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Strong Communities

Strong Communities is the first large-scale initiative to address child abuse and neglect through research- and community-based prevention and intervention concepts. Strong Communities works to develop an expectation that people will watch out for each other and for each other’s children in whatever environment they find themselves.

Strong Communities builds on the research-based premise that, to be effective, child protection must become a part of the institutions of everyday life in the neighborhoods where children, live, study and play. Thus, the success of Strong Communities is due, in part, to its relationships with a diverse group of partners in southern Greenville County and Anderson School District 1 in Anderson County.

Supported initially by a grant from The Duke Endowment, Strong Communities is led by Dr. Gary Melton, director of the Institute on Family and Neighborhood Life. He was the lead author of the 1993 report of the US Advisory Board on Child Abuse and Neglect that outlined a new neighborhood-based child protection strategy.

Experience in Strong Communities shows that desired “neighborliness” can most easily be applied in the settings found in almost all communities, including schools, civic groups, religious organizations, businesses, health care settings, neighborhood associations, public safety and social service agencies.

For example, data from Strong Communities reveals that the effort has brought together religious groups that differ in theology, race, and size around the common desire to keep kids safe. Partners in the health care system have proven to be a valuable avenue to young families. Strong Communities findings show that health centers have played a critical role in reaching families with appropriate resources and supports. Links with schools provided parent engagement and leadership opportunities encouraging an increased sense of efficacy that tends to increase child well-being.

The April-June 2008 issue of Family & Community Health: The Journal of Health Promotion and Maintenance featured research findings from Strong Communities almost six years after the launch of the initiative.  Authors of the eight articles in the “Strong Communities as Safe Havens for Children”  issue address aspects of the initiative and related research findings including the role of faith in community intervention, volunteer characteristics and efficacy, and the effective use of special events in fostering support for families and protection of children. 

Thousands of volunteers and hundreds of organizations have already participated in Strong Communities activities. Volunteers in grassroots organizations continue to sustain and expand  material and social supports to young families.

Café Cultural, an expanding outreach to Latino families organized by Strong Communities, is based at the Center for Community Services in Simpsonville in southern Greenville County. Educational, medical, and recreational opportunities are offered on a regular basis to support immigrant families. 

Researchers with Strong Communities conclude that, not only are community efforts to protect children effective, but collective efforts to protect children enliven the communities in which they are undertaken.

‘Noticing’ and ‘Caring’: How to Prevent Child Abuse and Neglect, presented by Gary Melton, served as the opening keynote address at the Asia-Pacific Conference on Child Abuse and Neglect held in Perth, Australia in October 2009. The presentation updates research germane to Strong Communities and describes how personal experiences became integrated into the strategies used in Strong Communities and, to some extent, the Institute as a whole.

Follow the link to view the video of the lecture.