Religion, Social Policy, and Social Work Practice
Faith-based Services in Public Welfare
It is generally accepted that the church has been a locus of social service and social change throughout America’s history, and “that the concept of human services emerged, at least partially, from a religious base” (Ellor, Netting, & Thibault, 1999, p. 13). Furthermore, it is recognized that the social work profession in the United States was influenced by a long history of religious traditions (Ellor et al, 1999; Hugen, 2012; Rosethal, 2006). The social welfare system that emerged in the United States, formerly and presently, continues to be a mix of faith-based and secular organizations and groups with diversified perspectives and approaches (Ellor et al, 1999). The diverse perspectives and approaches to social welfare in the United States are rooted in an expansive array of worldviews and faith traditions. The U.S. is a pluralistic society characterized by a diversity of people, opinions, and religions (Monsma, 2012). The church is simply one of many places where social welfare ideations have manifested themselves, and the battles against social injustices have been fought. For many years a great variety of religiously affiliated organizations, colleges, hospitals, and social service agencies have received federal welfare funding. There is nothing profoundly new about the inclusion of faith-based organizations in the delivery of social welfare services to the disenfranchised and vulnerable populations (Karger et al, 2007). What is new is the prominence of postmodern, humanistic ideologies in social welfare that began in the 20th century (Hugen, 2012). The clashes between present-day humanistic and faith-based ideologies have spawned a lasting political debate over the correctness of federal government funding of faith-based social services. A major landmark for this political debate occurred in 1996 when the United States Congress passed a set of provisions under the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA) section 104—also known as the Charitable Choice clause (Daly, 2009; Wuthnow, 2004). Charitable Choice removed many of the restrictions on integrating religious content with faith-based delivery of social services, and positioned faith-based social service agencies as equivalent to secular social service agencies (Karger et al, 2007). The movement to incorporate faith-based social service agencies was further fueled by President George W. Bush’s Faith Based and Community Initiative (FBCI) (Kennedy & Bielefeld, 2006; Daly, 2009; and Wuthnow, 2004). The Bush administration aimed to do two things based on the core judicious principles of Charitable Choice: first, to increase the amount of federal social-welfare resources going to faith-based organizations; and second, to protect the organizational autonomy and religious identity of these groups when contracted with the government (Daly, 2007). As a result of the Bush-era FBCI, eleven faith and community-based offices were created in federal agencies, and many states began to develop programs to expand the role of faith-based social services in delivering anti-poverty assistance (Reingold, Pirog & Brady, 2007). The Bush-era faith-based initiative was strong enough that the Bush administration’s proposed budget for 2002 allocated nearly $90 million to organizations that expanded or emulated models of faith-based social service programs (Twombly, 2002). Today, according to the National Center for Charitable Statistics (NCCS), there are 956,738 public charities, 97,435 private foundations, and 370,745 other types of nonprofit organizations (NCCS, 2013). According to the NCCS Core Files, public charities reported over $1.59 trillion in total revenues, and $1.49 trillion in total expenses in 2011. Of the public charities’ revenues: 22% came from contributions, gifts and government grants; 72% came from program service revenues, which...
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Council on Social Work Education
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Ellor, J., Netting, F., Thibault, J., (1999) Religious and Spiritual Aspects of Human Service Practice. Columbia, SC.: University of South Carolina Press.
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