Role of State Faith Community Liaisons in Charitable Choice Implementation. Inreach to Public Agencies


Most FCLs also worked with public agency leaders and staff at the state and/or local levels to help foster partnerships with FBCOs and, in some cases, to inform them about Charitable Choice and equal treatment principles. Often this work was related to specific issue-focused initiatives (discussed further below). The extent of emphasis on this inreach to and education of state or local agencies varied by site, however, depending on a number of factors. These included: 1) where the FCL was in its evolution; 2) the state legal/constitutional environment; 3) the FCLs political, financial, and other resources; and 4) the extent to which gaining state or local agency cooperation in partnerships and educating agencies about Charitable Choice law were seen as an explicit mission of the FCL function. As noted above, sites at an early stage in their development sometimes appeared to focus more explicitly on education about the rules and opportunities associated with Charitable Choice. The states constitutional and legal environments could limit funded state partnerships with FBOs or the types of FBOs that could legally partner with the state. Diminished financial resources could bring an end to certain activities. Finally, some FCLs missions were strongly focused on partnerships and capacity building within the FBCO sector to address social problems and Charitable Choice per se was not a major emphasis.

Table IV.3 outlines several states practices for educating state or local agencies about the requirements of Charitable Choice. As noted in Chapter III, a number of the early- adopting sites  in particular, Texas, Virginia, and Florida  placed significant weight on inreach and education of state and local agencies early in their evolution. The Alabama FBCI, somewhat earlier in its development, currently has a strong focus on inreach.

Table IV.3.
Major FCL Practices to Educate Public Agencies about Charitable Choice Regulations
State FCL Practices Other State Factors
AL FCLs role as chair of interagency GFBCI Faith Based Advisory board, participation in Governors cabinet meetings. Outside speakers addressed agencies on policy, legal issues. FCL provides expertise and facilitates agency consultation with outside experts. Executive Order 21
FL FCLs role vis-à-vis Faith-Based and Community-Based Advisory Council. Some agency participation in CCF workshops. Executive Order 04-245

Statute (2006 IV.14.31)

TX OneStar outreach to and partnerships with agencies for capacity building includes education on the rights and responsibilities of Charitable Choice and equal treatment principles. Provides expertise to agencies. Executive Order GWB 96-10

1998 state policy requiring human services contract and RFP language

2005 state agency assessment of remaining barriers to FBO participation

VA FCL met with agencies to educate them on Charitable Choice and provide guidance materials in early years. Agency held 10 regional meetings throughout the state in 2001 to educate organizations and state/local agencies. FCL also presented information at regional local DSS directors meetings and Community Action Agency association meetings, encouraged development/ education of local liaison network. Currently provides expertise as needed. Authorizing statute (Section 63.2-703)

State procurement law revisions

The FCLs, supported by assertive policies, appear to have played a role in this. The most substantial inreach efforts included:

  • In Texas, then-Governor George W. Bushs 1996 executive order directed all pertinent executive branch agencies to: (i) take all necessary steps to implement the charitable choice provisions of the federal welfare law; and (ii) take affirmative steps prescribed by the Act to protect the religious integrity and the functional autonomy of participating faith-based providers and the religious freedom of their beneficiaries (State of Texas, 1996). The governors advisory taskforce also issued a 1996 report that focused on identifying legal/regulatory barriers to FBO participation and recommendations for ways to lift the barriers. Further, in 1999, the state legislature required the state human services agency to designate regional liaisons to reach out to FBOs; soon afterwards, the Texas Workforce Commission (which at that point housed the FCLs office) established faith-based liaisons in each of the states 28 regional workforce boards to promote partnerships in a manner that respects [FBOs] unique religious character (Ebaugh, 2003).
  • The FCL in Virginia described several stages to educating state and local agencies there. Initially, she met agency leadership and staff, providing guidance materials and answering questions, noting that the year the initiative was launched, her office held 10 regional meetings throughout the state to educate organizations and public agencies about its opportunities and requirements. Now, she noted, the FCL was doing some outreach to public agency staff, but she indicated that she felt a basic understanding had been established. The FCL stressed the importance of local agencies in fostering partnerships and implementing Charitable Choice (Virginias public social service system is county administered, with 120 local agencies divided into regions), and the FBCI statute requires VDSS to encourage a statewide network of local liaisons. The FCL has worked to establish contacts and a base of knowledge within local agencies, noting that at the start, I went to every regional local directors meeting in the state and all the CAA [Community Action Agency] association meetings. She said she continues to work with agencies, both through specific initiatives and as the need for further clarification arises.
  • Another early adopter, Florida, also developed a system of faith liaisons within state agencies, although the FCLs level of interaction with these agency liaisons appears to have waxed and waned over time. In his 2004 executive order that established the Governors Faith-Based and Community Advisory Board, then-Governor Jeb Bush directed all executive agencies to cooperate with and assist the board. Since 2006, when the board was codified as the Faith-Based and Community-Based Advisory Council, it has specifically pressed for further inreach to agencies in each of its annual reports, focusing on transparency, access, and barrier reduction.
  • The Alabama GFBCI appears to be very much focused on the 2004 executive order founding the office that explicitly requires all state agencies affected by Charitable Choice to implement its provisions. Further, the FCL has worked to educate agencies and promote partnerships through the interagency faith-based advisory board established in the executive order, which she chairs.[15] In Alabama, the combination of the executive orders requirements, the authority that the order and the governor have given to the FCL, and actions the office has taken all appear to have made inreach and education a significant part of the FCLs role (see Practice Model 10).
Practice Model 10.
Authority and Access to Support FCL Inreach to Agencies
The director of the GFBCI in Alabama appears to have unusual authority and resources to pursue the education of state agencies about Charitable Choice and to encourage their implementation of it. Four related sources contribute to this: the language of the executive order establishing the faith-based and community initiative, the FCLs regular access to social service agency heads, the FCLs position within the governors office, and the governors personal commitment to the initiative. The executive order establishing the GFBCI also established the interagency Advisory Board on Faith-Based and Community Initiatives whose membership consists of the heads of eight major public agencies most likely to be covered by Charitable Choice and equal treatment principles. The FCL (the director of the GFBCI) is the chair of the interagency board and presides over its meetings. In addition, the FCL reports to the governors chief of staff and sits in on two of the four regular meetings of the governors cabinet, specifically those focused on human services and public safety, the two greatest areas of emphasis for Charitable Choice and the FBCI in Alabama. Moreover, the executive order specifically references the Charitable Choice provisions of PRWORA and mandates the interagency board to cause the provisions of this order to be implemented by all appropriate agencies of state government, and cooperate fully with the GFBCI and the board in implementing the initiative. This combination of access to the governor and to the agencies, coupled with the governors clear support for the initiative and for the FCL, appears to have allowed the FCL to work energetically for implementation of Charitable Choice and equal treatment provisions.

In other sites, the FCLs have focused intensely on bringing state and/or local agencies into partnerships  funded and unfunded  with FBCOs, but they appear to have placed somewhat less emphasis on educating state agencies about Charitable Choice itself. Several respondents suggested that this education was, at least in part, the responsibility of the federal agencies that fund many state-administered programs. In two states, Florida and New Jersey, the constitutional or legal provisions have limited the range and types of funded partnerships that are possible. Finally, in those sites where FCLs appear to lack the resources to foster funded partnerships, and instead emphasize unfunded collaborations, education about Charitable Choice appears to be less relevant and therefore receives less emphasis.

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