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Churches, Charity, and Children: How Religious Organizations Are Reaching America's At-Risk Kids

NCJ Number
Joseph Loconte; Lia Fantuzzo
Date Published
58 pages
This study examined the effectiveness of faith-based organizations that work with Federal, State, or local governments to serve at-risk children.
As the Bush administration considers providing funds to churches and faith-based organizations that provide services to those in need, controversy swells surrounding the proposal. Although there are many arguments against funding such organizations, the most salient one is that the first amendment, which places a boundary between church and State, will be blurred. In order to address arguments for and against the funding of faith-based organizations, the authors sought to understand how faith-based organizations collaborate with government agencies, how they maintain their religious values, and how they serve at-risk children without pushing their own religious agenda. The authors conducted 2 site visits to faith-based organizations and conducted telephone interviews with 37 participants in faith-based organizations. Four main findings emerged from the data analysis: (1) faith-based organizations fill an important civic need in society; (2) faith-based approaches provide much-needed relationships for youth that are based on trust and love; (3) faith is considered to be central to their effectiveness in the community; and (4) faith-based organizations carefully avoid prostelytizing and respect the beliefs of youth and their families. The implication of this study is that funding for faith-based organizations that serve at-risk youth would be a valuable contribution to the country’s youth and communities and could be accomplished while still respecting the mandate of the first amendment. Appendices provide summary data on all 37 of the faith-based organizations examined for this study. Endnotes