To best meet the needs of children and their caretakers, APA needs to strengthen its advocacy efforts on children's health and mental health, increase collaboration across the directorates to work on children's issues and fill in research gaps in children's mental health, concluded experts who met at APA's 2001 Annual Convention.

At the first-ever Children's Mental Health Roundtable and Reception, 33 APA members and leaders representing psychology practice, science, public interest and education identified initiatives they want APA to tackle over the next three to five years. APA's Task Force on Psychology in Early Education and Care and the APA Working Group on Children's Mental Health hosted the brainstorming session as a way to help establish children's well-being as an association-wide priority and to take steps toward uniting children's education and emotional development.

"Children's cognitive development is seen as the problem of the schools, and their emotional development is seen as the problem of mental health clinics," said APA Board of Directors member Laura Barbanel, EdD. "It is time to integrate the two, to put the child back together."

She added, "Psychology is in a unique position to influence the world of the child on a one-on-one basis, in the family, in school systems and on the level of social policy."

In groups of seven or eight, participants identified ways APA could best address the needs of children and families through better training, improved services, professional development and public outreach. Each group then identified the priorities and projects they felt were most critical.

Participants thought APA should:

  • Develop a children's office within the association.

  • Increase accessibility to mental health services for children and families.

  • Plan initiatives on children that cut across all four APA directorates.

  • Strengthen its advocacy efforts in the area of children's health and mental health.

  • Create a data bank on children's mental health issues.

  • Help translate research on children into practice.

  • Promote and establish interdisciplinary approaches to children's mental health.

APA's Task Force on Psychology in Early Education and Care will incorporate these priorities into its effort to determine the needs of families and young children and to develop recommendations that relate to preschool and daycare settings, the training of teachers in those settings and the training of psychologists who work with parents and children, said chair Barbara Hanna Wasik, PhD.

The brainstorming session will also further the efforts of the Working Group on Children's Mental Health, which is looking at ways to address children's mental health education and stigma, and focusing on the need for a primary mental health system for children, said chair Patrick Tolan, PhD. The working group will have a report ready for review by the end of the year or early next year, added Tolan.