How Can ‘Strong Communities’ Transform Community Norms and Structures to Promote Children’s Safety and Well-being?

In the early 1990s, the U.S. Advisory Board on Child Abuse & Neglect cited the failure of a reporting- investigation approach to prevent child maltreatment and called for the development of a neighborhood- based child protection system.

The Board maintained that if child protection were embedded in the social fabric of neighborhoods and communities in such a way that assisting families with young children and keeping children safe from harm was a social norm, communities would be strong, families would be supported, and children would be safer. Strong Communities for Children (Strong Communities) sought to implement the Advisory Board’s recommendation, and initial findings were promising. Over a period of seven years, with the aid of hundreds of volunteer organizations including churches, fire and police departments, civic organizations, neighborhood associations, businesses, and schools, the Strong Communities service area saw a marked decrease in reports of child abuse and neglect, as well as decreases in emergency room visits and hospitalizations for injuries in children under four. Parents also reported feeling less stressed, more supported, and more confident that they can make a positive difference in the lives of their children.

“At Upbring, we believe that all of us have a role to play in the health, wellbeing and safety of the children in our communities,” said Dr. Kurt Senske, President and CEO of Upbring. “In order to empower Texas communities to raise healthy kids in stable families, we are providing roadmaps that address key factors in child abuse prevention and offer examples where communities have successfully strengthened their prevention and support efforts.”

The white paper, titled How can Strong Communities transform community norms and structures to promote children’s safety and well-being?, is the first in a series that will include recommendations on trauma-informed education, the medical needs of children in foster care, life skills development, and other issues facing children in the Texas child welfare system. The paper further details the theoretical framework, model and strategies that guided Strong Communities, providing approaches for measuring effectiveness and adaptations that can be replicated in other communities.

To read the whole report, click here.

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Lisa Martine Jenkins
About Lisa Martine Jenkins 38 Articles
Lisa is the marketing coordinator for The Chronicle of Social Change and a recent graduate of University of California-Berkeley. Find her at or on Twitter @lisa_m_jenkins.