Role of State Faith Community Liaisons in Charitable Choice Implementation. Methodology

12/18/2008

By the fall of 2008, 36 states had formally established liaisons with their FBCO communities to encourage partnerships for the provision of health and human services (White House OFBCI, 2008). The FCL study aimed to explore the role of these liaisons in the implementation of Charitable Choice and related provisions within the context described above. This resulting report emphasizes both implementation of Charitable Choice regulations and equal treatment principles and FCLs efforts to expand partnerships and help FBOs and CBOs develop the capacity to participate in these partnerships.

The methodological approach of the FCL study had two main components. These were:  (1) compilation and analysis of state-specific data from the prior ASPE/MPR survey and other sources to examine a wide array of FCL characteristics and potential measures of effectiveness, which then informed the selection of eight case-study sites with seemingly effective or otherwise noteworthy FCLs; (2) collection and analysis of case-study data gathered through site visits, interviews, and document review in each of the selected sites to learn more about policies and practices for increasing understanding of Charitable Choice and improving implementation. Appendix A provides additional detail on the approach.

The Lay of the Land and Case Study Selection.  The study team drew on a number of data sources: the survey results from the ASPE/MPR survey conducted in 2004; information provided by study consultant Rebecca Sager on FCL characteristics for 30 of the 33 states that had FCLs at the time of her research (Sager, 2006); a search of the Lexis-Nexis legal database for state legislative activity related to faith-based and community initiatives from 1996 through 2007; and input from experts on the FBCI at the federal, state, and local levels. Compiling these data provided us with a snapshot of the status of the FCL function broadly, and assisted us in identifying case studies  states (or possibly cities) where the FCL has played an important role in the effective implementation of Charitable Choice under a range of circumstances, and where it appears case studies could provide valuable information on site characteristics, strategies, and practices to support effectiveness.

The Eight Case Studies. After selecting these case studies (and gaining the FCLs agreement to participate), the study team conducted site visits and document review to gather information about their offices or functions, the context within which they operated, their practices and activities, and perceptions and evidence of their effectiveness. The case studies were conducted between April and June 2008, lasted two to three days each, and entailed both interviews and, where possible, observations of FCL activities, using discussion and observation guides that mirrored the research questions. On site, we conducted individual and small group interviews, speaking to a total of 74 people across the sites. Respondents included the FCLs, their key staff, FBO and CBO partners (grantees and others), advisory board members, public agency partners, and other government officials or relevant stakeholders (Table A.1 in Appendix A provides detail about each site visit).

Our study teams analysis drew on the site selection data, case-study summaries, and site materials and documents. We also considered timelines of the key stages of site development, site organizational charts, and other representations of site activities and practices. We laid out the data for each site, integrating as systematically as possible the evidence from our various sources, assessing what it revealed about the effectiveness of key policies and practices and discerning any themes or lessons learned from the cases. Through this process of analytical sifting and sorting we worked toward a systematic yet nuanced understanding of the FCLs positions and practices and the most important issues related to them. To assess which practices and activities were most effective or promising, we triangulated the evidence, drawing on multiple supporting sources. We considered essential contextual factors, such as the state FBCIs stage of development; the legal, policy, and funding environment; the social service context; and the availability and capacity of potential partner FBCOs, intermediaries, and others.

Study Limitations. The study has limitations. First among them is that it is based on studies of only eight FCLs. While we distilled themes that emerged from the case study sites as carefully as possible, those themes might ultimately be more specific to the sites we visited than generalizable to the FCL function across the states. We also lacked systematic data on the number or quality of partnerships. We recorded peoples perceptions of effectiveness and the way outcomes changed over time, but we had only limited hard evidence of the number of contracts or partnerships of different types or the changes in stakeholder understanding.

Further, in each case the FCLs were working within shifting political, budgetary, and social contexts, and it was not possible to know what would have occurred in the absence of the FCLs work. We were also limited in our ability to gain a thorough historical understanding in a few of the early-adopting sites. While the FBCIs there had been in existence for many years, the current FCL and staff were relatively new and therefore limited in their knowledge about previous practices or contextual factors. The structure of the offices had also changed markedly, in some cases making assessment over time difficult. Therefore, while practices undertaken in the past are mentioned in this report they are not generally explored in detail.

Nonetheless, in this report and its appendices we provide a detailed account of the circumstances and activities of individual FCLs in a selection of sites chosen for their high level of activity and apparent effectiveness. The study offers a cross-cutting assessment of patterns observed across the sites, including successes, challenges, and lessons learned about the implementation of Charitable Choice in the states. Our intention in presenting these findings is to provide information that can be useful both to federal policymakers, and to state and local policymakers and practitioners as they work to implement Charitable Choice and to advance the federal and state initiatives.

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