Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships

Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships Blog

  • 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:   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.

  • White House to Host National Adoption Month Event

    Today, The White House will be hosting an event to observe and celebrate National Adoption Month. This event will feature senior Administration officials, members of the President’s Cabinet, adoption and child welfare experts and advocates, and religious leaders.

    We will feature information provided at this event on our blog throughout the week—including expert advice on how YOU can support adoption in your community.

     Additionally, a portion of today’s event will be available for livestreaming at beginning at 11:30 AM.

     We are proud to join so many organizations and families across the country to celebrate adoption.

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

  • Strengthening Nonprofit Leadership Together

    Nonprofit breakout photo

    Nonprofit, corporate, and government leaders addressed key issues for the social sector during their working sessions at the White House Forum on Nonprofit Leadership. November 15, 2011. (by Michael Temchine)

    Last week, we were excited to host more than 250 nonprofit, corporate, and government leaders for the White House Forum on Nonprofit Leadership at the American Red Cross.  The White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships and Office of Social Innovation and Civic Participation convened a day-long dialogue on the important role of nonprofit organizations and how to develop leadership within the sector to drive the expansion of community-based solutions to our nation’s most pressing social problems and to create jobs.

    “This forum addresses a central concern within the sector,” said Melody Barnes, the President’s Domestic Policy Adviser and the Director of the Domestic Policy Council, in her opening remarks.  “Because we have historically undervalued and underinvested in nonprofit talent and leadership, these areas represent some of the greatest untapped potential for increasing the capacity of the sector. We can only succeed by ensuring that we have the right leaders in the right roles, and that those individuals are properly trained, managed, and supported.”

    President Obama is doing his part to foster nonprofit leadership.  One of the first pieces of legislation the President signed into law was the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act, which supports current and future needs of the social sector by expanding AmeriCorps, creating the Social Innovation Fund, and strengthening the public-private partnership model at the Corporation for National and Community Service.  The President has also made it easier for faith-based and secular groups to work with the federal government through our 13 Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships Centers housed across the Administration.  The work of these Centers has been compiled in a new “Partnerships for the Common Good” toolkit, a comprehensive guide highlighting opportunities for faith-based and secular nonprofits to work with the government to achieve common goals.

    Joshua Poster

    Creative word pictures captured visionary ideas last Tuesday at the White House Forum on Nonprofit Leadership. November 15, 2011.

    Jonathan Poster

    November 15, 2011.

    At the Forum, our cross-sector colleagues exchanged ways to continue strengthening nonprofits to tackle national challenges. Through five concurrent working sessions, leaders focused on advancing diversity and inclusion; developing cross-sector talent pipelines; equipping leaders to face tough challenges; scaling social innovations; and catalyzing public and private investments in leadership. 

    After discussing strategies for their organizations and their sector, Forum participants took a lesson in leadership from Ken Chenault, Chairman and CEO of American Express, a co-convener of the event.  Other Forum co-conveners included The Annie E. Casey Foundation, The Aspen Institute Program on Philanthropy and Social Innovation, Center for Creative Leadership, Commongood Careers, Independent Sector, and Public Allies. 

    Valerie Jarrett, Senior Advisor to the President, closed the day’s activities with praise and exhortation: “As leaders in the non-profit sector, you have the ability, and the responsibility, to make a difference in the lives of countless Americans. And in these challenging times, our country needs each of you.”  

    Joshua DuBois is Special Assistant to the President and Executive Director of the White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships. Jonathan Greenblatt is Special Assistant to the President and Executive Director of the White House Office of Social Innovation and Civic Participation.