From the CEO
This month's Monitor features several articles that offer a glimpse of the many ways psychologists are working to help and better understand our nation's children. Focusing on children's mental health needs has never been more important. Research suggests that nearly half of all psychological diagnoses occur in childhood or adolescence, with the average onset being early adolescence (Kessler et al., 2005). Recognizing children's tremendous needs, all four of APA's directorates—public interest, education, practice and science—have spearheaded efforts on behalf children:
Public Interest Directorate
- Last year, the Public Interest Directorate marked the 25th anniversary of its highly regarded Committee on Children, Youth, and Families (CYF). The committee focuses its efforts on raising awareness of and helping one of the nation's most vulnerable populations, producing resolutions on bullying, immigrant children, child abuse and preventing students from dropping out of school, to name a few. The committee's resolutions often fortify testimony in court cases and legislation. CYF has also been working to ensure that such critical issues remain central to the Obama administration's health-care reform law.
APA's Council of Representatives, the association's highest policymaking body, has adopted many CYF resolutions, including those on preventing obesity, violence in video games, bullying, mistreating of children with disabilities, corporal punishment and violence in mass media. CYF has also developed a draft resolution on the harmful effects of severe physical punishment of children by parents. It includes promising empirical evidence of alternative approaches to prevent negative behavior. This draft resolution will be placed on the committee's spring 2012 cross-cutting agenda. CYF also has been evaluating mental health needs of youth in foster care and this year intends to focus more on advocacy for this crucial constituency.
- APA's Education Directorate is home to the Center for Psychology in Schools and Education, which provides a wealth of resources that help to bring psychology into the nation's schools to benefit educators as well as children. Most recently, the center has developed material on best practices in classroom management, dealing with disruptive students and bullying.
The directorate also put together a database of national competitions for K–12 students interested in science, technology, engineering and math at the request of the White House's Office of Science and Technology Policy. One ongoing project is to study the impact of specialized public high schools focusing on science, math and technology. Another is to develop an APA award to be given to a local school each year in the city hosting APA's Annual Convention. An expert panel is generating criteria for the award.
- A priority for APA's Practice Directorate is to support evidence-based treatment options for child and adolescent mental health disorders. The directorate also develops professional practice guidelines for child custody and protection, among other areas. In addition, the directorate oversees APA's affiliation with the National Commission on Correctional Health Care, a partnership that develops standards for quality health care in prisons, jails and juvenile facilities. The Practice Directorate also has a task force that is working to provide secondary school teachers with materials about serious mental illnesses and severe emotional disturbances.
- Topping the Science Directorate's agenda is working to secure federal research funding for psychological science, including research on child development, children's mental and physical health, education and learning. The directorate encourages federal agencies, such as the National Institutes of Health, to prioritize research on topics that may impact children's health. This includes exposure to violence in the home, communities and schools, as well as behavioral interventions for mental and emotional disorders. The directorate's Government Relations Office also advocates for basic and applied research on learning at the National Science Foundation and the U.S. Department of Education. The directorate shares advances in psychological science with Congress, focusing on topics such as developmental disabilities, substance abuse, obesity and high-risk sexual behavior.