On Your Behalf
APA's advocacy has helped to secure passage of legislation that will protect children at residential treatment facilities. On June 26, the U.S. House of Representatives overwhelmingly approved the Stop Child Abuse in Residential Programs for Teens Act of 2008 (H.R. 6358), a bill to mandate standards that would prevent and address child abuse and neglect at residential treatment facilities. Among other provisions, the legislation prohibits program staff from physically or mentally abusing children or denying them water, food, clothing, shelter or medical care. The legislation also states that children may be physically restrained only to protect the safety of the child or others.
With the upcoming reauthorization of the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act, APA is urging Congress to increase the law's emphasis on child neglect, prevention and early-intervention services. In June 26 testimony, APA told the Senate Subcommittee on Children and Families that the nation's child protection system "remains sorely in need of resources, as funds for child abuse prevention and treatment programs have not kept pace with the needs of communities." In fact, APA pointed out, some children already known to child welfare services are repeatedly harmed and return for help. APA's testimony also called for enhancing the law to increase collaboration among agencies involved with abused and neglected children; provide for attorney representation for victims of child abuse and neglect; and provide for culturally competent and linguistically appropriate services for children and families.
Currently, the Americans with Disabilities Act does not cover people with certain health conditions, such as epilepsy, diabetes, psychiatric diagnoses and other mental health conditions that are controlled with medications or other care. These people are routinely dismissed as "not disabled enough" to warrant protection of the statute. That could change as a result of APA's advocacy. On June 25, the U.S. House of Representatives adopted the ADA Amendments Act of 2008 (H.R. 3195), which would enable more people to be protected by the ADA. The bipartisan compromise was passed by a vote of 402 to 7. The bill now moves to the Senate for consideration.
APA staff continue to monitor issues that affect immigrant children and families, including the impact on these populations of immigration and customs enforcement raids. There are numerous reports of children being separated from their parents because of these raids, which can adversely affect families and their children's development. On June 24, APA member Jose Cervantes, PhD, testified before a national commission in Los Angeles investigating the policies and practices of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency. Cervantes, president of the National Latina/o Psychological Association, discussed the emotional and psychological damage to children as a result of such raids, including recurrent and intrusive recollections of the event, feelings of estrangement and impending doom, irritability, outbursts of anger and difficulty concentrating. Cervantes's comments will become part of the commission's public report, which will help shape legislation in the area throughout the next year.
In testimony to the House Committee on Education and Labor on June 11, APA expressed its backing for the Education Begins At Home Act (H.R. 2343), which would support parents with young children with home-visitation programs. "Research indicates important benefits of home-visitation programs," said APA. "Home visitation often leads to the enhancement of parents' sense of self-efficacy which, in turn, strengthens their role as parents." Strong evidence indicates that early home visitation is especially effective in preventing child maltreatment among those who are at higher risk of child abuse and neglect, APA added. The House Education and Labor Committee approved the legislation on June 18.
Legislation introduced in the Senate on June 18 to reauthorize the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act includes key provisions recommended by APA. APA secured language in the act that would guarantee that mental health experts would be included in the main juvenile justice policy-making bodies at the federal and state levels.
APA's advocacy has helped to boost funding for psychological research at NASA. The U.S. House of Representatives voted to extend NASA's authorization for one year, providing $20.2 billion for the agency--$2.9 billion more than President Bush's request. This amount includes $853 million for NASA's aeronautics program, which is home to aviation safety and human factors research.
Speaking on behalf of APA, Deborah Boehm-Davis, PhD, urged Congress to increase Department of Defense support for psychological research at a June 4 Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense hearing. Boehm-Davis highlighted the need for Congress to protect behavioral science research programs throughout the agency and to reverse proposed cuts to the department's science and technology account. Boehm-Davis also noted another APA concern-the potential loss of behavioral science programs within DoD's Counterintelligence Field Activity due to reorganization. APA supports ongoing funding for behavioral research on computer security, insider threats and other terrorism-related studies.
In response to APA advocacy, Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) has included $4 million for the 2009 Graduate Psychology Education (GPE) program in a House appropriations bill-more than double the amount GPE received in the last two years. GPE grants fund interdisciplinary training for psychologists to provide mental and behavioral health care to older adults, children, chronically ill people and other underserved populations. A Senate version of the appropriations bill calls for flat funding for GPE. The House and Senate will reconcile their funding differences either in November or February.
APA is urging the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to consider the vital contributions of behavioral research to health outcomes as it develops its framework for Healthy People 2020, the agency's 10-year blueprint for promoting health and preventing disease. APA noted that behavioral research is particularly important given that behavioral factors contribute to the six leading causes of death in the United States.
APA's Committee on Animal Research and Ethics is assessing the impact of the Great Ape Protection Act (H.R. 5882), which would prohibit invasive research on chimpanzees, gorillas, bonobos, orangutans and gibbons. The bill would also prohibit breeding and transportation of these species for research purposes. APA will monitor the bill and advocate for legislation that does not impede ethically and scientifically sound research, while also ensuring that laboratory animals are given the highest levels of humane care and treatment.