Strong Communities for Children: Results of a multi-year community-based initiative to protect children from harm

James R. McDonell*, Asher Ben-Arieh, Gary B. Melton

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

80 Scopus citations


This article reports the evaluation results from Strong Communities for Children, a multi-year 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. Data were collected on (a) perceptions of the neighborhood and neighbors (e.g., neighboring, collective efficacy), (b) perceptions of neighbors' parenting practices, (c) parental attitudes and beliefs (e.g., parental stress; parental efficacy), and (d) self-reported parenting practices. The survey data were supplemented by data on substantiated reported rates of child abuse and neglect per 1,000 children and ICD-9 coded child injuries suggesting child abuse and neglect per 1,000 children. Compared to the non-intervention 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. These promising results, obtained through multiple methods of evaluation, confirm that a community mobilization strategy can shift norms of parents' care for their children and neighbors' support for one another, so that young children are safer at home and in the community. Replications should be undertaken and evaluated in other communities under diverse auspices.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)79-96
Number of pages18
JournalChild Abuse and Neglect
StatePublished - 1 Mar 2015

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2014 Elsevier Ltd.


  • Child abuse and neglect
  • Child injuries
  • Child safety
  • Collective efficacy
  • Community interventions
  • Family support
  • Neighborhoods
  • Parental efficacy
  • Parental stress
  • Parenting
  • U.S. Advisory Board on Child Abuse and Neglect
  • Young children


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