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Home > Advocacy > CWLA Testimony and Comments > CWLA Comment on Faith Based Initiative


Faith Based Initiative

CWLA comments to HHS on the Administration's Faith Based Initiative

April 10, 2002

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Mr. Bobby Polito
Administration for Children and Families
6th Floor-West
370 L'Enfant Promenade, S.W.
Washington, D.C. 20447

Dear Mr. Polito:

The Child Welfare League of America (CWLA) is pleased to have the opportunity to comment on the establishment of a Compassion Capital Fund as a part of the Administration's Faith Based Initiative. The availability of funds to support partnerships assisting small faith and community-based organizations to develop the capacity to replicate, expand, and evaluate social service programs should help to strengthen community supports for children and families across the country.

CWLA is an 82 year old organization with more than 1,200 member agencies which provide services to vulnerable children and their families. Working at the state, local and community levels these organizations are both large and small, secular and faith based. Our work with these agencies has long been focused on the development of the skills and resources needed to run effective organizations that utilize best practice knowledge and model program ideas to achieve meaningful outcomes for children and their families.

The focus on capacity building, support, and accountability for organizations participating in this initiative is certainly consistent with what we see as an appropriate approach to this work. The task is, however, a complex one that brings together a federal initiative and numerous small and often remotely located service organizations. The creation of an effective infrastructure to administer and support this work is essential. Because there are likely to be numerous small grants, oversight will happen best through a mechanism that is located closest to those programs so that there is flexibility and responsiveness to local and grantee concerns.

Assisting these new programs will often require skilled hands-on support around legal, managerial, and administrative tasks. It will also mean helping to develop business/service delivery plans that maintain the unique character of the organization while bringing the voice of consumers and community members to the table. Information and technical assistance must be responsive to these concerns and to the unique needs of individual organizations in rural, urban, tribal and suburban communities. It must be easily accessible, and very hands on. Most federal mechanisms for providing technical assistance, though often of high quality, are invisible at the community level. Partnerships with universities and other entities that are known and valued in the community may be useful and build on existing capacity building mechanisms.

CWLA, through its Research to Practice, is currently devising rigorous mechanisms for reviewing, evaluating and replicating model programs. In this context, we understand the need for evaluation of both individual programs and the initiative as a whole. In our experience, the capacity to routinely and effectively evaluate programs, even in large well-funded agencies, has been extremely limited. It is highly unlikely that the challenges of organization and program start up will permit individual grantees to engage in meaningful research. Again, partnerships that will bring to bear accessible expertise able to devise simple outcome oriented methods for measuring progress will be useful.

We are encouraged by the direction and shape of this new initiative and believe that small faith and community-based organizations can do much to improve the lives of children and families. We hope that these comments are useful and we would be glad to talk with you further. Please do not hesitate to contact us should you have any questions and again thank you for this opportunity.


Shay Bilchik

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