By Elizabeth Minutello
As Janet Heimlich was researching her 2011 book Breaking their Will: Shedding Light on Religious Child Maltreatment, it became clear that while religious, cultural, and spiritual beliefs can establish a positive moral foundation and structure, these same ideologies may be used to justify harmful childrearing practices. Having exposed such problems, Heimlich then looked at what could be done to end this form of maltreatment and founded the Child-Friendly Faith Project (CFFP). Our current Challenge the Gap beneficiary, the CFFP works to find these solutions.
As president of the Child-Friendly Faith Project, Heimlich announced that the organization has three core concepts:
1) Faith can be beneficial and harmful to children.
2) Every adult has the right to practice the faith of their choosing. However, if they bring children into that faith, those adults have the responsibility to make sure it enhances children’s well-being.
3) It is not the place of the CFFP to promote or denigrate any particular religion, place of worship, faith group, or ideology but, rather, to look at how beliefs and practices affect children.
According to the CFFP’s mission, the organization seeks to “ensure that religious, spiritual, and cultural practices, traditions, and rituals enhance child development and do not cause harm” through two educational efforts.
First, the CFFP provides information through its website and at an annual conference. Participants in these programs include individuals involved in religious and secular fields such as clergy, social workers, pediatricians, and law enforcement personnel.
Second, the organization is developing a Child-Friendly Faith Communities designation program to “support and promote faith communities that are, or strive to be, role models for nurturing children and protecting them from abuse and neglect.” Through this program, the CFFP will help places of worship engage in discussions about child maltreatment and offer a comprehensive training program.
Foundation Beyond Belief is proud to support the Child-Friendly Faith Project as it continues to educate the public on this vital issue. You can learn more about the CFFP’s mission on its website, Facebook, and YouTube. Child advocates and survivors are invited to join the CFFP’s Facebook group.