Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships

Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships Blog

  • Insights from the Long-Term Unemployed

    Ed. note: This is crossposted from Work in Progress, the official blog of the Department of Labor. See the original post here.

    Earlier this year, I wrote about the innovative work of community-based job clubs across the country that work specifically with mid- to senior-level baby boomer professionals who have been unemployed for six months, a year − sometimes even longer. These support groups provide networking opportunities, job search tips and fellowship to individuals, most of whom have never before been out of work for an extended period of time.

    To better understand and address the needs of these job seekers, Eric Seleznow, the new acting assistant secretary of labor for employment and training, myself and other leaders from across the Labor Department recently sat down with about 20 long-term unemployed professionals who attend similar job clubs in the Washington metro area. Our aim was to learn more about their experiences, including how they meet their financial obligations, how their job searches progress and how they upgrade their skills. We also wanted their insights into what types of services and supports would help them the most in returning to work.

    The stories were both heartbreaking and hopeful. Some of the workers said they are struggling to support adult children and aging parents. Others who have been out of work for more than two years said they are dipping into their children’s college funds and 401k savings plans to make ends meet, as their Unemployment Insurance benefits expired long ago.

    Many of the workers are still adapting to a new era of hiring dominated by the Internet, applicant tracking software and social networking sites. Some expressed hesitation at taking jobs with pay cuts of as much as 50 to 75 percent, for fear of never regaining their past earnings. They are anxious about – but open to – relocating or switching careers entirely.

  • Partnerships that Reflect Our Laws and Values

    Today the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) issued new guidance advising federal agencies on how to implement President Obama’s Executive Order 13559. That order lays out key principles for federal agencies to follow while forming partnerships with faith-based and other neighborhood organizations.  This guidance will help agencies to ensure that these partnerships respect religious freedom guarantees and work effectively for faith-based and other community providers, and the people in need they serve.

    Executive Order 13559 is based on recommendations made by the President’s first Advisory Council on Faith-based and Neighborhood PartnershipsThese recommendations were crafted by a diverse group of leaders, including those representing the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America, the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Human Rights Campaign Foundation, the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty, the Incarnate Word Foundation, the Interfaith Alliance, the Institutional Religious Freedom Alliance, and Americans United for Separation of Church and State. Despite their differences, these groups united around a call for certain reforms of the partnerships the federal government forms with religious and secular non-profits.  

    These reforms include:

    • Ensuring that decisions about federal grants are not made of the basis of an organization’s religious affiliation, or because of a lack of any religious affiliation.
    • Increasing transparency by posting online regulations, guidance documents, and policies that have implications for faith-based and other neighborhood organizations, along with a list of organizations receiving Federal financial assistance.
    • Providing clearer guidance regarding the principle that any explicitly religious activities must be separated, in time or location, from programs that receive direct federal support.  This protects beneficiaries’ rights and the ability of religious organizations to offer privately funded religious activities as well as federally funded ones.  Religious organizations also will be assured that they may continue practices like selecting board members on a religious basis, and still receive federal funding for eligible activities.

  • Receiving Advisory Council Recommendations to End Human Trafficking

    Today we gladly and gratefully received a report from the President’s Advisory Council on Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships with its recommendations for strengthening partnerships to combat human trafficking. The report is the product of months of work by a diverse and dedicated group of advisers on an issue President Obama has identified as “one of the great human rights causes of our time.” 

    The Advisory Council’s report will help support a larger campaign that is being waged by the Administration against human trafficking. Just yesterday, for example, the White House held a forum to highlight the significant progress it has made on these issues since President Obama’s speech at the Clinton Global Initiative in September 2012. The four elements of the Administration’s strategy include:

    1)    Preventing trafficking by raising awareness among vulnerable populations, leading by example, and educating the public and first responders;

    2)    Prosecuting traffickers through strengthened investigations and enforcement tools;

    3)    Protecting survivors through comprehensive social services, family reintegration, and immigration services; and

    4)    Partnering with civil society, state and local government, the private sector, and faith-based organizations to maximize resources and outcomes.   

  • Building Partnerships to Eradicate Modern-day Slavery

    Modern-day slavery is one of the greatest human rights atrocities of our time. The scale and cruelty of this crime is truly unimaginable with an estimated 21 million people held in bondage through human trafficking every year. Every 30 seconds another person becomes a victim of human trafficking.

    Members of President Obama’s Advisory Council on Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships presented him with our report of recommendations on how together we can scale our partnerships to counter modern-day slavery.

    This Council gathered in July 2012, as leaders from diverse religious and non-profit backgrounds, to examine how we could collectively address the issue of human trafficking. We began this work then as strangers with little knowledge or in-depth understanding of the nature of human trafficking. We had little idea of how it was touching our own congregants and our own communities.

    Through our study and research on this issue, we quickly became impassioned by the scope and scale of human trafficking around the world, particularly right here in the United States. We had the opportunity to meet with and learn from amazing modern-day abolitionists, and survivors of trafficking, working to combat human trafficking both within and outside of government.

  • Working Together for the Common Good

    I’m honored to be appointed as the director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships.  As many of you know, the mission of the Office is to form partnerships between the federal government and non-profit organizations, both secular and faith-based, to more effectively serve Americans in need. 

    I look forward to continuing the office’s work with our faith-based and secular partners to help expand the middle-class and build our economy through improved access to  education, health care, and skills development. Another important task will be the continued implementation of the President Obama’s Executive Order that embodies common-ground reforms to strengthen these partnerships.  This is a crucial step in ensuring that our partnerships are consistent with our Constitution and values. 

    I also look forward to continuing the office’s work with the Advisory Council on Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships as it finalizes its recommendations regarding ways to end human trafficking. 

  • DOJ Center for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships Contributes to DC Public Safety Television Segment on Reentry

    I recently had the opportunity to contribute to a segment with Christine Keels, Supervisory Program Analyst and the Faith-Based Initiative Team Leader of Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency (CSOSA). The segment, named “Faith-Based Initiatives for Offender Reentry”, appeared on DC Public Safety Television and was a combined effort of my office and CSOSA.

    As the video explains, “the faith community has long been an important force in improving public safety, offender reentry, and victim services.  Many faith-based organizations are uniquely suited to bringing together residents and local leaders to address challenges.” Among these efforts, CSOSA has joined 100 faith institutions in a mentoring program for formerly incarcerated individuals—resulting in 200 mentors being matched with 300 mentees—and approximately 500 formerly incarcerated individuals have successfully completed the program since August 2007.