Performance Improvement 2010. Understand the Role of Communities of Faith


A study examined the literature regarding the influence of religion and spirituality in the lives of the low-income population in the areas of marriage, parenting, youth, mental and physical health, substance use, and crime and violence.  Low-income youths and adults have higher levels of religious beliefs and adherence to doctrine than higher-income individuals but lower participation in religious institutions.  Higher levels of religiosity may provide a pathway out of multi-problem behavioral patterns that can accompany limited resources by promoting better coping mechanisms for economic instability and stress as well as better ways to self-regulate behavior and adhere to positive cultural norms and values.  Although studies have had mixed findings about the association between religiosity and outcomes, there are few studies that find a negative association between religiosity and outcomes.  Religious denomination/affiliation does not appear to influence various marital and relationship outcomes in the low-income population, whereas church attendance is positively associated with these outcomes.  In the marriage and parenting literature, religiosity is found to directly and indirectly affect outcomes; indirectly through increased partner supportiveness and reduced conflict over sexual fidelity for marital outcomes, and through the bolstering of parental cognitive and socio-emotional resources for parenting outcomes.  The greatest number of religiosity studies involving the low-income population focus on health outcomes.  A positive association exists between organizational religiosity, individual religiosity, and mental health outcomes for various subgroups of economically vulnerable patients and community members. (9212)

A study examined the role of state faith community liaisons in implementing charitable choice provisions.  (Charitable Choice is a legislative provision designed to remove unnecessary barriers to the receipt of certain federal funds by faith-based organizations.  States may not discriminate against religious organizations when choosing providers under certain federal grant programs.) The study found that states have approached this effort in different ways and degrees.  Study respondents generally saw the effort as entailing three major elements: (1) development of partnerships with and within the faith-based and community organization sector, especially with faith-based organizations; (2) development of the capacity of faith-based organizations; and (3) education about Charitable Choice regulations and equal treatment principles.  In sites that have had the faith community liaisons the longest, the focus has evolved from targeting faith-based organizations and reducing barriers to partnering with them, to an effort with a broader emphasis, sometimes embracing the nonprofit sector as a whole.  (9213)

Another study assessed how faith-based and community organizations contributed to human services relief efforts after the 2005 hurricanes Katrina and Rita.  A survey of around 200 of these organizations found a wide range of organizations provided assistance.  In-depth case studies of eight organizations indicated most were new to disaster work or newly created to respond to the storms.  Traditional models for disaster response were severely challenged.  Some organizations studied did not have sufficiently trained staff, resources, or protocols to provide more than limited and short-term assistance.  Survey respondents reported serving from fewer than 50 to more than 1,000 people with a median number of 112 although these numbers may also represent multiple services to the same individual.  Over half of the organizations surveyed used paid staff to deliver the services, but the number of paid employees was small.  Secular nonprofits were more likely than faith-based organizations to use paid staff.  About a third of survey respondents did not know how much was spent, did not keep records, or refused to indicate an amount.  A majority of survey respondents worked with one or more groups, frequently in collaborations that were new.  Lessons learned suggest that those preparing emergency preparedness plans need to better understand the availability and capabilities of faith-based and community organizations.  Soliciting and managing cash and material donations as well as volunteers is essential to disaster response.  (9223

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