This speech was delivered by WPC director Jay Hein at a conference co-sponsored by the National Center for Neighborhood Enterprise and the Ohio Department of Human Services - Columbus, Ohio.
Good morning. It is a real pleasure to be with you this morning to discuss such an important topic. The passage of the 1996 welfare reform law has turned the traditional welfare system on its head. While some states are embracing the opportunity to be innovative more than others, each state and county government is no longer doing business as usual.
Among the most fundamental questions being asked is "Whose responsibility is it to care for the poor?" My organization, the Hudson Institute, posed this question at a conference several months ago. We gathered some of the nation's leading authorities on church-state relations and we attempted to answer this general question by first dealing with three sub-questions.
1. Should government partner with the faith-based community (the philosophical or "Should we?" question).
2. If such a partnership is desirable, how can government partner with the faith community (the legal or "Can we?"question). And
3. If we think such a partnership is a good idea and it is protected legally, how can government and the faith community pull this off (the practical or "How do we?" question).
I would like to walk through the highlights of that conversation and close by offering a number of examples of where this new collaboration is working powerfully on behalf of the economically disadvantaged, the drug addicted and others who are hurting in our communities.
Let's begin by looking at the philosophical questions about whose responsibility it is to care for the poor. The Progressives from the early part of this century and the framers of the New Deal and Great Society claimed that the government was primarily responsible for such care. As a result, we have established a very professional social services delivery system which employs hundreds of thousands of workers and which costs trillions of taxpayer dollars.
While expensive, it should be noted that this system has helped many. More elderly have health care today versus a few generations ago, for example. But this system has also caused harm, albeit unintentionally.
Northwestern University scholar John McKnight has clearly spelled out some of these problems in his book, The Careless Society. According to McKnight, "Service systems can never be reformed so they will 'produce' care. Care is the consenting commitment of citizens to one another. Care cannot be produced, provided, managed, organized, administered, or commodified...Care is, indeed, the manifestation of community."
In response to this type of thinking, some argue that government should recognize its failed attempt at delivering services to the poor, and that we should return to the 19th century model where private charities took it upon themselves to meet the needs of the poor and underprivileged. Some in the faith community embrace this type of thinking. Take, for example, a recent book was published about Catholic relief efforts entitled "The poor belong to us."
But there are others in the faith community who see this trend as government dumping on charities. They fear that conservatives are tying to shrink government and that this is simply a way to shift responsibility to the private sector.
Like many of you, I think that the answer is in the middle. The best solution is a combined effort -- the money of government and the unmatched capacity to provide care which community-based groups' offer -- that will best allow us to meet the needs of the poor. The size of our population and the complexity of our problems are too severe for either side to do it alone. History should be our teacher in that regard.
So what does the law have to say about such a partnership between God and Caesar? Well, prior to 1996, it didn't have much good to say at all. There were clear separations between church activity and state activity -- and the safest path to take was live in separate worlds, even when providing similar services to the same people.
In the welfare reform world, there are examples of religious organizations providing services. Catholic Charities, for example, provided job training and supportive services. But these religious organizations were forced to suppress their religious identity while performing such services. Crosses were to be taken off the wall and no scripture could be used in the program material. Therefore, these religious organizations were prohibited from being religious.
That all changed in 1996 with passage of the federal welfare reform law. This law, which I'll refer to as the Personal Responsibility Act, included a provision called Charitable Choice which I assume you have spent a good deal of discussing in these NCNE forums. While the federal law's authors intended Charitable Choice to be a catalyst to government/FBO partnerships, I think they were ingenious in how they crafted the language to satisfy the fears of both government and faith community skeptics:
For religious organizations:
1) The state cannot infringe upon the religious nature of the organization. It cannot demand that it remove crosses, religious books, statues, icons or other symbols of its faith.
2) The organizations retain their independence from federal, state, and local governments. That means the state cannot tell the organizations they cannot discriminate on the basis of religion, nor can it interfere with the "definition, development, practice, and expression of its religious beliefs.
For beneficiaries of welfare-to-work services:
1) FBOs cannot refuse to serve people who do not embrace their religious beliefs.
2) If a recipient does not want to be served by a group with a religious affiliation, the state must provide an accessible secular alternative program within a reasonable period of time.
3) An individual cannot be discriminated against for refusal to take part in a religious practice.
1) While the state cannot discriminate against an organization merely because it is religious in nature, neither is it obligated to contract with such a group; this is not an affirmative action program for FBOs. All organizations must prove they are capable of rendering quality services to the beneficiaries and of meeting the terms of their contracts or agreements.
2) FBOs may not use any of the government funds for sectarian worship, instruction or proselytization, and the state has the right and responsibility to audit said funds to assure their use for intended purposes.
3) States with laws prohibiting or restricting the use of state funds in or by religious organizations, (and there are several states with such statutes), are not obligated to expend their own funds in this way. While states without such provisions may use their own funds as well, states are only mandated by this law in regards to federal monies. These particular funds are those allocated to the states by TANF in the form of block grants.
The key to all of this is choice. According to constitutional scholar Carl Esbeck, "So long as individuals may freely choose religion, merely enabling private decisions logically cannot be a government establishment of religion."
So if we agree that the best solution is a partnership -- and that government is legally protected in its partnership with the faith community -- how do we turn concept into reality? What are some of the best practices which exist?
We discussed many of these type of things at the Hudson conference and Bob has done much to uncover these type of stories across the nation. I'd like to share some my favorite stories to close my remarks, but I'd first like to share some thoughts about welfare-to-work service delivery first.
If you buy John McKnight's argument which I described earlier regarding the ineffectiveness of a completely professionalized social services delivery system, then the challenge we face is how to hand off responsibility from case managers to community partners. I think this is especially important in two particular cases. First is the "hard to serve" population. This is a group that we have not required to do much in exchange for benefits, therefore we have little understanding of their pressures or needs. Further, I suggest that government is not as well equipped to meet these needs as community groups are due to the time commitment required and the need to address matters of the heart as well as pocketbook.
Second is the area of post-employment environment. It is here that the welfare-to-work participant is attempting to succeed in a situation that is either foreign to them, or a place where they have failed before. Also, traditional welfare programs offer assistance between 9-5, and they drop off all together after 60 or 90 days. We all know that it will take more support than that for some welfare-to-work participants to make it, and this is another place where community-based providers place an invaluable role.
One practical way to back government out -- and invite community-based organizations back in to the delivery of welfare to work services -- is to establish a community-case management model. This approach looks beyond simply welfare status and addresses the whole person. Some principles of a community-based case management model include the following:
Capacity Inventory: This tool establishes the relationship between the case manager and the individual by defining the participant by their strengths rather than their weaknesses. Just think of the current model where a potential client comes to an office and -- after a brief exchange of pleasantries -- is forced to describe all the deficiencies in their life. This isn't exactly the best way to build a relationship. Conversely, if your case manager starts the relationship by helping the client count victories and take inventory of their strengths....now we got a relationship that is healthy. This inventory is not only designed to help the person succeed in their immediate job but also in their larger career pursuits. The list includes both practical, job-related skills as well as their civic involvement.
Career Advancement Group: Similar to a job club, this tool is designed to support newly employed workers in their current jobs (which are often entry level), and to help these workers seek and prepare for higher level jobs in their career path.
Circle of Support: This tool helps the participant recognize the resources which exist in their neighborhood to help them become (and remain) economically self-sufficient. This philosophy is derived from disability community literature which refers to this process as natural supports -- or a relationship map which provides help for a person at 10:00 on Friday night as well as during business hours.
The key to making this Circle of Support tool work is designating the right person to help the participant generate his or her circle of support. This is not a job for the Masters of Social Work degree government employee, but rather it has to be a respected community member who really knows the neighborhood assets and who gets to know the individual very well. As a matter of fact, this role is ideal for exactly the type of people at this conference who represent faith-based organizations.
Inventory of Associations: Related to the Circles of Support (which are done on a personal level), I would also recommend an Inventory of Associations be identified to compile a list of citizen-based groups, like churches, which located in the same neighborhoods where participants live. We have operated under an unfortunate myth that many inner city neighborhood communities lack quality community resources, but the work done by folks like John McKnight and Bob prove quite the opposite is true. Therefore, our task is easier -- all we have to do is find out who they are and determine how best to partner with them -- which is just what this conference is all about.
Attempts by government to find these partners are taking shape in virtually every state, and the partnerships which result take many forms.
In South Carolina, Governor David Beasley used his leftover campaign funds to set up a religious nonprofit organization with a singular mission: to recruit churches and synagogues to "adopt" welfare families and lift them to independence. The state's Department of Social Services strongly back the effort.
Said one South Carolina welfare official: "We've done focus groups with clients who've been successful in getting off welfare and we ask them the most important aspect of their success. They say attitude--and faith is the most important builder of attitude."
In Ottawa County, Michigan, where the county reduced its welfare rolls to zero, state officials give much of the credit to the Good Samaritan Center, a local church-based group which Governor Engler recruited to support his effort. Within six months of being approached by Engler, Good Samaritan had enlisted nearly 60 churches -- 25% of the counties total.
Loren Snippe, who oversaw the Ottawa program and spoke at Hudson's conference, said "Determining eligibility--that we do well. We aren't very good at wrapping our arms around a family. Churches bring the ability to have a long-standing relationship. You can't pay people to do that."
To counter the notion that these churches will only provide cursory attention like hosting picnics for the families, churches in Anne Arundel County, Maryland report that they log an average of 400 hours per family over a six month period. And the support is not just social. These Maryland churches provide career counseling which usually includes biblical teachings about work and family responsibilities.
Governor George W. Bush of Texas claims that government does not have a monopoly on compassion, and his administration passed legislation which opened the doors for faith-based providers to treat drug addiction, and provide child care and health care services.
The Lutheran Social Services in Texas has signed a memorandum of understanding with the state whereby the Lutheran group pledged to help already employed families staff of the dole. Volunteers make a one-year commitment as mentors, helping with transportation, budgeting and other issues.
Largely due to the success of these welfare-to-work success stories, there is a push to expand Charitable Choice type legislation in other government areas. For example, the speaker of Wisconsin's assembly recently convened a legislative study committee to analyze the role of faith-based organizations in that state's criminal justice system.
I suspect the committee will be impressed by what they learn. According to John DiIulio, a criminologist at Princeton University, the current social science research confirms that religious congregations are a critical factor in reducing violence and stabilizing inner-city neighborhoods.
To affirm DiIulio's research, let's take a brief look at two stories which represent the two sides of crime -- prevention and recovery.
First...prevention. The Ten Point Coalition in Boston was featured on a recent cover story in Newsweek for its success in reducing youth crime. The Coalition was founded by the Reverend Eugene Rivers who formed a cadre of urban churches to work with police, judges and prosecutors in 1993 to tackle the problem of youth violence. The result? There has not been one gun-related homicide among teens since that time.
The Ten Point Coalition has achieved this remarkable success by their commitment to making a difference and a lot of hard work. Over 50 churches in Boston devote staff and volunteers who do things like walk the neighborhoods at night or who perform street outreach to gang members. Pastors also serve as legal advocates, helping youth navigate the legal system.
One of the interesting side notes of the Boston story is how inner-city pastors have changed from being police watchdogs to one of the city's most important police partners. A former Boston police commissioner went so far as to say that the Department couldn't function effectively without the ministers in Boston. Said the commissioner, "Those churches and leaders like Gene Rivers were a significant reason for our success."
Now let's look at how faith organizations can assist recovery by taking a look at a remarkable prison program currently underway in Texas. Operated by Prison Fellowship ministries, the Innerchange program offers biblically-based programming inside one wing of the Jester II state prison outside Houston.
Early results are impressive...Of the 26 ex-offenders who have completed the program, all have jobs and are involved in local churches. Approximately 200 church volunteers are presently working with over 100 other inmates in the 18-month regimen. And it's one of these remaining participants who represents the greatest program success to me. Upon being offered early release for good behavior, the inmate decided to stay in prison instead so that he could complete the Innerchange curriculum. He had never completed anything in his life before, and he knew this program would ensure that he "made it" on the outside. His family supported his decision wholeheartedly.
I would like to close by discussing the role of political champions who are necessary to make these partnerships take shape and flourish. In my opinion, the most articulate and effective champion in this regard happens to be my hometown mayor, Steve Goldsmith.
Mayor Goldsmith claims that our states' and cities' innovative leaders have accomplished much in the recent past -- the welfare rolls are down; community policing and other strategies are stemming the impact of crime; and we are saving money and receiving higher services through privatization. However, Goldsmith says that was the easy part, and the problems which remain -- such as helping welfare-to-work participants keep their jobs and experience career progression -- is too big a job for government to handle alone.
To act on his belief, Mayor Goldsmith has created a Front Porch Alliance which matches city government with central city congregations to promote community renewal. Says Mayor Goldsmith, "There are far greater threats to our inner city children than religion. In many of our most troubled neighborhoods, clearly the most important asset is the church...Government can accomplish more by working with faith-based groups than it can ever achieve by circumventing them."
Goldsmith's Front Porch Alliance acts as what he calls a "civic switchboard" -- which means that he connects organizations to funding and opportunity. In just over a few years, the Alliance has developed nearly 600 partnerships while working with 150 churches and other value-shaping organizations. Definitely a big key to this success has been the workshops and technical assistance that NCNE conducted for Indy-area partners -- which is quite similar to the training you have received in Ohio.
Are there any such political champions in Ohio? I know that one of your congressional representatives -- John Kaisich -- understands this dynamic and speaks persuasively on the topic. But I hope that there are also city and community leaders who will spend their political capital to make this forge government partnerships with more community-based organizations, including faith-based groups.
Making welfare reform successful is too big a challenge for government or the faith community alone. It will take all of our best efforts and I wish you well in your attempts to make a difference for Ohio families.