24th Annual Childrenâ€™s Mental Health and Policy Conference listen03/21/11 Dawn Morgan Elliott
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30 years ago the field of mental health care for children barely existed. But yesterday in Tampa over 700 researchers and child advocates came for the commencement of the 24th Annual Childrenâ€™s Mental Health and Policy Conference to share their work and open their minds to innovations in mental health care.
â€œPeople did not recognize the seriousness of the problem. People did not recognize how many young people had emotional and behavioral disorders.â€
Dr. Robert Friedman is Professor Emeritus in the Department of Children and Family Studies at the University of South Florida. When he began his career as a clinical psychologist and professor in the late 60â€™s, he said there wasnâ€™t much research on mental health care for children and young adults. When kids got into trouble, the parents were seen as the cause.
â€œSometimes through a combination of bio, neurological, environ factors, traumas thatâ€™s occurred, kids need special help. And that the families are the resource to help us to work with professionals and addressing those problems. Theyâ€™re not the cause, theyâ€™re not the blame.â€
Christina Kloker Young is a child advocate and one of the original board members for the conference.
â€œWe started out not knowing if weâ€™d have 25 people come. We didnâ€™t have young people coming to be researchers. So we looked out and said, where are we going to get the people who say, â€˜Where are these kids, what works, what can we do, what kind of programs can we out in place for kids who are having depression, autism, whatever it might be. How can we work with those kids?â€™â€
The Annual Childrenâ€™s Mental Health Research and Policy Conference was born and because of Friedman and Tampaâ€™s balmy spring climate, the University of South Florida has served as its host ever since. Again, Dr. Freidman:
â€œOne of the things weâ€™ve made progress in is helping people understand the seriousness of the problem. Weâ€™ve also worked to help people understand that to solve the problem it will require partnerships. Itâ€™s going to require mental health people working with juvenile justice people working with school people and child welfare people, and thereâ€™s been tremendous progress there.â€
Conference attendees come from all over the United States and several countries. Attendee Irina Vainer came the farthest and with a translator.
â€œIâ€™m from Russia. Novosibirsk, Siberia.â€
Translator: "She works with children who have developmental disabilities. This is her first international conference and unfortunately she doesn't know much English!"
Vainerâ€™s work looked at children who were considered uneducable, and says that through their original methods and non-standard practical tricks that more than 76% of their clients became schoolable and teachable.
Veteran educator and CEO of the Harlem Childrenâ€™s Zone Geoffrey Canada was the keynote speaker. He requested that his lecture not to be recorded, and said in his address that â€œIf the kid wasnâ€™t learning, it was because we didnâ€™t know enough.â€
The conference continues through Wednesday, and we will continue tocover the highlights this week.