Role of State Faith Community Liaisons in Charitable Choice Implementation. Study Methods


A.  Site Selection Process

The broad goal of site selection was to identify sites where the FCL played an important role in the effective implementation of Charitable Choice under a range of circumstances, and where it appeared case studies could provide valuable information on effective site characteristics, strategies, and practices. Sites were chosen based on: (1) evidence of significant and/or increasing partnerships between contracting agencies and FBOs; (2) evidence of an understanding among key participants of the rights and responsibilities of FBOs that provide government-funded services under Charitable Choice; (3) evidence that key actors within the community are taking actions to encourage social service provisions by FBOs and to ensure that it is legal and appropriate; and (4) evidence that the FCL position, where it exists, is relatively secure in terms of its institutional position and resources.

We also sought to ensure that, to the extent possible, the case study sites reflected different contextual factors, so in addition we considered: geographic balance; receipt of Compassion Capital Fund (CCF) grants, which might be considered a proxy for site capacity; legislative activity in the state generally supportive of the faith-based initiative; the existence of an active local FCL where no state FCL exists; evidence of continued activity under difficult circumstances such as turnover, limited resources, a less supportive political environment, and/or high need; and/or participation in important special initiatives, in particular disaster relief.

Given the diversity of data sources (with different strengths and limitations in terms of how current, complete, and/or precise they were), as well as the need to consider additional contextual factors, the site selection process necessarily involved some degree of subjective judgment by the research team and DHHS. Moreover, the case for or against inclusion of any particular site depended at least in part on the other sites that were recommended for the study, given that we sought to balance a range of criteria and characteristics.

B.  Data Sources

Overall, we drew on four major data sources for our analysis for site selection recommendations:

  • The 2004 ASPE/MPR survey of state Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) and Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment (SAPT) agencies on their policies and practices related to Charitable Choice[19]
  • Data from interviews with state faith community liaisons (FCLs) conducted in 2003-2005 by study consultant Rebecca Sager, Ph.D., as part of her dissertation research;
  • Data gathered by Dr. Sager by means of a systematic Lexis-Nexis search of state legislation related to state faith-based initiatives from 1996 through 2007; and
  • The results of interviews, email requests, and other consultation with six experts in the area of state faith-based initiatives, as well as with Dr. Sager.

We compiled the available data items from each source into comprehensive 50-state tables organized by the type of data most relevant to each of the criteria. Through a series of team working sessions, we winnowed the broad set of data elements to those most closely linked to each of the key criteria and for which the data quality was highest. After condensing the data items to those most closely related to the criteria, we developed an initial list of possible site candidates. After consulting with our expert informants, we also distilled their recommendations into a summary table.

Drawing on the various data sources, we triangulated the evidence to identify those sites for which the case for study inclusion appears to be the strongest. We sought suggestive patterns from the evidence, taking into consideration the timeliness and quality of the various sources, and the relative balance of selection criteria. For example, while evidence of increased partnerships is important, because the survey data is several years old and there are some questions about its precision (given the possibility of shifting definitions of FBOs among the state agencies that reported on FBO contracting), several sites that had not shown evidence of increased partnerships but had strong expert recommendations and other supportive factors were included on the recommended list. Ultimately we actively considered all sites with evidence from the ASPE/MPR or Sager data, and/or expert recommendations of currently effective FCLs.

Where possible, we verified or supplemented these data with information available on state faith-based initiative websites. To gather information on possible local FCL sites, we drew on U.S. Conference of Mayors publications (Maharaj 2004, Maharaj and Bullock 2003), research from the Kennedy School of Government (Goldsmith 2003), and telephone calls to the mayors offices in Philadelphia and Miami.

C.  Case-Study Activities

For the case studies, we used several qualitative data collection methods:  (1) review of documents, websites, and other online or written materials; and (2) site visits with individual in-person interviews and small group interviews with key respondents, as well as observations of outreach, education, technical assistance, and other FCL activities, when feasible. We also conducted telephone interviews when key respondents were not available for an in-person interview, or to clarify information after site visits.

Study preparation, site visits, and wrap-up activities occurred between early March and early July 2008. They were conducted by two MPR researchers (Pamela Winston and Ann Person) and an analyst (Elizabeth Clary); four visits were conducted by a two-person team and four were conducted by one researcher.

In late February and early March the team sent an email invitation and study description to a selection of the recommended sites to request their participation. Recruitment of sites proved somewhat more difficult than anticipated. After some negotiation, two  sites declined to participate and alternatives were selected. Ultimately, eight sites agreed to participate:

  • Six states with formal FCL functions;
  • One state without a formal FCL function, but with evidence of activity focused on the faith-based and community initiative (FBCI); and
  • One city with a formal FCL.

They represented a range of geographic regions, as well as varied FCL origins, structures, priorities, and approaches.

After the sites agreed to participate, we provided the FCL with examples of the types of respondents we would like to interview (for example, both them and their key staff, public agency partners, other public officials who played an important facilitating or supporting role, advisory board chairs, and representatives from a mix of faith-based and community organizations (FBCOs) with whom they have partnered, both recently and over the long term). We stressed, however, that they should suggest respondents who would be best positioned to help us understand their work. In general, the FCLs assisted in scheduling the interviews, though in two cases, they were unable to and the study team scheduled the discussions.

On site, we conducted individual and small group interviews, speaking to a total of 72 people across the sites. In some cases, the respondents had unfunded partnerships or other types of relationships with the FCL, and in others they were grantees. We emphasized the need to interview respondents without the FCL present; usually, but not always, this was accommodated. Where it was not, we conducted phone interviews with selected key respondents after the visit. The interviews ranged in length from 3 hours or more (in the case of several of the FCLs) to about 45 minutes for some less essential partners. In some sites, where the timing of our visit allowed, we also observed meetings, workshops, and other activities typical of the FCLs work. Most visits lasted two or three days  this generally varied according to the size and complexity of the office  and most entailed visits to multiple cities to interview both the FCL and partners who were located throughout the state.

The broad emphasis of our interviews and other data collection was the FCLs role in effective implementation of Charitable Choice and other equal treatment provisions. We developed a detailed discussion guide, and the main topics for site visits and document reviews were:

  • Formal and informal roles of the FCL;
  • Location of the FCL within the state government and implications of this;
  • Policy, legal, political, and economic/budgetary environments within which the FCL operates;
  • Structure of the FCL function and resources available;
  • Types of regular activities the FCL conducts to promote collaboration with FBOs, including outreach, providing information about funding opportunities, technical assistance (such as training in grant writing), other capacity-building activities, and finding ways to leverage funds;
  • Types of regular inreach activities the FCL conducts to promote an accurate understanding of the opportunities and responsibilities within Charitable Choice provisions, such as holding conferences, developing educational materials, and communicating with state, local, and private agencies, as well as federal agencies and FBOs;
  • The sites social service environment, such as the population base, community history, pressing social problems, and access to public and private services, including those offered by FBOs;
  • Any additional concrete measures of the FCLs effectiveness that might be available at the site; and
  • Perceptions of the FCLs effectiveness and most helpful activities among key partners and stakeholders, such as other government officials and leadership and staff at FBOs and intermediary organizations.

Table A.1 describes the teams site visit activities.

Table A.1.
Summary of Site Visit Activities
Site Date of visit (2008) Researcher(s) Main Respondents Other Activities
AL:  Montgomery and Mobile May 5-7 Winston FCL and staff, director of Department of Homeland Security; governors chief of staff and legal advisor; CBO grantee; FBO partner; FBCI advisory council chair. Visited partner homeless services program, AmeriCorps volunteer services grantee
DC June 13 and 26 Person FCL; staff at Department of Health; FBO partners.  
FL: Tallahassee and Orlando May 6-7 Person/Clary FCL; foundation president; former agency FCL; staff at Agency for Workforce Innovation; intermediary partner; FBO grantees and partners. Observed Orlando Roundtable and small group TA session
IL: Springfield, Peoria, and Chicago June 3-4 Person/Clary FCL; agency staff at Department of Human Services; FBO grantees and partners. Visited two partner sites engaged in broad community development
NJ: Trenton, Bayonne, and Garfield April 10-11 Person/ Winston FCL and staff; NJ Department of Human Services transitional services staff; CBO grantee; FBO grantee; intermediary partner; OFBI advisory committee chair. Visited CBO grantee employment services program
NM: Albuquerque June 10-12 Person FCL; FBO and CBO partners.  
TX: Austin April 16-18 Winston/ Clary FCL and foundation staff; governors office liaison; foundation president; Department of Family and Protective Services FCL;  FBO partner; FBO grantee; CBO grantee; 2 intermediary partners. Visited CBO grantee youth services program
VA: Richmond and Culpeper June 9-10 Winston FCL; FBO partners; church partners; director of county Department of Social Services. Observed two local prisoner reentry council meetings, visited FBO partner multi-services program

 After each visit we ensured that our interview notes were complete and drafted internal site visit summaries that followed the format of the study discussion guides. We also reviewed documents such as statutes and executive orders, reports, and other materials provided by the FCL and other respondents or located through preparatory research. After the first site visit and each subsequent pair of visits, the MPR study team debriefed to discussed emerging themes and any issues that needed to be addressed. We also held periodic discussions with ASPE.

For analysis of the data, the study team drew on the site selection data, the case study summaries, site materials and documents, and cross-site memo. 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, and attempted to integrate as systematically as possible the evidence from our various sources, assessing what they revealed about the effectiveness of key policies and practices within and across sites, and themes or lessons learned from the cases. Through this process of analytical sifting and sorting we attempted to develop a systematic but nuanced understanding of the FCLs positions and practices and the most important issues related to them. In assessing those practices and activities that appeared to be most effective or promising, we attempted to triangulate the evidence, drawing on multiple supporting sources. We considered essential contextual factors, such as the state OFBCIs 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.

The results of the final round of data analysis are being presented in two products to disseminate the studys findings: first, this final report, and second, a brief targeted to state policymakers and practitioners.

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