Feature article

From the president

A new online resource to provide science-based information about promoting healthy development, parenting, prevention and evidence-based practice.

By Mary Ann McCabe, PhD, ABPP

Mary Ann McCabeThe Society for Child and Family Policy and Practice (SCFPP) is the lead APA division on a project to develop an exciting new web resource center. The site aims to provide science-based information about promoting healthy development, parenting, prevention and evidence-based practice, with the target audiences of both parents and professionals, by linking to other well-established, reliable and valid, scientifically based websites. This is a rewarding collaboration across seven APA divisions devoted to children, couples and families (Divs. 7, 15, 16, 37, 43, 53, 54), funded by a grant in 2015 from the APA Committee on Division and APA Relations.

There are countless missed opportunities to share scientifically based information to improve public understanding and action, given demonstrated interest on the part of parents and professionals for Web-based information (e.g., mommy blogs, parenting columns). These opportunities emerge from questions that arise in daily living (e.g., children's sleep problems, parental conflict) and developmental transitions (e.g., parenting teens), seasonal or cyclical events (e.g., the start of school, helping children with painful immunizations) and concerns about children or parents' well-being (e.g., behavioral problems, children's or parents' anxiety following a tragic event). There are reputable sites providing information for one or more of these and related topics, yet these aspects of development and family functioning are not separated in families' daily lives. The need for a reliable and valid centralized information source becomes even more critical when parents or other professionals are seeking information on mental/behavioral health conditions and effective treatments, especially given the volume of information currently available that is of questionable credibility. Access to evidence-based interventions and trained providers is a critical problem, but educating consumers about what to look for remains a first step.

The need for an enhanced web presence and vetted sources of information has been identified as a priority for several consecutive years by the APA Interdivisional Task Force for Child and Adolescent Mental Health, for which we are the lead division. Advancing widespread understanding of the science related to healthy development, parenting, child mental health and social/emotional development has also been a leading recommendation from two national summits — Healthy Development: A Summit on Young Children's Mental Health (PDF, 1.1MB) and Healthy Development Summit II: Changing Frames and Expanding Partnerships to Promote Children's Mental Health and Social/Emotional Development (PDF, 5.3MB) — for which SCFPP, APA and several member divisions were sponsors. In fact, the few remaining funds from these summits were designated by the summit planning committee to support this web project.

As you might imagine, establishing a new web resource center is a painstaking process with multiple steps. The group of division leaders became the advisory board for a new Consortium for Science-Based Information on Children, Youth and Families. Several of us on the advisory board are members of Div. 37; I am joined by Amy Damashek (who will oversee our data gathering on the site), Jen Kaminski and Connie Fournier. We sought student volunteers to join the project, and three students from SCFPP are working with us: Andrew Frazer, Fanie Collardeau and Ariel Berman. There are a dozen students from other divisions also working on the project. The Children, Youth and Families Office at APA is our first “partner.”

Working both as a large team and in subcommittees, we have completed a wide variety of tasks over the past nine months, including reviewing web professionals to select Ninth Floor Advertising; reviewing relevant sites to reach consensus on design features; developing criteria for science-based information, illustrative definitions in the literature and a vetting process for sites that will merit inclusion on the site (select the “About Us” tab on the site); soliciting and reviewing an initial round of approximately 150 websites; and assigning keywords to the sites so that the search engine will work well for site visitors. We have recently shared the site with psychology colleagues to solicit additional sites and will conduct another round of review prior to the public launch of the website in early 2016. After our launch we will seek additional partner sites as well as certification by Health on the Net.

We have strived to cover the most important topics  for parents/caregivers, educators and health/behavioral health professionals  for which there are science-based websites.  The full range of behavioral science information has been conceptualized as falling into four overlapping areas: body/mind/emotions/relationships. We have aimed to make the site fit readily to mobile devices and meet standards for Americans with Disabilities Act compliance.  We have also included the Google software for language translation.  We will update the site quarterly and will post a monthly blog that summarizes science on a timely topic for the lay audience.

Please wander around the site and see if you have any websites to suggest for our review.

Also, let us know if you have topics to suggest for future blog posts. You can send suggestions to me.

This web project has been one of my rewarding activities this year — emphasizing collaboration and promoting child mental health. It has been a privilege to serve as president of SCFPP, and I look forward to serving you next year as past president.