Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships

Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships Blog

  • A Partnership for Positive Re-entry

    In addressing the pressing issues facing our families and children, the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) and the Office of Family Assistance (OFA) has taken the President’s call for flexibility and collaboration to heart.  Using $6 million of funding for responsible fatherhood programming, ACF has partnered with the Housing and Urban Development Agency (HUD) and the Department of Justice (DOJ) to conduct four pilot/demonstration projects targeting the re-entry population. 

    The goal of this collaborative effort: to change the outcomes of individuals coming out of our correctional institutions moving them toward self-sufficiency and greater family and community integration.

    The most recent data available is compelling. Nearly 730,000 individuals were released from our correctional facilities in 2009Of the 1,518,535 held in the nation’s prison system in 2007, 809,800 of them have families and children that they have left behind as they serve their sentences.  What we have learned from this data is that no one is better off from the experience. After having been “inside” for days, months, or years, they are faced with life on the “outside” with no clear path back into their homes, communities, or workplace. From the research, we know that transition is difficult because nearly 68 percent of all formerly incarcerated individuals will return to prison or jail within the first three years of release.

    Our Federal partnership is committed to changing these outcomes by leveraging or collective resources and knowledge. ACF has blended evidence-based promising practices gleaned from DOJ’s Second Chance programs and HUD’s Project Reunite in this new $6 million pilot program. HUD and DOJ have committed to work with the four grantee sites to creating environments that support and guide the transition of the formerly incarcerated back into their communities. 

    • In preparation for re-entry, and with the assistance of DOJ, these pilot programs will reach into correctional facilities prior to individuals’ release and provide them with case management, and soft- and hard-skills development and enhancement strategies. While no partner or spouse will be forced or coerced to participate in the housing or relationship development activities, this partnership will incorporate a plan on how to re-enter their families’ lives if and when safe to do. This effort will also begin to prepare them for entry into a competitive labor market. 
    • HUD will work with the programs to support the housing needs of these individuals upon their release. This will mean either that a person will be getting a place to live on their own or will work with a partner or spouse to overcome barriers, so that they may re-unite with their families who might live in public housing or have Section 8 housing assistance.

    The partnership is focused on success.  It is based on the principle that our positive actions will lead to stronger and healthier results for the community as a whole. 

    Earl Johnson is the Director of the Office of Family Assistance within the Administration for Children and Families at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

  • Catholic Charities Visits the White House

    CCUSA Briefing

    Catholic Charities participate in the plenary session at the October 14th White House gathering. October 14, 2011.

    Each week, the White House opens its doors to community leaders from across the country to participate in a day-long briefing and dialogue.  We were excited to welcome 150 leaders from the Catholic Charities USA network earlier this month as part of this Community Leaders Briefing series.  Board members and senior staff of Catholic Charities agencies from across the country joined us to discuss innovative partnerships to best serve communities and reduce poverty.

    During the morning session, senior officials shared the President’s priorities regarding economic opportunity and poverty alleviation.  Melody Barnes, Assistant to the President and Director of the Domestic Policy Council, previewed Pathways to Opportunity– a new report released that day.  Ms. Barnes welcomed Catholic Charities USA (CCUSA) as a follow-up to her address at their recent Poverty Summit in Fort Worth, Texas in September.  David Kamin, Special Assistant to the President for Economic Policy, gave an update on the economy and the economic recovery.  And Brad Cooper engaged with the leaders about Joining Forces, the First Lady and Dr. Biden’s initiative to support military families and veterans.  Rounding out a morning of other distinguished speakers, Chief of Staff Bill Daley facilitated a lively Q&A and discussion session. 

    In the afternoon, Agency staff and staff from Agency Centers for Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships met in breakout sessions with the CCUSA leaders to focus on five specific issues: jobs and economic development, human services, housing, immigration and military families and veterans.   In the Jobs session, the Department of Labor Faith-based Center shared information with participants on Job Clubsand employment and skills training grants, and the SBA Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnership Office shared information about the role faith-based and community nonprofits can play as microloan intermediaries. Felicia Escobar, White House Senior Policy Advisor on immigration, blogged about the breakout session she hosted on immigration.

    Catholic Charities Agencies have long-standing partnerships with the federal government on challenges ranging from housing to disaster response to child welfare and more.  Just as Catholic Charities heard from us about new partnership opportunities, so we learned more about the innovative work of Catholic Charities agencies on the ground, every day --for over 100 years. 

    Alexia Kelley is the Deputy Director and Senior Policy Advisor at the White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships.

  • Focus on Violence Prevention in Pennsylvania Town Hall

    Recently, I had the privilege of speaking on behalf of the Obama administration at Alumni Auditorium in Widener University.  I talked to the audience about the National Forum on Youth Violence Prevention, the Federal Reentry Council and the President’s Fatherhood & Mentoring Initiative.  I was very impressed by level of commitment and passion shown by the residents of Chester, PA who turned out to discuss ways to keep their city safe for young people.  The three hour Town Hall meeting hosted by Grace Community Resource and Empowerment Center focused on Youth Violence Prevention and how Faith and Community Based organizations can partner with Law Enforcement and the City to have a dramatic impact on reducing youth violence.

    Panelists at Chester, PA

    From (Left) Panelists: Calvin Hodnett from the Community Oriented Policing Services Office at DOJ, Dr. Fatima Hafiz, Adjunct Professor Temple University, and Ben O’Dell, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

    Those in attendance heard from a distinguished panel of Federal officials as well as local leaders including:

    • Calvin Hodnett from the Community Oriented Policing Services Office at DOJ
    • Ben O’Dell, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
    • Dr. Bayard Taylor, Senior Pastor at Calvary Baptist Church
    • Nicole Cogdell, Parent Advocate and Technical Advisor for “Brothers of Concern”
    • Chester City Councilman John Linder
    • Dr. Fatima Hafiz, Adjunct Professor Temple University.

    The audience made up of largely of Christian and Muslim faith leaders as well as representatives from a “Brothers of Concern” a group of volunteer outreach workers, also heard from Mayor Wendell Butler as well as Robert Reed Executive Assistant US Attorney for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania who fielded questions from the audience about enforcement efforts. 

    The discussion centered largely around the work of the Chester Reentry Collaborative, and what more could be done to prevent youth violence and increase opportunity for young people as well as the role of fathers and parents as part of the solution. 

    Learn more about the work that can be done in your community to help prevent youth violence.

    Learn how you can help support and the President’s Fatherhood & Mentoring Initiative.

    Learn more about how your community can strengthen its efforts around Prisoner Reentry.

    Eugene Schneeberg is the Director of the Center for Faith-based and Community Initiatives at the Department of Justice.

  • 4-H National Youth Science Day

    4-H Science day

    Students at the National 4-H Center testing wind turbine models

    When many people hear “4-H” they think of kids competing at the county fair. In fact, 4-H is one the nation's most expansive community-based efforts focusing on science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education. 4H implemented through the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Cooperative Extension System has programs in every state in the nation. More than five million young people across the nation participate in year-round 4-H STEM programming.

    STEM education was front and center on October 5 when I joined dozens of students at the National 4-H Center in Chevy Chase, Maryland for the fourth annual 4-H National Youth Service Day.  This event was one of hundreds across the country where youth explored renewable energy production through Wired for Wind - the 2011 National Science Experiment.

  • Atlanta Falcons Scout Responds to Call for Action on Fatherhood

    In response to the call by President Obama to strengthen fathers and families, the NFL Players Association shared the initiative with players, encouraging them to showcase the role of fathers and mentors in their communities.

    Ran Carthon, a pro scout with the Atlanta Falcons, responded to the call with an innovative idea: The Fatherhood Ticket Program. Because Carthon wanted to highlight positive role models for change in his community, he put out a call for stories written by children of fathers who are mentors and leaders. From the submissions, a winner was selected to receive tickets, sideline passes and parking passes to six Atlanta Falcons games.

    Check out a video of the winner and watch a recap of the winners’ visit to the game.

    Carthon’s efforts could not be contained within the stadium. He also reached out to the principal of his daughter’s school, Harmony Elementary School, to launch an All-Pro Dads program. The principal welcomed him into the school as a way to get more fathers engaged in school activities and programming. When Carthon hosted a breakfast with food from a local restaurant, 75 dads showed up to talk about being involved in their families and communities.

    Carthon’s story is just one of many around the country responding to the call from President Obama to strengthen the role of fathers in their families and communities. Share your story with us at

    Ben O’Dell serves as an Associate Director in the Center for Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships at the Department of Health and Human Services

  • Muslim Communities Serve Neighbors Across Country in a Day of Dignity

    Heidi HHS Picture

    Islamic Relief staff and volunteers gather after a day of service in Baltimore October 1, 2011.

    This past Saturday, October 1, staff from the HHS Center for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships (The Partnership Center) joined with American Muslims and community volunteers at Day of Dignity events in Baltimore, MD and Philadelphia, PA. Held simultaneously in 15 cities across the country, Day of Dignity was sponsored by Islamic Relief USA and served over 20,000 homeless Americans and people in need.

    On Saturday’s frosty early fall morning in West Baltimore, volunteers from the Masjid Ul Haqqand the Muslim Social Services Agency, led by Imam Hassan Amin and his son Karim, spread out into the community to invite people from homeless shelters, parks and the streets along historic Pennsylvania Avenue—an area where it is estimated that 38 percent of residents live below the poverty line. Over the day, more than 900 men, women and many children received a warm meal, fresh clothing, hygiene kits, blankets, books and toys.

    Many participants found sustaining support in the healthcare offerings coordinated by the HHS Partnership Center, which has taken up the President’s charge to actively engage faith communities in reducing health disparities. With the assistance of the National Alliance for States and Territorial Aids Directors (NASTAD), rapid screen testing for HIV/AIDS was offered at over 10 of the Day of Dignity events. In Baltimore, many chose to be tested for both HIV/AIDS and communicable diseases by a team manning a STAR Mobile Unit- a faith-based.