Tribute to Richard Donner
February 24, 2023 | NWI
With the recent death of Richard Donner, we lost a good friend and respected colleague whose vision and commitment were instrumental in building the family movement within children’s mental health. Richard was unwavering in his vision for making family voice and choice a reality.
In the early 1980s – before Wraparound was defined with “family and youth voice and choice” as its first principle, and before “family driven” was an aspiration for systems of care – Richard was a therapist and social worker with a deep commitment to partnering with families. His approach was based on building trust, and showing deep respect for the expertise and perspective that families brought to the table. At the time, this was a radical idea that ran directly counter to mainstream practices in children’s mental health services and systems.
Working in Kansas, Richard became part of the family movement that emerged in the 1980s and grew steadily for decades, eventually inspiring and collaborating with a parallel movement demanding youth and young adult voice in mental healthcare. Richard’s role in the family movement is exemplified by his steadfast support for the development of the Kansas organization, Keys for Networking, and the formation of the National Federation of Families for Children’s Mental Health. Richard was a key figure in early work developing Wraparound, as well as the kinds of supports that families and young people wanted once their voices were empowered, such as respite, peer support and mentoring. He was a voice for change for children, youth and families, helping to make it possible for more young people to live and thrive in their home communities.
— Janet Walker, Eric Bruns and Jane Adams