Who Will Provide? The Changing Role of Religion in American Social Welfare

By Mary Jo Bane; Brent Coffin et al. | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 9
Beyond "Villages":
New Community Building
Strategies For
Disadvantage Families

Richard Weissbourd

Disadvantaged children are living not just in one type but in many types of communities. We need far more complex models of community that recognize the great diversity in the living situations of disadvantaged families.

AMERICANS ARE ROUTINELY TOLD that the disintegration of communities has placed children in serious jeopardy. The unraveling of communities is seen as a root cause of rotting schools, rising crime, widespread drug abuse and pervasive alienation and anomie. Teenagers, it is said, lack role models and mentors, and children of all ages no longer grow up under the watchful eye of caring neighborhood adults who are themselves firmly tied to one another. Men especially are scarce. Because of increasing geographic mobility and greater anonymity among neighbors, many children, it is now commonly assumed, no longer grow up laced together with other neighborhood children. Moreover, these sorts of informal networks are no longer undergirded by the formal affiliations that families once maintained through neighborhood religious, political and social institutions. Some children have been placed in serious jeopardy and many children have lost a kind of paradise--sometimes the whole country seems to be mourning this drowned innocence--with large costs to them and to our culture. It is in part this sense of loss that has spawned a movement to retrieve this type of community, a kind of community embodied for some people in the commonplace proverb, "It takes a village to raise a child."

There is a great deal to commend this notion of community. These kinds of local communities have great advantages for many children and are vital to the

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