Father and Son Recipients of the First ISTSS Public Advocacy Award
July 1, 2003
ISTSS presented its first Public Advocacy Award at the awards ceremony held at the 2002 annual meeting in Baltimore. The recipients of this award for outstanding and fundamental contributions to advancing social understanding of trauma were William W. Harris, PhD, and his son, David B. Harris, MSEd.
The society honored Bill Harris and David Harris for their recent and ongoing pivotal role in shaping and enacting the legislation that authorized and funded the United States Child Traumatic Stress Initiative. This initiative, initially funded with an appropriation of $10 million—$30 million per year for the past two years—has resulted in the creation of a national network of 38 centers focusing on child traumatic stress. The network includes a national center, seven treatment development centers and 30 community service centers. It is a great achievement in the advocacy of treatment for traumatized children and prevention, and already has transformed the approach to trauma practice with children and adolescents and is expected to continue.
David and Bill were partners in achieving the child trauma network through public advocacy. To accomplish this, they used their public policy expertise and their network of friends and colleagues in the U.S. Congress, as well as in the highest levels of the administration, to focus attention on the needs of children exposed to trauma. They expended personal resources, invested their intellectual and personal relationship capital and maintained a remarkable clarity throughout about the goal of protecting children from violence, whether it is due to intrafamilial aggression or to terrorism.
In 1981 Bill Harris founded and continues to head KidsPac, a political action committee dedicated to the application of sound public policies for poor children from birth to age 6, and their families. In 1984 he founded and continues to serve as chairman of the Children’s Research and Education Institute. He currently serves on the advisory board of the Child Development Community Policing Program in conjunction with the Yale Child Study Center.
Bill has served on numerous not-for-profit boards and advisory committees, including the Urban League, Wesleyan University, the State Legislative Leaders Foundation’s Children’s Program Steering Committee and the National Science Foundation’s Review Panel of the Public Understanding of Science Program. He has received several awards for his work on behalf of children, including the Advocacy Award, Division of Child, Youth and Family Services, from the American Psychological Association; the Dale Richmond Award from the American Academy of Pediatrics; the Leadership Award for Public Service from Zero to Three; and the Distinguished Alumnus Award from Wesleyan University.
David Harris taught kindergarten in New York City’s public and private schools before leaving to pursue improved policies for children and families, joining the Children’s Research and Education Institute as president, as well as working with Bill on Kids Project and KidsPac. He then enrolled in the Columbia University School of Social Work as a doctoral student in social policy and currently is writing his dissertation on tax credits for low-income families. David also serves as co-chair of the Health and Human Services Committee and Secretary of Manhattan’s Community Board 7, which represents more than 200,000 people in New York City’s Upper West Side.
Few have achieved what Bill Harris and David Harris have accomplished in their advocacy for the needs of traumatized children. They have eloquently persuaded legislators and high political executives to fund a systematic agenda to address the needs of children exposed to violence.
In the fall issue of StressPoints, the 2002 awards articles will conclude with the winners of the Sara Haley Award for Clinical Excellence and the Chaim Danieli Young Professional Award.