As I begin my term as President of the California AFCC Chapter, Charlie Brown’s muse, Linus Van Pelt whispers to me, “There’s no heavier burden than a great potential.”  The whisper is unrelenting.

The “great potential” that we have as members of the AFCC community are the opportunities we have to improve the lives of those suffering from fractures in their families, substance abuse, poverty (economic, social and emotional poverty), domestic violence, and racial, ethnic, and gender discrimination among other maladies.  Our mission is to make the communities in which we live better through education and the effective delivery of therapeutic and legal services.  We do this in great measure by educating each other and constantly maintaining intelligent and meaningful conversation among our members.  But enough with the platitudes and the lofty language.  What are we going to do, what can we do to achieve our potential?

First, we will continue to create and put one of the best annual conferences devoted to addressing the problems facing families in the 21st century anywhere in the United States.  AFCC California’s Annual Conference will take place, February 10-­12, 2017, in Costa Mesa, California at the Westin South Coast Plaza.  The conference committee led by Judy Forman, Esq. and Angus Strachan, Ph.D., has been hard at work for several months already developing programs, enlisting great speakers and educators and obtaining sponsors for the 2017 program.  We are anticipating as many as 300 or more attendees at this year’s conference, an increase of almost 50% over our attendance at conferences as recently as just a few years ago.

Second, we need to expand our reach.  We need greater breadth and depth among our members.  It is undeniable that AFCC has  grown older and grayer over the years.  I am willing to bet that more of our members carry AARP membership cards than not.  Being one of those folks, I have come to appreciate and celebrate the “wisdom” acquired along the way and the benefits that years of experience brings as well, but we will become an endangered species (without the benefit of protection under Federal law) if we do not make real efforts to enlist new members and to diversify our membership.  We need to promote our own Rainbow Coalition and bring into our AFCC community members from our varied and rich ethnic, racial and other communities.  We need to better understand and serve the needs of the LGBT community, Native Americans, our returning military veterans and other groups.  We should be reaching out to students in graduate programs in psychology and social welfare schools.  We should reach out to medical schools, religious institutions, and schools in our community to explain who we are and what our mission for our communities and the families we serve.

Third, I often say that we are at the wrong end of the horse.  Often our first contact with families comes after the fire has begun to rage.  We need to explore ways in which we can get out in front of problems and provide services and information that help avoid or at least reduce the family conflict before mothers and fathers and children become embroiled in court battles.

Fourth, I recently learned that we have over 90,000 military veterans who served in five or more deployments in places like Iraq and Afghanistan.  Over half of our serviceman returning from these deployments have been diagnosed with PTSD, yet only 10% of those serviceman saw actual combat.

Sebastian Junger, the author of the newly published book Tribe hypothesizes that the malady suffered by many of our returning serviceman has more to do with the difficulty they have in reintegrating into the community when they return home rather than trauma from their deployment to a war zone.  The incidents of family conflict and domestic violence are high among our returning veterans.  We should be looking hard at this issue and how we can best help those who have sacrificed so much for us.

The first step in accomplishing our goals is for you to join (or re-­new) your AFCC California membership.  There is no greater bargain for mental health or legal professionals than membership in AFCC.  For $225.00 you become a member of the both the International and California AFCC communities of extraordinarily accomplished clinical and forensic mental health professionals, judges, lawyers and others involved in our family law court systems.  You gain access to the AFCC publications and programs (and attend our programs in California and across the country at a discount).  You will receive our outstanding Chapter newsletter and will be subscribed to the AFCC quarterly Family Court Review.

Please help us meet that “great potential” and join us today.  I promise you will be surprised at how rewarding your membership will be and the fun we can have together improving our communities and our professions.  For our existing members I urge you to continue participating at your local and state chapter.  I urge you to get your colleagues to become part of our organization.  We are members because we have the same visions of making our communities and families better.