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Fruitful Collaborations Full Report: A Survey of Government Funded Faith-Based Programs in 15 States

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From early 2001 to spring 2002, Hudson Institute researchers undertook an examination of faith-based contracting for social services in 15 states. Researchers attempted to determine how many contracts each state (or local government agencies within the state) held with faith-based organizations (FBOs), including houses of worship, under the four federal social welfare programs regulated by the charitable choice guidelines.

The information gathered from this study was published in mid-2002 in the Collaborations Catalogue: A Report on Charitable Choice Implementation in 15 States. The study found 587 FBOs holding a total of 726 contracts totaling nearly $124 million dollars. From April 2002 through June 2002, under contract with Hudson, the Bliss Institute, a non-partisan research unit at the University of Akron in Akron, Ohio, conducted a survey of the FBO contractors identified in the Collaborations Catalogue to assess how their relationship with government was faring. Contractors were asked about the genesis of the relationship, benefits of the collaboration, and any problems they had encountered. The survey also covered the FBOs’ opinions about different aspects of charitable choice and their practices in complying with the charitable choice rules. In total, 389 faithbased contractors were interviewed.

The survey gets to the heart of several key, controversial issues regarding charitable choice. Will FBOs that take government funds compromise their religious character? Will FBOs adequately protect clients’ civil liberties? Can FBOs find ways to navigate the charitable choice guidelines, remaining true to their faith and faithful to the law? Will religious groups lose their prophetic voice if they receive money from the state? Will services to clients suffer as FBOs invest time managing government “red tape”?

In short, will such government-faith community collaborations actually work? Much of the debate on these queries has been based on opinion, conjecture, and anecdote rather than hard data. This report seeks to remedy this lacunae with information “straight from the horse’s mouth”—in-depth interviews with a wide variety of leaders of faith-based organizations engaged in government contracting under charitable choice.