Editorials

Richart: true advocate for kids

David Richart, Louisville, Ky., Ex. Director, National Institute on Children, Youth and Familes, testified before the Interim Joint Committee on Health & Welfare Committee about quick trigger adoptions on Wed., June 21, 2006 at the State Capital in Frankfort, Ky.
David Richart, Louisville, Ky., Ex. Director, National Institute on Children, Youth and Familes, testified before the Interim Joint Committee on Health & Welfare Committee about quick trigger adoptions on Wed., June 21, 2006 at the State Capital in Frankfort, Ky. LEXINGTON HERALD-LEADER

There are lots of platitudes, even a Whitney Houston hit, about how children are the future.

Despite the obvious truth of that sentiment, people who devote themselves to bettering the lives of other people's children rarely get the recognition, and certainly not the financial rewards, they deserve.

This includes teachers and social workers. David Richart was both.

Richart, 63, who died at his Louisville home this week of pancreatic cancer, began his career in 1971 as a state social worker and juvenile counselor in Kentucky.

He became a leading voice for Kentucky's children as the founding director of Kentucky Youth Advocates in 1977. The organization has done more than any other to elevate concerns about children in the legislature.

Richart was immersed in policy debates and research on the state and national levels, but he never lost sight of individual children and families. Perhaps that is why he could speak with so much authority and urgency. He stayed involved in individual cases his whole career. He frequently pinpointed breakdowns in "the system" — whether it was child protection, juvenile justice or the public schools — and advocated, often quite aggressively, for solutions.

Richart's investigations and advocacy were instrumental in bringing about reforms in Kentucky's treatment of juveniles charged with crimes, and he helped draft the juvenile code enacted by the legislature in 1987.

Richart, who was on the faculty of Spalding University where he taught social services and public policy, also was an advocate for social workers and their profession.

After leaving Kentucky Youth Advocates, he founded the National Institute on Children Youth and Families in Louisville.

Rep. Tom Burch, longtime chairman of the House Health and Welfare Committee, told the Courier-Journal, "I'd say Kentucky was blessed by having David Richart in our midst."

Indeed, we were.

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