Member-at-large: Advocacy coordinator column

Member-at-large: Advocacy coordinator column

The advocacy coordinator aims to draft a document citing the humanitarian and evidential bases of child advocates' concerns and the hypotheses that exist or can be created to address those concerns.

By Lewis P. Lipsitt, PhD

As the new advocacy guy on the Div. 37 executive committee, I have tried to catch up with the excellent work done by my predecessors and am especially grateful to Cindy Miller-Perrin for guidance in this task. I can be brief on this occasion, with some promise of progress as we go along. There are numerous areas of concern to all of us about the welfare and well-being of children and youth, particularly in these days when so many venues for dangerous and debilitating outcomes lie in the developmental pathways of today's youngsters.

I came into this position believing that it would be fairly easy to list numerous areas of concern that we have as child advocates, and then, with the help of a dozen or so mini-committees (work groups) to draft a document with “empirical teeth,” citing the humanitarian basis of our concerns, the evidential basis for our concerns, and the hypotheses that currently exist or can be created for attending to those problems.

My own training in developmental psychology and, more recently, my close contact with a nonviolence training and practice institute in Rhode Island provides me with much of my confidence that this approach should work. Clifford Shaw at the University of Chicago and the Juvenile Research Center in Chicago provided convincing narratives about the lives of delinquent children, then troublesome youth who went on to become criminal adults who were like other youths, nondelinquent, noncriminal kids in the basic processes of their development. The contexts of their lives were what were identifiably different. The milieu of their socialization was different. This presumption, put to use in psychological interventions with criminals, has shown promise in Providence; many former gang members, each with histories of serious criminal backgrounds, have become respected street workers who now bring along other gang members who in turn become instrumental in helping their peers to change their developmental destinies.

Another issue on which I would like to see Div. 37 action is “corporal punishment.” Although earlier attempts at seeking approval from APA governance groups for   a resolution against the physical punishment of children have not been success ful, the division, through its Interdivisional Task Force on the Physical Punishment of Children, and in conjunction with APA's Children, Youth, and Families Office, is currently working to reinvigorate these efforts. If you would like to work with me on this issue, or other advocacy issues, please contact me.