Illustration by Tim Foley
The late attorney general Beau Biden’s eponymous foundation carries on his mission to prevent child abuse in Delaware.
In his eight years as Delaware’s attorney general, the late Joseph R. “Beau” Biden III made it his top priority to protect the state’s children from the many forms of possible abuse they face. As one example, during his tenure, Delaware prosecutors secured more than 200 convictions through the Child Predator Task Force, which Biden created shortly after taking office in 2007. Three months after his death from a brain tumor in May 2015, the Delaware legislature passed and the governor signed the Child Protection Act and named it after Biden.
Today, Biden’s work lives on through the Beau Biden Foundation for the Protection of Children, initially funded through remnant political campaign accounts. Biden’s widow, Hallie Biden, sits on the organization’s board.
“Our main work is to provide education about child abuse,” says the foundation’s executive director, Patricia Daily Lewis, “and we have worked to help educate more than 10,000 individuals.” Lewis, a practicing attorney and former Delaware deputy attorney general, says the foundation’s overarching mechanism is a program called the Shield of Protection, whose mandate is “to help ensure schools and youth-serving organizations have the best policies, procedures and programming in place to help protect children from all forms of child abuse and neglect.”
Among the many lessons and guidelines for youth organizations that the Foundation provides, there are three that Lewis emphasizes for parents and youth organizations: With rare exceptions, do not allow unobserved one-on-one contact between an adult and a child; be sure to require thorough background checks of adults working with children; and be aware that adult predators are adept at patiently grooming a child for later sexual abuse.
Adults working one-on-one unobserved with children, Lewis says, “should first have a complete background check—the same as [for] police officers and schoolteachers.”
The foundation also provides advice to individuals and organizations who seek their help, especially in times of crisis.
“There is a local youth sports organization that had gone through [athletic] training, and two weeks after they finished, an adult in the organization started sending the young girls nude photos of himself,” Lewis says. “They were all about 10 to 13 years old. This was an adult that they had trusted, so they became frightened and told the group’s executive director, who called us. We walked them through the process of how to deal with the perpetrator and how to talk to the girls.”
Parents should also take precautions about what their children are doing on the computer, Lewis asserts. “This is [where] many children innocently get targeted by adults who will seek to groom them.”
The group’s activities are underwritten primarily through grants from such organizations as Discover Bank, the Longwood Foundation and BlackRock, but the foundation also hosts two major golf events (in Wilmington and Millsboro) and road races each year to raise funds and facilitate community outreach. In 2017, after leaving the White House, President Barack Obama spoke at a tournament reception about Beau Biden and the importance of the foundation’s work.
As a touchstone for her and the organization’s work, Lewis often recites a remark Beau Biden made while he was attorney general: “As adults, we have a legal and moral obligation to stand up and speak out for the children who are being abused—they cannot speak for themselves.”
“When there is an example of abuse occurring in an organization, our job is to be sure that it never happens again,” Lewis says.