Need Saving?/Saving Need: Intersecting Discourses on Urban Children, Families, and Need in a U.S. Faith-Based Organization

  • Caroline E. ComprettaEmail author
Part of the Palgrave Studies on Children and Development book series (PSCD)


This chapter examines social constructions of children’s needs within a faith-based organization (FBO) in a southern U.S. city. Building upon analyses of child-centered humanitarian efforts, I argue that age was used to configure assistance and shape the construction of “vulnerability” for participating urban children. Staff members conceptualized children’s needs using representations of innocent childhoods, while intertwining these representations with racialized portrayals of low-income, African American families to mark participating children as in need of “saving,” socially, morally, and primarily from “problematic” adult family members who were viewed as obstacles, more than assets, to children’s success. This programmatic focus on individual children both funneled services away from family needs and shifted agency efforts and funds from the social, political, and economic processes that produced and maintained inequality in the urban neighborhood sites of this research. Yet, children spoke differently about their families and lives, and understood participation in the afterschool program as one place of support among many. In light of these differences, this chapter explores the relationships of power that exist in the contested spaces between the construction of children’s needs and children’s lived realities to show how U.S. charitable FBO discourses and practices affect the available resources for low-income families.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of Mississippi Medical CenterJacksonUSA

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