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Engaging Religious Communities to Protect Children From Abuse, Neglect, and Exploitation: Partnerships Require Analysis of Religious Virtues and Harms

NCJ Number
Child Abuse and Neglect Volume: 38 Issue: 4 Dated: April 2014 Pages: 600-611
Malia Robinson; Stephen Hanmer
Date Published
April 2014
12 pages
This article analyzes key issues, challenges, and opportunities that are involved when secular child-protection agencies partner with religious organizations in protecting children from abuse, neglect, and exploitation.
Although professed adherents of various religious faiths have been involved in the sexual, physical, and emotional abuse of children, this does not discount the tenets of those religions that promote the nurturing and protection of children, as well as the multitudes of religious devotees who are committed to and advance these tenets in their interactions with children and in the promotion of their welfare. Given this latter resource, the cooperation of child protection agencies with religious organization in serving children is a promising endeavor. This article argues that spirituality and its practical expression through religion can have a positive effect on children's development and socialization. It has the potential to reinforce protective influences and promote resilience. Fueled by their faith-based commitment to children's welfare, members and professionals of religious organizations constitute a highly motivated resource for community-based partnerships that focus on children's welfare. In Cambodia, Buddhist monks have worked closely with government agencies to support vulnerable children and families. In Angola, an alliance of the 10 most important churches in the country have been disseminating messages to all of their congregations on key child-related issues, including violence prevention. In the United States, the Inter-Church Ministries of Nebraska has worked on issues that include bullying and human sexual trafficking. This effort includes rallying support for strengthened child-protective legislation, the development of training materials for churches and other community groups, and advocating for child welfare in local media. This article contains a section with practical advice to secular child-protection and welfare organizations on issues to consider and actions to take in the development of partnerships with faith-based organizations. 15 resources for additional information on this topic