The White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives is sponsoring a national conference in June 2008 to provide a forum for the dissemination of the emerging literature and the wide range of research related to the FBCI. As part of this effort, two national calls for paper abstracts were issued that focused on research studies sponsored by the federal government and private or nonprofit organizations that examine federal and state faith-based and community-based initiatives. Using an objective scoring system, an expert panel of reviewers selected abstracts to be developed into full papers for presentation at the White House conference and inclusion in a research compendium. For more information about the calls for paper abstracts, the expert panel, and the paper selection process, see the Appendix.
Presenting information on FBCI efforts and accomplishments through a national conference and commissioned empirical research provides policy makers, researchers, and social service practitioners with much-needed information to inform decision making at all levels of government as the FBCI continues to evolve as an innovative governing strategy.
The studies presented in this compendium, representing the current state of legal and social science research pertaining to the FBCI, address a range of topics and programs. Because the FBCI emphasizes the building of collaborations with organizations that may have limited experience with research and data collection, the development of the FBCI evidence base has evolved from descriptive studies that illustrate the various services, organizations, and program components of the FBCI to studies that focus on participant outcomes and program effectiveness.
Included in this research compendium are four types of studies that characterize the evolution of the research in this area: (1) descriptive studies of FBCI innovations, such as intermediary models, technical assistance, capacity building, and effective public-private collaborations; (2) descriptive studies examining FBCO service components, funding, accessibility to clients, barriers, and the faith orientation of organizations and clients; (3) studies focusing on participant outcomes — in some cases using comparative research designs to examine program effectiveness; and (4) an analysis of the legal and regulatory issues that govern the FBCI and influence the social service environment on which the research presented in this compendium is focused.
FBCI Innovations in Governance
Some of the research papers in this volume present studies about the innovations in governance encouraged by the FBCI and note successful partnerships as well as some of the challenges to be addressed as the FBCI develops in future years. Byron Johnson makes the case that a comprehensive approach to addressing social problems, if brought to scale, would require new partnerships and a significant influx of volunteers, many of whom could be drawn from religious congregations. Johnson examines the case of prisoner reentry, one of the signature federal initiatives of the FBCI, and assesses what it would take to bring this effort to full scale. Because religious activities can play a positive role in the lives of prisoners while they are incarcerated, and research shows that religiosity is associated with reducing negative outcomes and promoting prosocial behavior, Johnson asserts that faith-based organizations can play an important role in helping reduce recidivism. Johnson concludes that intermediaries are necessary to bring a comprehensive prisoner reentry effort to scale because these organizations serve as the bridge between ex-prisoners and the many social service providers and various governmental agencies in the areas of employment, housing, education, and counseling; provide technical assistance and oversight; and offer training to strengthen faith-based and community-based organizational capacity.
Growing the role of intermediaries, developing small grants programs, and providing technical assistance to help build FBCO capacity are important goals of the FBCI. Mitchell Brown focuses her research on organizational capacity and technical assistance issues of FBCO domestic violence service providers who participated in the evaluation of the Rural Domestic Violence and Child Victimization Enforcement Grant Program Special Initiative: Faith-based and Community Organization Pilot Program, or Rural Pilot Program (RPP), funded by the Department of Justice. The RPP is implemented by intermediary organizations to administer competitive small, one-year, grants programs with FBCOs in rural areas for the provision of domestic violence services.
The research reported in this paper is drawn from a survey of funded and nonfunded organizations as well as qualitative interviews with staff members in intermediary and grantee organizations. Overall, the findings indicate that while all of the applicant organizations had many capacity needs, such as reporting requirements and staff training, the most pressing needs were not the ones anticipated, such as obtaining 501(c)(3) status and establishing evaluation benchmarks; rather, these organizations needed help to build their capacity to undertake program evaluation. Overall, Brown concludes that the RPP did help FBCOs build capacity and provided useful technical assistance, and that the funded organizations realized some modest positive changes in capacity compared with those that were not funded.
Encouraging partnerships between FBCOs and government agencies to deliver services to low-income families is an important component of the FBCI. Reporting preliminary findings from a Department of Health and Human Services sponsored study of promising practices and successful partnerships between agencies administering the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) program and FBCOs, Courtney Barthle, Rebecca Makar, and Jeannette Hercik present an overview of five TANF and FBCO partnerships, identify the common themes associated with their success, and discuss the implications for possible future collaborations in social services provision for low-income and at-risk families. Common themes relating to the fruitful collaboration between TANF and FBCOs include recruiting a steady volunteer base and providing training to volunteers, establishing a formal referral system for clients from the TANF agency to FBCOs, building program collaborations in increments to allow infrastructure to develop, targeting services to clients that organizations have a strength in serving, and strategically locating services in a place that resonates with the target population.
The Scope of FBCO Services and Programs
Important goals of the FBCI are to reduce barriers to the participation of FBCOs in the federal funding process and to increase their organizational capacities to deliver social services. Researchers are just beginning to understand the menu of services that FBCOs deliver, differences between the types of services provided by organizational type, and barriers to participation. Three papers examine services delivered by FBCOs in different domains: emergency assistance, mental health, employment, housing, and substance abuse recovery programs.
Scott Allard researches program service delivery, accessibility of services, and organizational stability among faith-based organizations and secular community-based organizations. Drawing on a survey of nonprofit service providers, this study compares services, organizational characteristics, funding, and access to faith-based and secular organizations in several urban and rural communities. Notably, the survey distinguishes between faith-based organizations that integrate religious elements into service delivery, faith-based organizations that segregate religious elements from services, and secular nonprofit organizations. Allard found that both types of faith-based organizations deliver more emergency assistance services and less mental health, substance abuse, or employment-related services compared with secular nonprofit organizations. Faith-based organizations that integrate faith into service delivery and secular nonprofit organizations are more accessible to poor populations than faith-based organizations that do not integrate religious elements into service provision. Allard concludes that overall faith-based organizations have fewer resources than secular community-based organizations, and speculates that fewer resources may, in part, lead to a different menu of services compared with community-based organizations.
Richard Hula, Cynthia Jackson-Elmoore, and Laura Reese consider the nature of faith-based and secular service delivery models in the housing sector. This study reports on the preliminary results of an ongoing survey exploring the role of FBCOs operating in housing markets in inner cities in Michigan. The authors found that, for the most part, faith-based organizations and secular community-based organizations engage in similar activities and report comparable barriers to growth, suggesting that faith-based organizations are at least as productive as secular community-based housing providers in terms of their activities and involvement in the housing arena. The authors also highlight some important differences depending on organizational type. One example is that faith-based organizations perceive local politics and regulations as more problematic to their participation in delivering services than community-based organizations. The study concludes that increasing the role of faith-based organizations in housing services may require state and local actors to help alleviate some of these participation barriers or at least the perception of barriers.
The role that faith plays in faith-based organizational settings and service components is not well understood (Wuthnow, 2004). In their pilot study, Fred De Jong and Claudia Horn examine the efforts of Gospel Relief Missions (GRMs), faith-based providers of substance abuse recovery support programs for the disenfranchised that are located throughout the country. To develop measurement of the components of faith that permeate the organization and services, researchers convened work groups composed of various GRM staff members and interviewed key stakeholders about the organizational mission and the faith-based substance abuse recovery services as well as any secular services. The preliminary results indicate that clients experienced some variation in the faith-based services received, had strong faith orientations, and rated their relationships with staff highly in terms of quality and trust, which were positively associated with their spiritual growth and faith convictions.
Evaluating Participant Outcomes and Program Effectiveness
Reviewing recent published quantitative studies on the effectiveness of services delivered by faith-based and community-based organizations, Robert Fischer presents the status of the evidence base on the effectiveness of FBCO programs and the implications for growing and strengthening research in this area. Because of the relative youth of the FBCO field, much of the research is descriptive in nature and lacks rigorous methodological program evaluation designs, although Fischer notes that both the number and the quality of studies that are able to access program effectiveness are increasing.
To assess the state of the research in the field, Fischer casts a broad net and undertakes a preliminary quantitative synthesis that yields 18 studies in the realm of prisoner rehabilitation, welfare assistance, and substance abuse treatment. These studies all use comparative research designs in which program participants’ outcomes in FBCO-provided services are compared with a similarly situated group that received the usual services, secular programming, or who did not receive services. The findings of these studies show that while the overall effect of FBCO programs tends to produce somewhat better outcomes, they are of modest size. Fischer asserts that more research with larger sample sizes is needed to confirm these positive findings, but also to examine the effects for defined target populations.
Using a novel research approach that includes mixed methods and a comparative research design, Fred Ssewamala and Leyla Ismayilova present a study of an asset-building and educational intervention that is implemented by a faith-based organization to serve families caring for orphans and vulnerable children in rural Uganda. The intervention provides families in randomly selected schools with Children’s Development Accounts, which are matched savings accounts that can be used for future education or business development. The intervention also includes skill-building components, including educational workshops and monthly mentoring meetings. The findings from the group randomized trial suggest that the intervention improves children’s expectations about future careers and increases their motivation to make more careful choices regarding sexual risk-taking in the treatment group compared with the comparison group. The results also suggest that poor families caring for orphans and vulnerable children in Uganda can save for the children’s educational needs and that the faith-based provider was effective in implementing the program.
Diana Brazzell and Nancy LaVigne present findings from a unique process and outcome evaluation of the Faith and Character-based Institutions Initiative (FCBI) at two Florida correctional facilities. The study findings are based on an analysis of Florida Department of Corrections longitudinal inmate data; interviews with FCBI management, staff, and volunteers; focus groups with inmates participating in the FCBI programs; and firsthand program observation. The authors used a quasi-experimental evaluation design that included a matched-comparison group. The quantitative analysis showed no evidence that the FCBI program reduced recidivism, as measured by reincarceration, for either men or women. However, FCBI staff, volunteers, and inmates endorsed the program and suggested replicating it at other facilities. The authors recommend that policy makers and corrections officials clearly define the intended outcomes of the initiative, create benchmarks for measuring success, and implement systems for tracking and analyzing outcomes data.
Legal and Regulatory Framework of the FBCI
The last paper in this volume presents an overview of the regulatory and legal framework guiding the social service environment in which this research has taken place. Ira Lupu and Robert Tuttle provide a description of the regulations that established the FBCI and the key points in the development of the relevant constitutional law. Their analysis demonstrates that the legal environment pertinent to the FBCI is complex and still developing. Against this backdrop of the changing legal environment and the inherent difficulties in translating regulations and case law into day-to-day operations, the authors note the successes and challenges of integrating the FBCI regulations into this complex legal environment. They conclude with the implications for federal and state regulations and guidance designed to facilitate the FBCI while maintaining constitutional bounds.