National Center for Youth Law Family –
It is with deep sadness that I write to let you know our friend and colleague Bill Grimm passed on April 2nd. Just as he had during his 30 years at NCYL, Bill continued to work tirelessly until the end on behalf of the children and youth to whom he committed his life. His fierce advocacy and passion for his work was an inspiration to many, including myself.
Bill’s loss will be felt across the nation. His many victories improved the lives of thousands of children in Utah, Washington, Arkansas, Nevada, California, and beyond, creating critical protections for children, and ensuring children received the opportunities and supports to which they were entitled.
He was a leader in the true meaning of the word: mentoring, assisting, and inspiring, always displaying humility and the pure heart of the legal aid attorney he was and remained throughout his career.
In addition to being one of the nation’s most talented and accomplished impact litigators, Bill was also a very effective policy advocate. He could understand the perspectives of a wide range of advocates and agency representatives and create policy that incorporated viewpoints while always prioritizing the safety and well-being of children.
Bill was an eloquent and passionate speaker. When he spoke, the room would quiet.
Among his many accomplishments, Bill helped uncover the extent to which children in foster care are being unnecessarily and illegally prescribed high-power psychotropic medications not approved for use on children. He then went on to develop and advance policies that ensure youth in care are only prescribed psychotropic medications when it’s in their best interest, with proper consent, and with adequate medical oversight. His landmark achievements continue have changed the lives of hundreds of thousands of our country’s most marginalized children.
Bill also drafted and successfully advocated for the passage of landmark legislation that mandates public access to the child welfare files of children who die while in state care. This legislation has allowed us to improve our nation’s child welfare system, learning from mistakes, such that fewer children die while in our collective care.
Bill was the recipient of many awards including: the John Minor Wisdom Public Service and Professionalism Award, presented by the American Bar Association (1994); the Kutak-Dodds Prize, presented by the National Legal Aid and Defender Association (2005); the Voices for Children Award, presented by Children’s Alliance, Washington State (2006); and most recently, the prestigious Mark Hardin Award, presented by the American Bar Association (2019).
He was a tremendous lawyer and advocate, but he was much more than that. He was a beloved friend to many and a devoted father, grandfather and husband. He was a gardener that tended lovingly to his flowers. He was kind and supportive of his colleagues and had a great sense of humor.
Even while undergoing 4 surgeries and enduring a very invasive treatment regimen this past year, Bill was committed to the children he served, his colleagues, and his family. Not a day passed that he didn’t work on behalf of each.
Bill’s passing has shaken NCYL’s foundation; he is a hero in this organization. I count myself incredibly fortunate to have had the privilege of working beside Bill for a decade, witnessing firsthand the brilliance and devotion he deployed in service of vulnerable children. He inspired and mentored a generation of child advocates. He will always be with us as we work tirelessly to advance justice on behalf of the children to whom he committed his life.
In sorrow and in service,
Jesse Hahnel, Executive Director
**If you would like to send your condolences to Bill’s family, email his wife Sherianne at firstname.lastname@example.org**