After their Weymouth son was abused in a group home, Ann and Paul Joyce dedicated years to making sure Dana’s/Nicky’s Law would be passed.
.WEYMOUTH — After more than three years of advocacy and hearings, Paul Joyce said it was "surreal" to watch Gov. Charlie Baker officially sign a law named in honor of Joyce’s son, Dana Schneider.
The abuse registry bill, known as Dana’s/Nicky’s Law, will create a new registry to keep track of providers or caregivers with histories of substantiated abuse against people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, like Dana.
Baker, State Sen. Patrick O’Connor, the families of Dana Schneider and Nicky Chan, state officials and advocates gathered this week for a ceremonial bill signing.
“Through this whole process, we envisioned that moment. I envisioned standing next to the governor, two feet away from him, watching him sign the bill,” said Joyce, of Weymouth. “The emotions are raw. I feel grateful and thankful for the community we’ve built, and for the tenacity of the families.”
Shortly after O’Connor first took office, Joyce's wife, Ann Joyce, reached out to his office about the emotional and physical abuse her son Dana, now 31, endured while living in a Randolph group home in 2016.
Joyce started seeing a change in Dana’s demeanor when they would bring him back to his group home after spending a weekend with the family. Joyce placed a hidden camera in Dana’s room. When she checked the footage, she confirmed that Dana was being abused by two of his caretakers.
The Chan family had also reached out to their state senator, Michael Moore, a Millbury Democrat, with similar concerns about abuse of their son, Nicky.
“These children, most of the time, are nonverbal, and they often live with other nonverbal residents, so no one is able to speak up about what is happening,” Paul Joyce said. “It shattered our world, but we dealt with the pain and grief by taking action.”
Starting Jan. 31, 2021, any person listed on the registry will be prohibited from working for the Department of Developmental Services or any of its licensed and funded providers in the state. The Disabled Persons Protection Commission – the agency responsible for protecting adults with disabilities from abuse – will administer the registry.
The Department of Developmental Services provides support to over 40,000 individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities in a variety of residential settings, including state-operated facilities and group homes, and employment and community-based day programs.
"There are other people who went through similar experiences and they didn't have the the ability to be public about it," Joyce said. "It hard to wrap your head around the impact. It's going to change, help and prevent potential abuse, and the heroes are the kids."
Joyce said he and his wife plan to continue their work fighting for those who can't speak up for themselves.
People who apply to the state Department of Developmental Services or one of its licensed providers must undergo a Criminal Offender Record Information and National Background Check screening before they can be hired. The registry will provide an additional resource for the state to screen candidates.
The registry will only include the names of individuals with substantiated cases of abuse after Jan. 31, 2021.
Jessica Trufant can be reached by email: firstname.lastname@example.org