A Message From the Division President

Dear Division Members and Prospective Members,

I am honored to serve as the division president this year. Div. 37 has always been my home within APA. Our division fills an incredibly important role within APA; we are the only child-focused division that focuses explicitly on advocacy for children and families, and our mission fits nicely with APA’s expanding focus on advocacy more generally. As you likely are aware, children and families are impacted in multiple ways by local, state and federal policy that impact not only children’s mental health, but their very ability to survive, grow and thrive. Research on the social determinants of health tell us that systemic factors that operate on a broad level have huge impacts on the well-being of children and families. Such systems are directly affected by policies, including policies about how resources (paid by our tax dollars) are directed.

My presidential theme this year is “Promoting Resiliency in Low-Income and At-Risk Families.” This theme falls in line with our current APA president’s (Rose Phillips Davis, PhD) theme of addressing deep poverty. Unfortunately, the U.S. population has long consisted of a large portion of families that suffer from poverty and other stressors, related to racism, lack of affordable housing availability, low wages, poor healthcare access, immigration policy and the list goes on. As wages have stopped keeping pace with inflation, families have increasingly had more difficulty making ends meet. Stressors associated with poverty are many and take a huge toll on the mental and physical health of children and families.

It is my opinion that we should recognize our limited ability to impact children’s mental health without addressing the larger policies and structures that cause such children and their families to face an uphill battle to live and flourish. That’s why our work in the division is so critical. Many of us have felt helpless to assist our clients in the face of stressors such as homelessness, neighborhood violence, lack of transportation, etc. Often we may lament the fact that there’s nothing we can do. But, I challenge you to accept the fact that there are things that we can do! We can speak up about policies that harm children and families, and we can get involved in organizations that work to change such policies. I challenge you to become a true advocate for children and families by thinking outside of the traditional role of psychologist. This challenge also corresponds with our former APA president’s (Jessica Henderson Daniel, PhD) focus on citizen psychologists. Children and families need all of the advocates that they can get, and psychologists are in a good position to be their voice. Consider this a call to action!

I also challenge you to become more involved in the division. This is one good way to stay in touch with other psychologists who understand the critical need to advocate for children and families. Each year there are opportunities to run for office. For students and Early Career Psychologists (ECPs), there are opportunities to apply for awards and to be active on our Student Board or ECP Committee. If you are not a member of Div. 37, and you agree that advocacy for children and families is critical, I encourage you to join our membership and become active in the division. We are a wonderful community of passionate and accomplished individuals. Some of the important activities that the division has spearheaded recently include the development of a website clearinghouse that contains links to evidence-based information about children and adolescents as well as development of a task force report on corporal punishment of children. I hope you will either continue to renew your membership in the division or consider joining as a new member. Please feel free to reach out to me.

Your President, Amy Damashek