There are only two times in the past 40 years that Parents have shared their personal stories to ensure the authorization and reauthorization of the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act and both of those Parents were Parents Anonymous® Leaders. When Jolly K. the courageous founding mother began her powerful congressional testimony in 1973, a hush fell over the room as she described her abusive behavior toward her child and how she successfully turned her life around through Parents Anonymous®. She was considered by leading experts as the single most effective witness of those who testified because her personal story humanized the problem of child maltreatment by focusing on effective prevention programs. This courageous testimony ensured the passage of the first federal legislation to focus on prevention—the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act of 1974 (P.L. 93-247). Jolly K’s appearance, which was reported on nationwide television and in the Los Angeles Times, had a major impact on Congress and on public opinion. The impact of her testimony successfully illustrated three previously unrecognized aspects of parents dealing with child abuse and neglect behaviors: (1) she put a “human face” on the issue and made an important contribution to social policy by emphasizing parent leadership and prevention, (2) she confirmed that parents of differing backgrounds have the power to change, and (3) she explained how Parents Anonymous® groups helped her strengthen her family and how hundreds of other families also changed.
In 1996, Parents Anonymous® Inc. in partnership with Parent Leaders nationwide secured important legislative changes in Title II of CAPTA: Community-Based Child Abuse Prevention Programs (CBCAP) requiring the commitment and ongoing involvement of parents in policy decisions, planning, implementation and evaluation of the lead agency and local funded programs in every state receiving these federal funds through CAPTA, P.L. 104-235. Congress highlighted the successful work of Parents Anonymous® in shared leadership® as a model for accomplishing these provisions . In 2008, CAPTA was up for reauthorization and the Senate once again asked for testimony from a Parents Anonymous® Parent Leader. Thirty-five years later, Tanya Long of Columbus, Ohio outlined her shared leadership® work that influenced her personally, her family, her community and families nationwide. She was considered by the Senate Subcommittee as “the most important witness.” She described how she transformed herself and her children through the Parents Anonymous® evidence-based mutual support program, how she continues to give back through shared leadership® by designing and delivered evidence-based programs in neighborhoods all across America to implement Parents Anonymous® and Shared Leadership® in Action; how she assisted in the creation and serves as a National Certified Parent Leader Trainer for the newly created National Certification of Parent Leaders Programs, how she serves on many policy-making bodies in her community and at national levels to ensure policies and practices better meet the needs of families, and she made recommendations to strengthen various provisions of CAPTA. These examples of shared leadership® are notable because of their impact on large numbers of families, communities, and programs; because they represent public policy change and because they have shaped the prevention agenda. These important policy changes have been the driving force for recent developments in CBCAP Lead Agencies reaching out to engage parent leaders in a variety of efforts. Many states report utilizing parents as trainers, peer reviewers and mentors. In California, significant results have been achieved over the past 45 years in partnership with Parents Anonymous® Inc. where diverse Parent Leaders serve on statewide and regional policy-making prevention bodies, engage in fidelity testing and evaluation activities, and manage the California Parent Engagement Center (www.caparentengagement.org.).