A Limited Partnership: The Politics of Religion, Welfare, and Social Service

A Limited Partnership: The Politics of Religion, Welfare, and Social Service

A Limited Partnership: The Politics of Religion, Welfare, and Social Service

A Limited Partnership: The Politics of Religion, Welfare, and Social Service

Synopsis

Ranging from the Reagan years to the present -- a crucial period in both social welfare policy development and the history of religious involvement in social services -- A Limited Partnership explores an important undercurrent in the new welfare policy. Robert Wineburg argues that the present policy, with its emphasis on services increasingly being delivered by the faith community, simply cannot work the way its architects envisioned. He calls for rationality in finding solutions to the complex problems of poverty and the division of responsibilities for helping those in need at the local level. Using almost twenty years of data from Greensboro, North Carolina, as a long-term case study, the author examines how the budget cuts of the Reagan era, the Bush era, and the Clinton era altered the relationships among religious congregations and other agencies. The book presents a vivid picture of the chaos caused by these policy changes at the level of service delivery and clearly demonstrates that the religious community cannot be the sole provider of social services but instead must remain an important but limited partner with a special role in delivering social services. Wineburg's study provides a fresh perspective on a policy debate that genuinely lacks understanding of how politics, religion, and a complicated web of social services operate at the community level.

Excerpt

In this introduction I start to examine the ideas that gave rise to the current welfare policy in a way that I follow throughout the book. It is a method of analysis that varies from many analyses of social policy because I proceed with one eye glued on the policy debate itself, and the other focused on how the actual implementation of policy affects the delivery of local social services. This way of looking at things adds some new thinking to a central, but untested, idea buoying the 1996 welfare reform legislation. It is the idea that religious congregations and faith-based nonprofit organizations are much better at delivering social services locally than the welfare bureaucracy.

The 1996 legislation not only ended welfare as we knew it, but it also sent the design and delivery of welfare services to states and localities with an assumption that the religious community would be a key player in local welfare efforts. Attached to the legislation was an important stimulus designed to create more religious involvement in local social service delivery. the provision, called Charitable Choice, allows public money to go to religious congregations and faith-based organizations to provide public social services. the details of Charitable Choice are less important at this point in the discussion than its spirit, which is that the religious community . . .

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