About CAAC

About the Child & Adolescent Action Center

Who We Are

NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness is dedicated to improving the lives of children and adults living with serious mental illnesses and their families. Founded in 1979, NAMI has become the nation’s voice on mental illness as well as a national organization that includes affiliates in every state and in over 1100 local communities across the country.

The NAMI Child & Adolescent Action Center (CAAC) works to improve the lives of children and adolescents living with mental illnesses and their families through advocacy, support and education. We offer resources and technical assistance to NAMI affiliates at the state and local levels. 

What We Do

NAMI’s Child & Adolescent Action Center focuses on mental health systems’ reform that promises to improve the lives of children and adolescents with mental illnesses and their families. Our goal is to build and support grassroots advocacy to ensure an expanded systems’ reform agenda at the local, state and national levels. Currently, CAAC is working in the following areas:

  • Ending the practice of forcing families to relinquish custody of their child to secure mental health services through federal legislation, changes in funding mechanisms for healthcare treatment and services, raising awareness about the issue and offering alternatives to policymakers to help end this practice;
  • Focusing the policy debate on ensuring the early identification of mental illnesses and early intervention with effective treatment and services so that children do not lose critical developmental years to an undiagnosed illness;
  • Ensuring improved treatment outcomes for children and adolescents by advancing promising practices and evidence-based practices in treatment and services;
  • Focusing attention on the crisis of youth with mental illnesses in the juvenile justice system and the failure of schools to properly address the academic and functional needs of students with mental illnesses;
  • Partnering with organizations focused on children and adolescents, with a focus on diverse communities and eliminating existing healthcare disparities;
  • Strengthening support for the work of NAMI state and affiliate leaders on child and adolescent issues; and
  • Helping to educate all child-serving professionals – especially school professionals -- about the early warning signs of mental illnesses in children and adolescents to help address the fact that nearly 80% of youth with mental health needs fail to be identified and to receive treatment and services. We recently expanded our Parents and Teachers as Allies program, which is a two-hour in-service program that focuses on educating school professionals about mental illnesses and how best to intervene.
  • Supporting parents and caregivers of children with mental illnesses by lobbying federal and state legislators and by providing information, referrals and resources to families and youth.  

What YOU Can Do & How We Can Help

We invite you to join our advocacy efforts and take action as we work to reform the children and adolescent mental health system to better meet the needs of children and families. What you can do TODAY to be a part of our efforts:

  • Subscribe to our quarterly magazine, NAMI Beginnings, which focuses on children’s issues. The magazine is currently available at no charge to subscribers and is also available online. To become a subscriber, contact Bianca Ruffin, Program Assistant, at biancar@nami.org or 703.516.0698.  
  • Sign up for our growing CAAC e-group where participants receive regular email updates on issues impacting children and adolescents with mental illnesses and their families. Please contact Emily Cepla, Program Coordinator, at ecepla@nami.org to be added to the list.
  • Become a member of your local NAMI and discover what programs, workshops, support and services they offer children and adolescents with mental illnesses and their families. Contact your closest NAMI affiliate.
  • Contact your local legislators and make mental health system reform a priority in your state. Contact CAAC for more information about lobbying efforts and visit our website to find out about the policy and legislative issues we are focusing on.
  • Learn the facts about child and adolescent mental health, treatment options, and the mental healthcare system by visiting our website. We offer fact sheets about early-onset mental illnesses, information about evidence-based practices, system issues such as juvenile justice reform, the tragedy of custody relinquishment, and much, much more! You can also request printed resources and information by contacting us.
  • Seek support by joining in on our online discussion groups and connecting with families in similar situations. You can also find help through your local NAMI affiliate or by requesting more information from our center. We would be happy to send you copies of our resources and publications. You can also access most of our materials by visiting the For Parents, Caregivers & Youth section of our website.
  • Learn more about NAMI’s Parents and Teachers as Allies in-service education program for school professionals, designed to help them better understand mental illnesses in children and adolescents by contacting Bianca Ruffin, Program Assistant, at biancar@nami.org or 703.516.0698.

How to Contact Us:

To learn more about the NAMI Child & Adolescent Action Center and our advocacy work, obtain additional resources or to share information and ideas, please contact Emily Cepla, CAAC Program Manager(ecepla@nami.org or 703.600.1117). Our mailing address is:

NAMI Child & Adolescent Action Center
Colonial Place Three
2107 Wilson Blvd., Suite 300
Arlington, VA 22201

Main Line: 703.524.7600
Fax: 703.524.9094

How We Support Our Affiliates

NAMI state and affiliate leaders are encouraged to contact CAAC to receive technical assistance and support in starting up programs and services in their area that are geared toward helping children and adolescents with mental illnesses and their families. We offer information regarding education programs, which NAMI affiliates can start up in their community, and that can be used at schools or for parents and caregivers of children with mental illnesses. We also provide assistance in implementing the Parents and Teachers as Allies in-service education program for school professionals. NAMI grassroots leaders can also network online and exchange thoughts, ideas and resources by using our private NAMI Leader discussion group, contact Emily Cepla, CAAC Program Manager, at ecepla@nami.org or 703.600.1117 for more information about the discussion group. NAMI leaders can also receive free resource packets that contain information on resources related to child and adolescent mental health. Additional resources and information is located on our website.

Back to top