more than one occasion, back in 2014.

I turned that moment into a mission.  During the course of learning about the abuse, I asked the State investigators what mechanism was in place that would prevent the abusers from being hired as caregivers somewhere else, if they were not convicted in a court of law (something that actually happens to a very small percentage of cases at all).  The answer was “nothing.”  Our mission defined itself: to create a registry of substantiated abusers, and require all human service providers who support people with intellectual disabilities in Massachusetts to check the registry before hiring (and, not hire them).

The reality of this is that it requires the creation of a law, so that the necessary funding, operational development and oversight, maintenance, allowances for due process and all appropriate protections are in place – much like animal and sex abuser registries.

Nicky’s Law refers to a bill that creates such a registry in Massachusetts; sponsored by Senator Mike Moore and co-sponsored by Representative Linda Dean-Campbell and Senator Patrick O’Connor representing the extraordinary family and supporters of another young man, Dana, who survived abuse in his group home. Developed and vetted by numerous stakeholders, led by the ARC of Massachusetts, supported by human service providers, disability support and special-interest organizations, the bill received unanimous support in the Senate during the formal session in the summer of 2018.  Sadly, it fell short of a vote in the House that same year.

We refiled Nicky’s Law in 2019 and in January of 2020, NICKY’S LAW WAS PASSED UNANIMOUSLY.  This is due in large part to the massive support received from the Massachusetts voters, who have participated in multiple letter and phone campaigns, hearings, media blitzes, and a Statehouse vigil. It was an incredible triumph and an incredible day for all of us!

So my name, my son’s name and the loving community I call my own are synonymous with Nicky’s Law and all it stands for.  I cannot separate what I do as a person-centered practitioner from my work as a social justice champion.

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