March 15, 2024

Chamber endorses work of Walk a Mile in Their Shoes Foundation

Sebago Lakes Region Chamber of Commerce President/CEO Robin Mullins says that the organization remains committed to fulfill its mission "To foster economic growth and prosperity in the Sebago Lakes Region."

Bill Diamond, center, the founder of the Walk a Mile in Their
Shoes Foundation, center is joined by Sebago Lakes Region
Chamber of Commerce Board Chair Jonathan Priest and
Chamber President/CEO Robin Mullins in announcing
the chamber's endorsement of the foundation.
Mullins says that one way to ensure prosperity is to ensure our communities' youngest citizens are well cared for and protected.

“That is why we are so deeply concerned about the high number of children in state care who suffer abuse and die at record levels,” Mullins said. “We strongly support the work being done by Walk a Mile in their Shoes and its founder, Bill Diamond of Windham. We want to express our strongest insistence that the Maine Legislature make the necessary changes to better protect the children who too often are placed in unsafe environments by the state.”

She said that the Sebago Lakes Region Chamber of Commerce encourages the legislators who represent the Sebago Lakes region to stand strong against the continued failures of the child protection system, and it urges other Maine chambers to insist that their legislative delegations also fight to better protect children in state care.

Diamond announced the creation of the Walk a Mile in Their Shoes Foundation in January 2023 and the group is duly filed with the Maine Secretary of State and supported and guided by an advisory board consisting of experts in the field of child protection and child welfare.

According to Diamond, the foundation will help prevention of child homicides and the abuse of children who are under the supervision or direct care of the State of Maine or who are or have been associated with the state’s Child Protective System.

“Children associated with state care have been dying at record levels, in fact, as recently as 2021 a record number of children died, many were victims of child homicides,” Diamond said. “The chilling question is: How many more children must die before we make meaningful changes?”

Diamond said he was first made aware of the issues affecting child homicide in Maine and the state’s child protection system in 2001.

"The problems are not partisan based. They are the concern of all of us,” Diamond said. “This is the most important thing I’ve ever been able to do, nothing comes close.”

To learn more about the issue, Diamond said he’s attended many child-homicide trials and sentencings over the past years and each time he does, he’s made aware of the gruesome and sad details of an abused child dying needlessly.

“Each time the fact is reinforced that we have the capabilities to fix our broken child protection system, all we need is the will to do it,” he said. “Hence the reason for creating this foundation.”

In December, the Walk a Mile in Their Shoes Foundation released a report that found that caseworkers, foster parents, children, and other stakeholders in Maine are left without adequate backing by the Department of Health and Human Services and it examined areas of concern, who is impacted, straightforward solutions, and what success looks like. The report was the culmination of listening sessions and meetings with concerned citizens across Maine interested in providing better and safer outcomes for children in Maine’s care.

Diamond said it’s now up to DHHS to make the necessary changes in their own internal policies and procedures which have been failing children for years and the report offers specific solutions to the problems that we all recognize as serious threats to children in state care.”

“Walk a Mile in Their Shoes (WAM) is extremely proud to have the endorsement and support of the Sebago Lakes Region Chamber of Commerce,” Diamond said. “They are the first Chamber of Commerce in Maine to publicly speak out about the urgent need to prevent the abuse and deaths of children. The businesses and citizens of the Sebago Lakes region can be very proud of their leadership.” <

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