Federal policy activities addressing issues important to children, youth and families

Announcements on interim staff, immigration reform, study of violent media on children, mental health in schools and child trauma.

APA announces interim staff to cover CYF issues

The Public Interest Directorate’s Government Relations Office (PI-GRO) has announced of the assignment of certain children, youth and family policy issues to Micah Haskell-Hoehl and Ben Vonachen. PI-GRO anticipates hiring another senior legislative and federal affairs officer, who will take on remaining Children, youth and families (CYF) policy issues. 

Haskell-Hoehl joined PI-GRO in 2007 and currently serves as senior policy associate, a post he has held since 2009. He will handle juvenile justice and elementary and secondary education issues in the CYF portfolio. Additionally, he covers issues related to the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families Act, administers all aspects of APA's Congressional Fellowship Program, and manages the office’s web presence, social media activities and grassroots outreach. Micah also has extensive experience working with the CYF Committee and has previously advocated on behalf of association’s policy priorities around education, criminal justice and children's mental health. Micah came to PI-GRO in 2007 from the government relations team at The College Board. 

Vonachen, who joined PI-GRO in early 2010 as senior legislative assistant, will address CYF policy issues that include bullying, child abuse and neglect, and gun violence. He also is currently tasked as point person for issues impacting American Indian/Alaska Native and immigrant populations. Prior to joining APA, Ben worked in the Office of Representative Ed Perlmutter (D-Colo.), where he served as legislative assistant managing a wide range of legislative issues including education, women’s health, judiciary, agriculture, natural resources, energy, environment, science, telecommunications and veterans. 

APA submits to letter of support for children-focused amendment to Immigration Reform Bill

On June 27, 2013, a bipartisan supermajority in the U.S. Senate passed a comprehensive immigration reform bill (S.744) by a 68-32 margin, which, if enacted, would work to address the undocumented status of over 11 million immigrants currently residing in the United States. The Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act featured a number of provisions relevant to psychology, from child welfare to humane detention standards. In particular, research shows that the immigration experience can have profound impacts on the social and emotional development of children, especially those separated from their families or facing an uncertain future. Among the evidence-based findings from APA’s 2012 Presidential Task Force Report on Immigration are the longer the separation and the more complicated the family reunification process can lead to a greater likelihood that children of immigrants will report psychological symptoms.  It is for this reason APA offered a letter of support (PDF, 113KB) for Sen. Al Franken’s (D-Minn.) successful amendment to S.744 that requires Immigration Customs Enforcement (ICE) to consider the best interests of children in the detention, release and transfer decisions affecting their parents. The Franken amendment also stipulates that immigrant parents must receive free and confidential calls to arrange for their children’s care while in ICE custody. As comprehensive immigration reform makes it way to the U.S. House of Representatives, APA stands ready to help ensure the psychological perspective is heard as negotiations continue on this substantial legislation.

APA lauds legislative proposal to study influence of violent media on children

APA sent a Feb. 20, 2013 letter of support (PDF, 48KB) for the Violent Content Research Act (S. 134) to Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) chairman of the Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee. Rockefeller introduced this legislation to create a National Academy of Sciences study on the impact of violent video games and violent video programming on children. The bill directs the Federal Trade Commission, the Federal Communications Commission and the Department of Health and Human Services to coordinate with the National Academy of Sciences to conduct and report the results of a comprehensive study. Specifically, the legislation aims to show whether there are connections between exposure to violent video programming and video games and harmful effects on children.

APA supports legislation to promote mental health in schools

APA pledged its continued support for the Mental Health in Schools Act of 2013 (H.R. 628/S.195) by joining with two dozen other national organizations in a Feb. 6 letter of support. Rep. Grace Napolitano (D-Calif.) and Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) reintroduced this legislation in the House and Senate, respectively. The bill seeks to authorize a grant program for schools that partner with organizations in their communities to expand students’ access to mental health resources. The grants would also support training programs in schools to help staff, families and other community members refer students to services. PI-GRO has supported the Mental Health in Schools Act across multiple Congresses and continues to advocate for its passage in the 113th Congress.

APA supports leg key child trauma legislation makes crucial first step in 113th Congress

On Feb. 26, 2013, Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) introduced the Children’s Recovery from Trauma Act (S. 380). This legislation, which would reauthorize the National Child Traumatic Stress Initiative (NCTSI), supports longstanding APA priorities, and the senator’s press release quotes APA CEO Norman Anderson, PhD. The bill strengthens NCTSI’s broad mission including in the areas of data analysis, training and dissemination of evidence-based practices and increases authorized program funding from $50 million to $100 million.