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A chunky silver bracelet flopped around the Ichthus tattoo on Yvette Maher's wrist as she told me about her work at Focus on the Family.

Initially, the senior communications specialist said, she covered up the tattoo, inked right after a change in the company's dress code. The shift meant that men could go without a tie, women didn't have to wear dresses or skirts and pantyhose, and employees could display tattoos. Eventually, the tattoo came out, as did her story: She and her two daughters had gotten the tattoos to show solidarity before an intervention for her two nephews, who were addicted to black tar heroin.

At the time, founder James Dobson was slowly moving out of his leadership role. Less than two weeks after Focus's board meeting where Dobson was asked to resign, his new radio program, Family Talk, was incorporated in California. This raised questions about whether constituents would remain more loyal to Focus on the Family or its dynamic founder.

Even though Jim Daly had taken the reins as president of Focus in 2005, employees said that the new dress code in 2009 was one of the first internal signs that Focus would have a new atmosphere.

"It may not seem like a big deal to a lot of people, but to a lot of the employees, it was like, 'Wow that's new,'" says Maher, who sported a choppy, gelled haircut and dress pants. "God bless Jim Daly. He has launched us into the 21st century." She pauses to reconsider. "Or the 19th."

Choosing Loyalties

Daly, the youngest of five children born to alcoholic parents, entered the foster care system after his stepfather walked out during his mother's funeral, a story Daly tells in his 2007 book, Finding Home: ...

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In the Magazine

July 2011

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