Helping End ‘Faith-Based’ Child Abuse

by Dan Quinn

This guest post by Janet Heimlich, founder of the Child-Friendly Faith Project (CFFP), focuses on a new project designed to address the tragic connection that sometimes exists between religion and child maltreatment. Sadly, Texas is no stranger to this problem. The cautionary tale of fundamentalist preacher Lester Roloff and his homes for troubled teens is a case in point. TFN lobbied for years for the Texas Legislature to suspend the alternative (and lenient) licensing program the state maintained for faith-based child care providers like Roloff. That program was finally allowed to expire in 2001, and the Roloff Homes moved out of the state. Janet writes here about a new project that addresses the problem of child abuse in faith communities.

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A boy is beaten because he fidgets during a sermon. A girl is made to feel shameful about her “unclean” sexuality. A teenager is denied medical care because her community only believes in faith healing. When a religious leader molests a child, no one reports it.

Religion is a powerful and positive influence in the lives of many people. But we know that religion can sometimes be used to harm children. Fortunately, the Child-Friendly Faith Project is announcing a new program designed specially for faith communities that aims to end child abuse and neglect perpetrated in the name of faith. What’s more, all faith communities can benefit from it.

The Child-Friendly Faith Communities Designation Program is a curriculum that offers instruction and tools not found in any other training program. It covers all forms of child maltreatment, not just sexual abuse. It teaches about child development and how faith teachings and practices can be both beneficial and harmful. Also, it offers workshops that guide participants through the process of developing effective child abuse prevention policies and new programs that improve children’s wellbeing.

The benefits for participating faith communities are huge. Not only can they feel assured they are meeting children’s emotional and spiritual needs, they are designated as Child-Friendly Faith Communities and promoted as role models in child protection. In this way, these communities serve as beacons to people in their local area looking for a place of worship that truly understands children’s needs. So participating in the Designation Program allows a faith community to grow its congregation.

But we need your help so we can complete development of the program and offer it for free to all faith communities. Please donate to this crowdfunding campaign which contains a 4-minute video that describes the Designation Program. To find out more how you can take part in a Child-Friendly Faith movement, please email us at designation@childfriendlyfaith.org.

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