Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships

Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships Blog

  • Effective Strategies for Working with Fathers Returning from Prison

    I was pleased to represent the Department of Justice’s Center for Faith-based & Neighborhood Partnerships on a webinar hosted by the National Responsible Fatherhood Clearinghouse.

    I believe strongly that having a responsible father engaged in the life of his children can play a key role in the preventing many serious social issues in our communities. Cities and towns throughout the country are becoming more familiar with the alarming statistics which indicate that father absence can lead to a wide variety of deficiencies in a child’s life. It does not always occur, however research has indicated that father absence can lead to poor academic performance, and in some instances lead to delinquent behaviors.

    It was my distinct pleasure and honor to co-present on this important topic along with:

    • Tassalie McKay of RTI International of Durham, North Carolina
    • Pastor Marvin Charles of D.A.D.S Program of Seattle, Washington

    Each of the presenters discussed the startling statistics around father absence, including the fact that roughly 24 million children live without their biological fathers in their lives (this is more than 1 in 3 children). One in twenty eight children in this nation is living in a circumstance where one of their parents are incarcerated. Tassalie discussed lessons learned from the National Evaluation of the Responsible Fatherhood, Marriage and Family Strengthening Grants for Incarcerated and Reentering Fathers and Their Partners (MFS-IP). Pastor Charles shared some very practical insights into what dads face when returning from prison and the supportive services that they provide at the D.A.D.S. program in Seattle.

  • Honoring the Victims of the Oak Creek Tragedy

    On August 5, 2012, a 40-year-old man entered a Sikh gurdwara in Oak Creek, Wisconsin shortly before Sunday services and opened fire, resulting in the deaths of six people. The investigation into this issue is still ongoing.

    That day, the President convened a call with FBI Director Bob Mueller, Chief of Staff Jack Lew, and Homeland Security Advisor John Brennan to receive an update on the tragic shooting in Oak Creek, Wisconsin. During the briefing, the President directed that the federal government assist as appropriate in the investigation into the shooting. Following that briefing, the President called Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, Oak Creek Mayor Steve Scaffidi, and trustee of the Sikh gurdwara Charanjeet Singh to express his condolences for the lives lost and his concern for those who were injured.

    Also on August 5, the President released the following statement:

    Michelle and I were deeply saddened to learn of the shooting that tragically took so many lives in Wisconsin. At this difficult time, the people of Oak Creek must know that the American people have them in our thoughts and prayers, and our hearts go out to the families and friends of those who were killed and wounded. My Administration will provide whatever support is necessary to the officials who are responding to this tragic shooting and moving forward with an investigation. As we mourn this loss which took place at a house of worship, we are reminded how much our country has been enriched by Sikhs, who are a part of our broader American family.

    On August 6, the President issued a Presidential Proclamation honoring the victims of the tragedy in Oak Creek and ordering that the flag of the United States shall be flown at half-staff until August 10, 2012. And at a bill signing event, the President responded to a question from reporters about the incident:

    If it turns out, as some early reports indicate, that it may have been motivated in some way by the ethnicity of those who were attending the temple, I think the American people immediately recoil against those kinds of attitudes, and I think it will be very important for us to reaffirm once again that, in this country, regardless of what we look like, where we come from, who we worship, we are all one people, and we look after one another and we respect one another.

  • Feed the Future: Together We Can

    USDA was honored to join forces with USAID and Islamic Relief USA to host the department’s 4th annual Iftar celebration. The event welcomed over 170 guests, including representatives from humanitarian organizations, faith-based groups and federal employees.  This year’s Iftar called attention to the importance of reducing food insecurity abroad with the theme “Feed the Future: Together We Can.” Iftar is an evening gathering held each year during Ramadan.  A time of spiritual cleansing in the Islamic faith, Ramadan is when Muslims fast, abstaining from food and water from sunrise until sunset. Iftar is the meal at which Muslims break their fast each night. For many Muslims, fasting is an act of empathy towards those around the world who go hungry not by choice, but instead by circumstance.

    USAID Administrator Dr. Rajiv Shah speaks about Feed the Future

    USAID Administrator Dr. Rajiv Shah speaks about Feed the Future.

    Darci Vetter, Deputy Under Secretary for Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services, kicked off the event and discussed ways in which USDA and USAID programs are working build food security internationally. Dr. Rajiv Shah, Administrator of USAID,  emphasized the tremendous support of President Obama in moving forward the Feed the Future initiative and how it is working—everyday—to end global hunger.

    This year, USDA international food assistance will benefit more than 9.7 million people worldwide under the Food for Progress and McGovern-Dole International Food for Education and Child Nutrition programs. The McGovern-Dole Program focuses on low-income, food-deficit countries that are committed to universal education. In Mali, more than 45,000 children and adults in 120 schools have been fed by a private voluntary organization with help from the USDA program.

  • Finding Jobs in the Mile-High City

    On a radiant summer morning in Denver this week, the magic of faith-based partnerships was on full display throughout a historic small church.  In one of the three rooms at Agape Christian Church, children from the neighborhood were enjoying a nutritious breakfast thanks to a partnership with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Summer Feeding program. In the adjoining room, community members were working together at the computer lab, refining their resumes and discussing their job searches.

    Job Club event at Agape Christian Church

    Community leaders gathered at Agape Christian Church, housed in a building marking its 125th year, to learn about job clubs and explore new partnerships, August 1, 2012. (Photo by Ashley Gerwitz)

    And in the last room at the church—the historic sanctuary built in 1887—the Department of Labor’s Center for Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnership was hosting a Job Clubs and Career Ministries Symposium with 100 community leaders from across the Front Range.

    For the past year-and-a-half, our center has been building civic partnerships with job clubs, career ministries, and job networking and support groups based at congregations, community centers, and coffee shops. Through these partnerships, we connect job clubs to the public workforce system overseen by the Department of Labor and others. We also work with community leaders interested in starting up new job clubs. Finally, we provide a venue at where job club practitioners and others can find and communicate with each other and download tools and information.

  • At First Meeting, President's Advisory Council on Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships Takes Up Issue of Human Trafficking

    President's Advisory Council on Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships

    The President's Advisory Council on Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships meets in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building on July 31, 2012. From left: The Most Rev. Dr. Katharine Jefferts Schori, Presiding Bishop, Episcopal Church; Council Chair Susan K. Stern, American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee and Jewish Federations of North America; and Joshua DuBois, Special Assistant to the President and Executive Director of the Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships. July 31, 2012. (by Millicent Cripe)

    Every year tens of millions of people around the world are victims of human trafficking.

    Human trafficking is a form of modern-day slavery where traffickers profit from the control and exploitation of other people.  It fundamentally boils down to somebody held in compelled service for someone else’s profit-- from commercial sex to forced labor.  Every year, human traffickers generate billions of dollars in profits by victimizing millions of people around the world – including right here in the United States.

    The issue of trafficking in persons and modern day slavery will be the focus of the President’s Advisory Council on Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships.  This year’s President’s Advisory Council on Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships held its first meeting Monday and Tuesday, July 30-31st at the White House.  The Advisory Council is a group of diverse religious and non-profit leaders appointed to give recommendations to government on forming effective partnerships with faith-based and community groups. 

    “Here is what trafficking looks like in the real world,” Alison Friedman, Deputy Director of the State Department’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, shared in opening remarks, “It’s a kid who was forced to dive for fish since he was five—beaten over the head with oars if he surfaces too quickly and when he makes it to the shelter and is taught to sing ‘If You’re Happy and You Know It,’ but he doesn’t know how to smile.  It’s a woman in Texas forced into prostitution by a group of men who targeted single mothers through their children’s daycare. It’s the boy I met in Northern Thailand who became a child soldier because he could not come up with a $14 bribe to pay off the police, so they sold him.”

  • Partnering for Good

    In March 2011,President Obama launched the President’s Interfaith and Community Service Campus Challenge. At its core is a simple, but powerful premise: When students from diverse religious backgrounds come together to serve their communities, they learn more about one another in the process. For example, Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, and secular college students partnering together, across religious lines, on a Habitat for Humanity house building project; or students from a single-faith campus restocking a food bank with a local house of worship of a different faith. 

    We are thrilled that over 270 schools from around the country met the Challenge by holding year-long service initiatives at their institutions. Yesterday and today, college students and representatives from schools across the country  convened at Howard University to recognize the great work that has taken place, share best practices and encourage schools to keep the good work going into the coming year.

    Amazing work has taken place on campuses across the country, stories like:

    • At the United States Air Force Academy, the Interfaith Student Council – a group of Christian, Muslim and Jewish students – worked together with a local food bank to package food for more than 32,000 needy families.
    • Bucks County Community College in Pennsylvania enlisted diverse students from all three of its campuses (Newtown, Perkasie, and Bristol) to focus on poverty, diversity, and environmental issues with programs from pond and creek clean-ups, to a Habitat for Humanity house build.
    • Despite their historic rivalry, students from diverse religious backgrounds at Georgetown University and Syracuse University teamed up to raise over $2000 and gather over 1300 pounds of food to support the local food pantry AND announced their accomplishments at halftime of the two school’s NCAA basketball game!