Melton, Gary B. PhD; Anderson, David PsyD

In both popular and professional discourse, religious institutions are often perceived as sources of risk to children either as places where children are unusually vulnerable to abuse or as belief systems that sometimes result in mistreatment of children. However, religious institutions can be leading resources in the development of community-wide safety nets for children. In one such initiative (Strong Communities for Children, a large-scale initiative in the Upstate region of South Carolina), multiple indicators show that, even in an area dominated by theologically conservative churches, churches have been the sector most heavily engaged in protective action to strengthen families and thereby to prevent harm to children. Another faith-based project (Safe Families in Chicago) has shown the potential of similarly conceptualized support to ensure the safety of children in high-need situations.