Various factors combine to make communities great places to be. If asked to describe an ideal community, individuals’ answers would undoubtedly be as unique as the respondents themselves. However, safety is one attribute that would be at or near the top of most people’s lists regardless of their additional preferences.
Communities in which parents feel safe raising children are generally safe for anyone. Such towns and cities are often a byproduct of collective effort on the part of lawmakers, law enforcement and, of course, residents. There may not be a one-size-fits-all formula to building safe communities for children, but these strategies are among those that have proven successful in the past.
• Build partnerships across various sectors. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation notes that community safety and early childhood development practitioners use various approaches in their work. That underscores the importance of building partnerships that include representatives from various sectors, including community development, criminal justice, education, employment, and health care. By working together, these sectors can develop a shared understanding of the role each plays in building safe communities. Individual citizens working within these sectors can reach out to fellow professionals and begin laying a foundation that can benefit children in their communities.
• Encourage input from a diverse array of citizens. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes the importance of seeking input and leadership from a diverse group of citizens. This is a great way for all citizens to share their lived experiences and provides an avenue for individuals to identify grievances and discover common goals. Community leaders, lawmakers and law enforcement can work together to establish a process and structure for providing input. Once established, promote that process so all community members recognize they have a readily available avenue through which to share their comments and concerns.
• Keep things simple. The CDC urges individuals and organizations tasked with developing initiatives to build safer communities to keep their messages simple and straightforward. This ensures that messages can be clearly and consistently communicated to many different audiences.
• Identify potential hurdles. The CDC notes that advance planning to address potential hurdles is vital to ensuring widespread acceptance of new approaches and policies. Analysis should include consideration of why safety issues were not already a local priority and how the barriers to a safe community have not been overcome in the past. Politics, funding shortfalls and insufficient resources are potential hurdles that communities may need to clear en route to building safer communities for kids.
Communities that are safe for kids are a worthy goal that can be achieved through effective collaboration.