Fixing the System
In leading an independent review of breakdowns in the wake of the Earl Bradley case, Linda Ammons drew upon her vast life experiences.
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The clock glowed 3:10 a.m. when the alarm woke Linda Ammons. She was sleep deprived, but she could focus during the quiet hours between 3 a.m. and 6 a.m. So every morning for four months, she would crawl out of bed before the sun rose, before she had to tend to her usual daily responsibilities.
As dean of Widener University School of Law, Ammons couldn’t afford to shut the world out for long, but she had to carve out some time to focus on her newest task: a review of systemic breakdowns in the Earl Bradley case—the worst case of alleged pediatrician abuse in modern American history.
Exhausted, Ammons yawned as she turned on her computer. She didn’t drink coffee, but at moments like this she had considered starting. She rolled her neck from side to side, trying to shake off the sleep, when she noticed her handbag on the bureau. She walked over, unzipped the inside pocket, then pulled out a tattered business card.
As she ran her fingers over the raised print, she thought about the man who had given it to her. She had met him only once, the day Governor Jack Markell announced that Ammons would conduct an independent review of the Bradley case. After Ammons had answered questions from the press, the man approached. He shared with her details of a trauma that no person—especially an innocent child—should ever have to experience. He gathered the courage to speak to her because he hoped she could make changes that would protect children.
Ammons promised to keep his card close. She told him that when she got tired or discouraged, it would give her incentive to keep moving on. “You can’t do something like this and not be changed,” Ammons says. “When I was at my weariest, I would think about that man.”
Ammons did make those changes. In May she completed her report on the investigation. It made 68 recommendations for preventing systemic failures when reporting child abuse and exploitation. Some have already become law.
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