Gary B. Melton is professor of pediatrics in the University of Colorado School of Medicine, professor of community and behavioral health in the Colorado School of Public Health, and associate director for community engagement and prevention in the Kempe Center for Prevention and Treatment of Child Abuse and Neglect. The author of approximately 350 publications and a current or past member of approximately 25 editorial boards, he is co-editor of the American Journal of Orthopsychiatry and Child Abuse and Neglect. For 30 years, he directed interdisciplinary centers and institutes (usually as founding director) at, successively, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, the University of South Carolina, and Clemson University. He retains adjunct appointments at Clemson and at the University of the Free State in South Africa.
Dr. Melton has served as president of the American Orthopsychiatric Association (Ortho), the Society for Child and Family Policy and Practice (Division 37 of the American Psychological Association), the American Psychology-Law Society (Division 41 of APA), and Childwatch International, a global network of child research centers that is sponsored by the Norwegian Foreign Ministry. He has received Distinguished Contributions Awards from APA three times, a feat accomplished by only one other psychologist. He has also been honored for research and public service by two APA divisions, the American Psychological Foundation, Psi Chi (the national collegiate honorary society in psychology), Ortho, Prevent Child Abuse America, and the American Professional Society on Abuse of Children. His co-authored treatise Psychological Evaluations for the Courts was recognized by Choice (American Library Association) on its annual list of outstanding academic books.
Much of Dr. Melton’s work has been in legal architecture — design of public policy and local practice in ways that it creates structures and processes to facilitate expression of community values. For example, Dr. Melton served as vice-chair of the U.S. Advisory Board on Child Abuse and Neglect in the early 1990s. In that capacity, he led the Board's development of proposals for a new neighborhood-based strategy for child protection and a parallel re-definition and re-organization of related federal efforts. From 2002 to 2008, he led the application and evaluation of the Board’s strategy in Strong Communities for Children in the Greenville, SC, area. Strong Communities was designed to instill norms of community responsibility and to make preservation of children’s safety and security part of everyday life — specifically, to strengthen communities in ways that children and parents know that if they have reason to celebrate, worry, or grieve, someone will notice, and someone will care. At least partial replications are underway or planned in Australia, England, Israel, New Zealand, and Colorado.
In general, Dr. Melton’s approach to design of policy and practice has been to embed assistance “naturally” within primary community institutions, ideally in ways that they fulfill an ethical maxim that “people shouldn’t have to ask.” He was co-principal investigator of the early community trials of multisystemic treatment, an intensive home- and community-based approach to treatment of children and adolescents with conduct disorders, and his work led to the development of statewide school-based mental health services in South Carolina and the introduction of a legislative package for reform of child and family services in Nebraska. Strong Communities took the approach farther by its reliance on thousands of volunteers and hundreds of community organizations, such as churches and fire departments.
Dr. Melton’s passionate embrace of community —respect for human dignity for everyone, no matter how small, and promotion of norms of inclusion and humane care in the settings of everyday life — extends to the global community. A former Fulbright professor at the Norwegian Center for Child Research, Dr. Melton has traveled in approximately 50 countries and territories, in most cases for research, lecturing, and/or consultation. He has been a consultant to the U.N. Committee on the Rights of the Child. He chaired APA’s working group on the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and he served on the analogous working group of the American Bar Association. At Clemson, Dr. Melton led the development of a unique interdisciplinary graduate program in International Family and Community Studies that is now offered in both South Carolina and Albania. He is developing a similar international program under the auspices of the Colorado School of Public Health.
As described in his edited book Reforming the Law (the product of a study group for the Society for Research in Child Development), Dr. Melton has given particular attention to the diffusion of information in ways that it reaches intended consumers and that it can be used easily by them. Dr. Melton's work has been cited by U.S. courts at all levels, and he formerly led a regular congressional briefing series. For several years, he also produced and hosted an award-winning weekly segment on South Carolina public radio. He also initiated “magazine” sections in the academic journals that he co-edits, and he has organized the annual Greenville Family Symposium since its inception in 2009.
Educated as a clinical-child and community psychologist, Dr. Melton received his BA with high distinction from the University of Virginia and his MA and PhD from Boston University. At various universities, he has taught or held faculty appointments not only in psychology but also in childhood studies, counselor education, family and community studies, law, pediatrics, psychiatry, public affairs, public health, religious studies, sociology, special education, and women’s studies, and his scholarship extends into political theory and political science, especially in relation to studies of democracy and democratic socialization.