Last week I spend two days traveling the halls of the Senate Office Buildings. The senate will consider legislation regulating therapuetic boarding schools and other sorts of residential care for troubled teens. The visits were arranged by the National Association of Therapeutic Schools and Programs (NATSAP). I brought with me two alumni and the mother of one of them.
I wish I could regale you with tales of expensive dinners, taking senators out on yachts, or any of the other excesses we think of when we hear the term “lobbying.” In fact, we sat down with legislative aides and explained our industry to them. They generously gave us between thirty and forty-five minutes to tell our stories and explain what we liked and what we didn’t in the proposed legislation. For the most part they listened carefully and asked intelligent questions. Whatever our opinion of Congress may be, Congressional aides are, for the most part, as polite and intelligent group of people as you’d ever want to meet. As the mother of my alumnus said, “It feels like our government.”
Regardless of our effect on the legislation, I had a successful trip. The angry, troubled teen girl I had known was now a poised, confident young woman. The drug abusing teen who was two years behind in school when I first met him was now a focused college student. The young woman said in several offices, ” the school is where I grew up.” No greater argument for our effectiveness could have been made than the one made by the presence of these three people. The young people are well on their way to becoming purposeful adults. Both mother and son testified to the improvement in their relationship.
As it turns out I had worked closely with both these people when they were at the school. I am not sure I am entitled to any credit for this success, but I take enormous satisfaction in it.