Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships

Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships Blog

  • 2011 Connecting Communities for the Common Good Tour Concludes in Chicago with 700 Faith and Community Leaders

    Chicago City Year at Connecting Communities for the Common Good

    Chicago City Year members participate in conference, helping to make it a success for everyone. December 6, 2011.

    Last week, faith and community leaders from Chicago and across the region participated in the final 2011 stop on the White House Connecting Communities for the Common Good regional tour.  The interactive conference was co-hosted by the White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnershipsand the Office of Mayor Rahm Emanuel, and numerous Agency Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnership Centers.

    Faith and community gathered at the University of Illinois at Chicago-UIC Forum and were welcomed by Joshua DuBois, Director of the White House Office, Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Congressman Danny Davis, Congressman Bobby Rush, and Deputy Governor Cristal Thomas.  

    “This notion of change through faith and community partnerships is rooted in President Obama’s DNA, and rooted in the DNA of this city,” noted Joshua DuBois as he opened the conference. “As many of you know and in fact saw firsthand, this President began his career in public life working with churches on the South Side to help families who were struggling.  So he knows full well that in order to serve the least, the last, and the lost in our country and our world, we have to partner with faith and community organizations…and that is what President Obama’s Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships is all about.”

    Mayor Emanuel noted that “so much of this city’s and country’s strength comes from the strength of its faiths. More than that, it comes from our ability to work together for the common good.” He continued, “by working together, by deepening our understanding of our common values and common destination, we can make this country a better place.”

  • Celebrate the Drum Majors for Service in Your Community

    Drum Majors vols loading church bus

    Community volunteers who deserve a nomination for the Drum Major for Service award.

     

    On the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service this January, President Obama will recognize unsung heroes around the country who have answered the call to service.  Inspired by Dr. King’s historic speech on the Drum Major Instinct, the MLK Drum Majors for Service program—facilitated by the White House and the Corporation for National and Community Service—welcomes the nomination of people in organizations and businesses who are serving their communities, often without recognition. 

    This program is very simple and an exciting way for you to honor individuals within your organization – whether a business, congregation, nonprofit or community group – who are doing great work serving others, often without recognition.  Here’s how it works: identify “Drum Majors for Service” who are making a difference in your organization. Then, visit our website and order them a Drum Major award, pin, and letter from the President (paying a nominal fee for printing and shipping).  Finally, honor them with the Drum Major for Service award on Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday (January 16th), or other days throughout the year.  Remember to tell us about your award recipients by emailing stories and pictures to MLKDay@cns.gov.  We look forward to hearing about all the amazing work going on across the country that live out each and every day Dr. King’s vision of service.

    Recently, President Obama helped to dedicate the new memorial on the National Mall honoring the life and work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  Dr. King urged all of us to live our lives in a just, moral, loving and generous fashion.  He asked us to harness human nature for good.  In this season of giving, it is Dr. King’s admonition of being “first in generosity” that I want to highlight. 

    In Los Angeles, CA, Wallace Ussery, who has a lifelong history of service to his church and the community at-large, has been first in generosity. Now in his 70s, Mr. Ussery continues to give generously of his time and talent. One of his most notable activities has been the mentoring and care of a young homeless man. Providing shelter and clothes and assisting him with finding and receiving medical care and social services, Mr. Ussery has made a tremendous impact on this young man’s life. Many other young men in the community tell stories of how Mr. Ussery has assisted them in times of need. Consistently providing support for those who are less fortunate than himself, Mr. Ussery is a constant inspiration to those around him, and he’s certainly a “Drum Major for Service.”

  • Fall Semester Begins in Campuses with President’s Interfaith & Community Service Campus Challenge

     
    UAB Students

    Students gathered to rebuild their community as a part of the President’s Interfaith and Community Service Campus Challenge (by University of Alabama at Birmingham)

    Fall semester marks the beginning of the academic year with new professors, courses, and textbooks. This year, fall semester brought a new addition to campuses around the country: The President’s Interfaith & Community Service Campus Challenge.

    This spring, over 270 public and private colleges and universities as well as community colleges and theological schools signed up to participate in the Challenge, which is sponsored by the White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships in collaboration with the Department of Education and the Corporation for National and Community Service. Participating schools committed to engage students of diverse set of religious and non-religious backgrounds in interfaith service initiatives to impact their communities and build relationships across differences.

    Students carrying sheetrock

    Four students from the University of Alabama at Birmingham are carrying sheetrock in their effort to rebuild tornado-ravaged Birmingham

    The participants of this Challenge are already stepping up to the President’s call for service in inspiring ways. In the aftermath of a devastating tornado, Alabamians have been focusing on disaster relief efforts in Birmingham. Contributing to that common cause, students from different faith traditions in the University of Alabama at Birmingham are lending their hearts and hands through their official partnership with some of the metropolitan service organizations.  Additionally, students from Soka Shining Spirits, Campus Crusade for Christ, and the Muslim Student Association with other groups in the campus are leading yearlong training seminars alongside monthly service projects. Some of these projects include organizing a Hunger Banquet, cross-city day of service, and joint collaboration with the Alabama Poverty Project.  The students are also participating in an interfaith dialogue series called “Free Food for Thought” to promote interfaith cooperation.

  • Forging Ahead with International Adoption

    On Monday, November 28, The White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships held an event to observe and celebrate National Adoption Month. This event featured senior Administration officials, Members of Congress and outside experts. You can read more about the event here. Also, you can view the President’s National Adoption Month proclamation here.

    Supporting international adoption was the theme of our first panel during Monday’s National Adoption Month event at the White House. International adoption has touched the lives of thousands of American families. In 2010 alone, the adoptions of over 9,300 children from more than 100 countries were finalized. Appropriately, this panel was rooted in the understanding that while there were big issues to discuss, at the end of the day international adoption is deeply personal and profound for many Americans, including those who served as panelists.

    Kathleen Strottman, Executive Director of the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute, was the first expert to speak. Kathleen discussed an exciting initiative called The Way Forward Project, a yearlong convening of government officials and civil society experts to study adoption in six African countries.  Supported by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the CCAI initiative produced several adoption lessons applicable to other countries as well.  Among these, child welfare systems should evaluate the full range of adoptive family options, including kinship and international adoption.  Kathleen also suggested that efforts should be made to cultivate societal responsibility for all children, gather data on the number of children in foster care, and broaden children’s legal eligibility for adoption. 

    The Obama Administration is making its own concerted effort to address children’s needs abroad. Under PL 109-95, Robert Clay, Deputy Assistant Administrator at the USAID Bureau for Global Health, coordinates the work of seven agencies—State, Labor, Agriculture, Defense, Health and Human Services, USAID, and Peace Corps—which each play a role in protecting orphans and vulnerable children around the world. During our panel, Robert spoke about the evidence-based summit on December 12-13 which will better inform U.S. Government efforts to protect children outside family care.  Among summit organizers is the State Department Office of Children’s Issues, under the leadership of Ambassador Susan Jacobs. As Special Advisor for Children’s Issues, Ambassador Jacobs discussed her efforts to promote common standards for intercountry adoption by implementing the Hague Adoption Convention.

  • Tips for Congregations and Communities on World AIDS Day Activities

    Today, President Obama marked World AIDS Day by speaking at ONE Campaign and (RED)’s Beginning of the End of AIDS event at George Washington University.  You can watch the event here:  YouTube.com/TheONECampaign.   In July 2010, the President called us to action: 
     

    Right now, we are experiencing a domestic epidemic that demands a renewed commitment, increased public attention, and leadership…To accomplish these goals we must undertake a more coordinated national response to the epidemic. The Federal Government can’t do this alone, nor should it. Success will require the commitment of governments at all levels, businesses, faith communities, philanthropy, the scientific and medical communities, educational institutions, people living with HIV, and others…

                                                                                               – President Barack Obama 

    On the occasion of World AIDS Day 2011, we invite faith-based and community organizations across the United States to consider how you might engage your members–or share with others your best practices- today and throughout the year to support those with HIV/AIDS and help achieve an AIDS-free generation. 

    Our nation’s churches, temples, mosques, synagogues and community organizations are uniquely positioned to contribute to the national effort to reverse the course of the HIV epidemic in America. Reaching our goals of ending stigma against AIDS; making sure everyone who is HIV+, knows it; getting everyone who needs it treatment; and all the other goals the President put forth in the National HIV/AIDS Strategy require everyone to work together.    These are not the kinds of goals government can achieve alone!  

    For World AIDS Day 2011, the Obama Administration is promoting the theme “Leading with Science, Uniting for Action.”  The theme reflects the Federal government's commitment to move toward the goal of an AIDS-free generation, both in the U.S. and around the world. 

    Making an AIDS-free America will depend on the American people!

    There are many options for faith communities interested in joining in the observation of World AIDS Day 2011.  We know communities who have held meetings to remind people to be tested.  Some have offered testing.  Others hold support groups for people with HIV.   The truth is, anything you do to increase awareness has the potential to keep someone HIV-free, and to connect people with HIV to early treatment.  As each community has unique needs, we invite you to be engaged in what ever way you feel is the most beneficial and respectful. 

    1. Encourage congregants to learn their HIV status so that, if infected, they can take advantage of life-saving treatments. Such efforts will help identify some of the more than 230,000 Americans living with HIV who are unaware of their infection. Early diagnosis is essential to enhancing and extending the lives of those with HIV.   It also reduces the likelihood that one will infect others. You can also help individuals find HIV testing and other services near you by using the HIV/AIDS Prevention & Service Providers Locator (shown below). Simply enter a Zip Code and a list of HIV testing sites and other HIV-related services is returned, complete with a map to help figure out how to get there. Does your organization have a website or blog? Embed this widget in your blog so that readers can always locate these services via your site.

      HIV/AIDS Prevention and Service Providers box

    2. Work to reduce stigma and discrimination against people living with HIV/AIDS.The ongoing stigma associated with HIV disease—and the behaviors that can lead to infection—continue to interfere with our efforts, as a nation, to end this illness. Fear of discrimination causes some Americans to avoid learning their HIV status, disclosing their status, or accessing needed medical care or other supportive services. Faith leaders are especially well positioned to deliver messages of understanding and non-judgmental support that can serve as constructive examples to others in the community.

    3. Plan a local event.The World AIDS Day event planning guide can help you get started. You can customize and use these World AIDS Day posters and add the World AIDS Day logo to your websites. Help your congregants learn about HIV by sharing these fact sheets. Join the World AIDS Day conversation on Twitter: use the hashtag #WAD2011 to find and share local events. Learn about additional World AIDS Day resources. There are also other Awareness days that might be appropriate for your congregation. 
     

    To see some quick facts about HIV/AIDS in the United States click here: White House Office of HIV/AIDS Policy. Here are just a few: 

    HIV/AIDS is a crisis in the United States:
    • Over one million people are currently living with HIV/AIDS in the U.S.;
    • It is estimated that every 9 ½ minutes someone in the U.S is infected with HIV/AIDS;
    • Of those infected, approximately 21 percent (one in five) are unaware of their infection;
    • America's poorest urban neighborhoods HIV prevalence was more than 4 times the national average.
    • In the United States most new HIV infections occur among African American young people, ages 13-19 accounting for 68% of new AIDS cases among teens in the U.S.

    For more ideas on how faith communities can initiate, or enhance existing, HIV/AIDS activities or programs, please read:

    World AIDS Day logo

    December 1, 2011.

     

    Alexia Kelley serves as Deputy Director of The White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships.

  • National Adoption Month at the White House

    White House National Adoption Month Event

    Kathleen Strottman, Executive Director of the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute, presents on international adoption issues alongside other panelists at a White House event to commemorate National Adoption Month. November 28, 2011.

    Yesterday, The White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships hosted an event to observe and celebrate National Adoption Month. We’ve had a lot to celebrate since National Adoption Month last year regarding adoption and child welfare. For the second time in this Administration, the President signed into law another extension of the Adoption Tax Credit. The President also signed into law legislation passed by Congress to improve and innovate foster care and child welfare services, as well as legislation to improve international adoption. The event featured senior Administration officials and congressional leaders, including: Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, Administrator Lisa Jackson, Senator Amy Klobuchar, Rep. Karen Bass, Commissioner Bryan Samuels, Amb. Susan Jacobs, and USAID Deputy Administrator Robert Clay. In attendance were adoption and child welfare experts and advocates, service providers and faith leaders. This event was an important continuation of the President’s leadership on the issues of adoption and child welfare.

    Joshua DuBois, Executive Director of the White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships, welcomed participants with the President’s ongoing support of adoption and the notion that every child deserves a family. As this event was first and foremost about celebrating the positive impact adoption has had for so many Americans, it was appropriate to begin with EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson as our opening speaker. An adoptee herself, Administrator Jackson is now making a positive and powerful difference in the lives of children and families as the senior Administration official working on environmental issues. 

    We were also proud that Secretary Kathleen Sebelius could join us, continuing her annual tradition of partnering with our office during National Adoption Month.  Secretary Sebelius discussed the Administration’s initiatives to promote adoption by extending, increasing, and making refundable the Adoption Tax Credit and by supporting the Child and Family Services Improvement and Innovation Act, which the President signed this fall.  Commissioner Bryan Samuels, who assists Secretary Sebelius as head of the Administration on Children, Youth and Families, spoke about his office’s efforts to reduce long-term foster care in favor of permanent families for children.

    Among our partners on the Hill, Senator Amy Klobuchar discussed her sponsorship of the International Adoption Simplification Act. There are families that were formed, siblings that were able to stay together, because of this legislation that President Obama was proud to sign into law in November 2010.  Representative Karen Bass also delivered remarks describing her legislative leadership on adoption and foster care issues, which includes her key involvement in the Child and Family Services Improvement and Innovation Act and her role as co-chair of the Congressional Caucus on Adoption and Congressional Caucus on Foster Care.

    Our discussion throughout the afternoon centered on three issue areas: international adoption, infant adoption, and foster care adoption.  Ambassador Susan Jacobs, Special Advisor for Children’s Issues at the State Department, and USAID Deputy Administrator Robert Clay joined other international adoption panelists focusing on public and private efforts to facilitate intercountry adoptions.  Infant adoption experts then discussed their efforts to destigmatize adoption, and ensure it is a viable option for pregnant women.  To close our afternoon, foster care panelists dispelled the myth of ‘unadoptable’ children and described initiatives to find families for teenagers and for youth with special needs.

    We thank all involved in the discussion on Monday for their work on this important issue, and we will delve into the information shared at the event in a series of blogs posts throughout the week.

    Michael Wear serves as Executive Assistant to the Executive Director of The White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships.