Strong Communities for Children

Scientific Rating:
3
Promising Research Evidence
See scale of 1-5
Child Welfare System Relevance Level:
Medium
See descriptions of 3 levels

About This Program

The information in this program outline is provided by the program representative and edited by the CEBC staff. Strong Communities for Children has been rated by the CEBC in the area of: Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect (Primary) Programs.

Target Population: Entire communities with the intent to generate and sustain support for families with young children

Brief Description

Derived from the neighborhood-based child protection strategy proposed by the U.S. Advisory Board on Child Abuse and Neglect in 1993, Strong Communities for Children is a comprehensive communitywide initiative for the promotion of family and community well-being and prevention of child abuse and neglect. Strong Communities involves the whole community through voluntary assistance by neighbors for one another, especially for families of young children. The strategy entails the use of outreach workers to facilitate community engagement and leadership development in order to enable communities to accept responsibility for parent support and child safety. The outreach workers then build on the resources that they have cultivated to promote the creation of volunteer-delivered support (e.g., occasional child care, food banks, financial counseling, respite care) for families of young children in settings not commonly identified as providers of family support service (e.g., fire stations, faith communities, libraries).

Program Goals:

The goals of Strong Communities for Children are:

Ultimate goal:

  • Keep kids safe by building systems of support for families with young children, so that every child and every parent know that whenever they have reason to celebrate, worry, or grieve, someone will notice, and someone will care

Program goals:

  • Promote normative change in perceptions, beliefs, and behavior
  • Build a sense of community by increasing caring (i.e., attentiveness, neighborliness) and inclusion (i.e., universality of access to family support and mutuality of respect and caring)
  • Build a sense of efficacy by:
    • Increasing optimism (i.e., the belief, individually and collectively, that action on behalf of families will be effective because the community is a welcoming and supportive place and that positive things do happen for families in the community)
    • Increasing action (i.e., the belief, individually and collectively, that the possibility of effective action on behalf of families should be translated into practical activity and that such practical activity will occur)

Essential Components

The essential components of Strong Communities for Children include:

  • Community mobilization guided by 10 principles:
    • Logical relation of activity to prevention of child abuse and neglect, not just to promotion of child or community well-being
    • Directed towards transformation of community norms and structures
    • Continually pushing the envelope; more is better!
    • Undertaken through activities to recruit, mobilize, and retain volunteers
    • Directed toward the establishment or enhancement of relationships among families or between families and community institutions
    • Directed toward enhancement of social and emotional support for families of young children
    • Intended to increase the safety of children but largely directed toward parents
    • Implemented in a manner to enhance parent leadership and community engagement
    • Designed to promote reciprocity of help
    • Built on the assets (leadership, networks, facilities, and culture) in and among primary community institutions
  • Strong Communities seeks to translate the mobilized concern into direct assistance for families of young children:
    • These activities and services (summarized as Strong Families), which are normalized through universal availability (e.g., parents' nights out) or integration into conventional settings, are intended to:
      • Build or strengthen families' social support
      • Encourage mutual assistance and parent leadership
      • Increase access to social and/or material resources, as needed (when possible, through informal systems of support)
    • Individuals and community groups and organizations (e.g., civic clubs, fire departments, libraries, community centers, businesses, schools) are recruited to offer informal and formal supports to families.

Delivery Setting

This program is typically conducted in a(n):

  • Community Daily Living Settings

Homework

This program does not include a homework component.

Languages

Strong Communities for Children does not have materials available in a language other than English.

Resources Needed to Run Program

The typical resources for implementing the program are:

Strong Communities utilizes existing resources within the community (e.g., facilities; people), but includes a small staff to ensure that resources are used according to the Strong Communities principles.

Minimum Provider Qualifications

Experience working in communities particularly in building assistance for people in community settings (e.g., school principal, minister, agricultural extension agent, nonprofit director); generally requires master’s or doctoral degree; applicants with only a bachelor’s degree may be considered if they have exceptional community experience (e.g., development and leadership of innovative community organizations).

Education and Training Resources

There is a manual that describes how to implement this program, and there is training available for this program.

Training Contact:
Training is obtained:

Onsite, with follow-up phone/email consultation and booster sessions

Number of days/hours:

Flexible, depending on scope of the intended effort

Implementation Information

Since Strong Communities for Children is rated on the Scientific Rating Scale, information was requested from the program representative on available pre-implementation assessments, implementation tools, and/or fidelity measures.

Show implementation information...

Pre-Implementation Materials

There are no pre-implementation materials to measure organizational or provider readiness for Strong Communities for Children.

Formal Support for Implementation

There is formal support available for implementation of Strong Communities for Children as listed below:

Faculty with experience using the approach are available for consultation and training. A bibliography of research, commentary, and foundational ideas is continuously updated.

Fidelity Measures

There are no fidelity measures for Strong Communities for Children.

Implementation Guides or Manuals

There are implementation guides or manuals for Strong Communities for Children as listed below:

A manual has been developed for the overall framework of the initiative and to aid in the “getting started” phase. Materials for some particular aspects of the initiative (e.g., church bulletin inserts) have been developed.

Research on How to Implement the Program

Research has been conducted on how to implement Strong Communities for Children as listed below:

  • Berman, J. J., Murphy-Berman, V., & Melton, G. B. (2008). Strong Communities: What did participants actually do? Family and Community Health, 31, 126-135.
  • Kimbrough-Melton, R. J., & Campbell, D. (2008). Strong Communities for Children: A community-wide approach to prevention of child abuse and neglect. Family and Community Health, 31, 100-112.
  • Kimbrough-Melton, R. J., & Melton, G. B. (2015). “Someone will notice, and someone will care”: How to build Strong Communities for Children. Child Abuse & Neglect, 41, 67-78.
  • McLeigh, J. D., Katz, C., Davidson-Arad, B., & Ben-Arieh, A. (2015). The cultural adaptation of a community-based child maltreatment prevention initiative. Family Process. Advance online publication. doi:10.1111/famp.12193
  • Murphy-Berman, V., Berman, J. J., & Melton, G. B. (2008). Transformative change: An analysis of the evolution of special events within three communities. Family and Community Health, 31, 136-149.

Relevant Published, Peer-Reviewed Research

This program is rated a "3 - Promising Research Evidence" on the Scientific Rating Scale based on the published, peer-reviewed research available. The practice must have at least one study utilizing some form of control (e.g., untreated group, placebo group, matched wait list study) establishing the practice's benefit over the placebo, or found it to be comparable to or better than an appropriate comparison practice. Please see the Scientific Rating Scale for more information.

Child Welfare Outcomes: Safety and Child/Family Well-Being

Show relevant research...

Haski-Leventhal, D., Ben-Arieh, A., & Melton, G. B. (2008). Between neighborliness and volunteerism: The participants in the Strong Communities initiative. Family and Community Health, 31, 150-161.

Type of Study: Pretest/Posttest
Number of Participants: 50

Population:

  • Age — Not specified
  • Race/Ethnicity — Not specified
  • Gender — Not specified
  • Status — Participants were individuals volunteering in the Strong Communities program.

Location/Institution: South Carolina

Summary: (To include comparison groups, outcomes, measures, notable limitations)
This purpose of this study was to conduct 2 studies in order to better understand Strong Communities for Children. In the first instance, a secondary analysis of an administrative database constructed to monitor volunteers’ activity in the Strong Communities initiative. This archival research was complemented by primary data collection in a phone survey of a sample of the volunteers. Measure utilized was a 34-item survey, which included information about the respondents’ volunteer behavior. Results indicated Strong Communities succeeded in its first 5 years in mobilizing thousands of citizens (neighbors) of diverse ethnicity, social class, gender, and age. Limitations include missing data, nonrandomization of participants, lack of comparison group, and lack of follow-up.

Length of postintervention follow-up: None.

McDonell, J. R., Ben-Arieh, A., & Melton, G. B. (2015). Strong Communities for Children: Results of a multi-year community-based initiative to protect children from harm. Child Abuse & Neglect, 41, 79-96.

Type of Study: Two-group pretest-posttest design with a comparison sample
Number of Participants: Wave 1 = 470, Wave 2 = 619

Population:

  • Age — 34-35 years on average
  • Race/Ethnicity — 67.1% White, 26.23% African American, 4.3% Hispanic or Latino, and 2.2% Other
  • Gender — 75.5% Female and 24.5% Male
  • Status — Participants were parents of young children in the Strong Communities service area and in a comparison area located in the Midlands area of South Carolina (a similar metropolitan area in a different media market).

Location/Institution: Midlands region of South Carolina

Summary: (To include comparison groups, outcomes, measures, notable limitations)
This article reports the evaluation results from Strong Communities for Children, a multiyear comprehensive community-based initiative to prevent child maltreatment and improve children’s safety. The outcome study consisted of a survey of a random sample of caregivers of children under age 10 in the Strong Communities service area and a set of comparison communities matched at the block group level on demography. Survey data were collected in two waves 4 years apart. Measures utilized include a 138-item survey, archival data on child abuse and neglect from the South Carolina Department of Social Services and ICD-9-CM coded hospital inpatient and emergency room discharge. Compared to the nonintervention sample across time, the Strong Communities samples showed significant changes in the expected direction for social support, collective efficacy, child safety in the home, observed parenting practices, parental stress, parental efficacy, self-reported parenting practices, rates of officially substantiated child maltreatment, and rates of ICD-9 coded child injuries suggesting child maltreatment. Limitations include missing data, samples are not truly independent, utilization of a partially untested measure, and lack of follow-up.

Length of postintervention follow-up: None.

McLeigh, J. D., McDonell, J. R., & Melton, G. B. (2015). Community differences in the implementation of Strong Communities for Children. Child Abuse & Neglect, 41, 97-112.

Type of Study: One group pretest=posttest study, comparing different communities within the geographic areas
Number of Participants: Wave 1=470, Wave 2=619

Population:

  • Age — 34-35 years on average
  • Race/Ethnicity — 67.1% White, 26.23% African American, 4.3% Hispanic or Latino, and 2.2% Other
  • Gender — 75.5% Female and 24.5% Male
  • Status — Participants were parents of young children in the Strong Communities service area.

Location/Institution: Midlands region of South Carolina

Summary: (To include comparison groups, outcomes, measures, notable limitations)
This purpose of this article is to use what has been learned in Strong Communities to strengthen the protective capacity of high- and low-resource communities. This study used administrative, management, and survey data collected as part of the Strong Communities program of evaluation. Measures utilized include a 138-item survey, archival data on child abuse and neglect from the South Carolina Department of Social Services and Internal Classifications of Diseases, 9th Revision, Clinical Modification (ICD-9-CM) coded hospital inpatient and emergency room discharge. Results indicate that the Strong Communities model posited that the increased activity and changes in quality of life for families and community norms would result in increased safety for children. Limitations include missing data, reliability on self-reported measures, and lack of follow-up.

Length of postintervention follow-up: None.

References

Kimbrough-Melton, R. J., & Campbell, D. (2008). Strong Communities for Children: A community-wide approach to prevention of child abuse and neglect. Family and Community Health, 31, 100-112.

Kimbrough-Melton, R. J., & Melton, G. B. (2015). “Someone will notice, and someone will care”: How to build Strong Communities for Children. Child Abuse & Neglect, 41, 67-78.

Melton, G. B. (2014). Hospitality: Transformative service to children, families, and communities. American Psychologist, 69, 761-769.

Contact Information

Name: Gary B. Melton, PhD
Agency/Affiliation: Kempe Center for the Prevention and Treatment of Child Abuse and Neglect, University of Colorado Anschutz
Website: www.ucdenver.edu/academics/colleges/medicalschool/departments pediatrics/subs/can/StrongCommforChildren/Pages/default.aspx
Email:
Phone: (864) 934-1151
Fax: (434) 812-2169

Date Research Evidence Last Reviewed by CEBC: October 2015

Date Program Content Last Reviewed by Program Staff: December 2015

Date Program Originally Loaded onto CEBC: January 2016