©2019 by Psychological Maltreatment Alliance

The Psychological Maltreatment Alliance in collaboration with APSAC’s Child Policy Center has formed a new committee devoted to the topic of psychological maltreatment. The Child Policy Center’s mission is to translate research into useable resources that promote evidence-informed policy-making and best practices for professionals involved in the field of child maltreatment. The newly formed committee is comprised of many of the thought leaders and national and international experts in the area of psychological maltreatment.


The committee has met twice and identified three specific policy areas to focus on.

The first of the three identified policy topics wrestle with definitional issues with the goal of developing a single consensus model definition of psychological maltreatment that can be used in State statutes and for training CPS workers and other professionals in the field of child maltreatment. The second focus of the committee will be a review of State statutes with respect to legal definitions of psychological maltreatment with an eye toward identifying and developing a model State statute. The third area of the committee’s focus will be on developing a collaboration with leaders of the National School Board Association. It is the intention of this policy issue to seek partners within the school board community to disseminate information about psychological maltreatment and its effects to school personnel in order to protect children from the most harmful impact of psychological maltreatment exhibited by parents.

In February the Psychological Maltreatment Alliance hosted a two-day train-the-trainer event at the Fontana Center in New York City. We hosted 2-3 individuals from each of 7 agencies to participate in an intensive training on the topic of psychological maltreatment. Participants came from a variety of agencies throughout the city including Healthy Families, Administration for Children's Services, and Child Welfare Organizations. Two participants came from Indiana to see whether they wanted to bring a two-day event back to their home agencies. We began the 2-day event by presenting a 2-hour curriculum (which is what they would eventually bring to their agencies/communities) and then spent the remainder of the two days developing a deeper understanding of the phenomenon of PM so that when the participants returned to their home agencies/communities they would be well prepared to not only deliver the 2-hour curriculum but they would also be able to address most concerns/questions raised by the individuals whom they trained. Topics covered in the training included the forms/types that PM can take, risk factors, the harm to children associated with PM, prevalence of PM, and theory of prevention/intervention. Over the course of the two days, participants practiced identifying PM in various vignettes, discussed what it means to be an "upstander" instead of a bystander, reviewed principles of positive parenting, and explored some specific ways that they can address PM in their personal and professional lives. From the beginning, the energy in the room was amazing as everyone engaged deeply with the material. Each participant was a highly committed professional in the field of child maltreatment and yet many felt that at least some of the information covered was new to them. The trainers ended the two-day experience with lots of ideas and excellent feedback about how to improve both the 2-hour curriculum as well as the two-day train-the-trainer event. We look forward to working with the participants to plan and implement their own training on PM to their colleagues, staff, and clients. Through this process, we can expand the number of people ready and able to provide research-informed and practical information about this insidious and still misunderstood form of child maltreatment.

The Child Psychological Maltreatment Summit was held for 2 ½ days (October 27-29, 2019) and involved 52 international, national and Indiana experts in think-tank deliberations to produce perspective and recommendations to reduce/eliminate psychological maltreatment in a manner respecting and promoting child resilience and well-being. The Summit applied the 36 years of progress made since the 1983 International Conference on Psychological Abuse of Children and Youth in formulating advances for 7 themes: (1) Definitions, laws and standards; (2) Healthy child development; (3) Changing social norms for child adversity, resiliency and well-being; (4) Promotion and prevention emphasizing health/public health approaches; (5) Interventions for risk, occurrence, and harm; (6) Education, training and learning of public and professional sectors; (7) Child participation and agency. The Summit was held in Indianapolis with primary support from Lilly Endowment, mirroring similar conditions for the 1983 Conference. PNC Bank and the Haruv Institute provided additional supportive funding. The Summit was convened through a partnership of APSAC, The New York Founding, the School Psychology Program of Columbia University, the International Institute for Child Rights and Development (four partners embodying the Psychological Maltreatment Alliance), the National Foundation to End Child Abuse and Neglect, and the Haruv Institute. The Indiana venue and involvement of state leaders/experts was specifically designed to optimize the possibilities for follow-up model building and program implementation of Summit recommendations. The Summit participants included academics, school psychologists and clinical psychologists, psychiatrists, pediatricians, mental health nurse practitioners, addiction specialists, educators, judges, lawyers, child rights and child well-being advocates, social workers, youth workers, community workers, school counsellors, local government and faith community representatives, and public policy experts. They rallied around a shared encompassing perspective of what is needed: A society that understands nurturing, positive and healthy connections and creates a space and place for the influence of children’s voices in a meaningful and measurable way, and that mitigates and prevents trauma, thus creating a culture of child well-being and child rights. The primary knowledge base source for Summit deliberations was The APSAC Monograph on Psychological Maltreatment (PM)(https://files.constantcontact.com/f9c101a1501/0fb4b112-786f-4169-99ff-525d33095114.pdf). Interested parties should monitor this site for future presentations of detailed findings and recommendations from the Summit, and for guidance to associated publications, education/training opportunities, and related research, policy and practice initiatives. -- Stuart N. Hart