restricted access V. ‘‘One Soul at a Time’’: Welfare Reform and Faith-Based Organizations
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V ‘‘ONE SOUL AT A TIME’’: WELFARE REFORM AND FAITH-BASED ORGANIZATIONS When Stephen Goldsmith became the mayor of Indianapolis in , he promised to increase the role of the private sector in providing city services and thus to ‘‘reinvent government.’’ Motivated by the belief that ‘‘public resources foster local solutions best when the programs use market mechanisms,’’ Goldsmith, during his eight years in office, increased dramatically the number of private companies receiving government contracts. He cut the city payroll for nonsafety public employees by more than  percent and the overall public payroll by more than  percent.1 To deal with social problems and revitalize the city, Goldsmith called on the churches. He justified the shift to religious institutions with the assertion that he was merely asking churches to provide the social service work they had done before the expanding welfare state had squeezed them out. ‘‘We realize that the true grassroots method to reforming welfare is through the community of faith, not government.’’2 By the time Goldsmith left office in , Indianapolis had achieved national recognition for its use of religious organizations to confront crime-ridden neighborhoods and assist former welfare recipients . When George W. Bush made ‘‘compassionate conservatism’’ the central theme of his  presidential campaign—telling the nation that his administration ‘‘will look first to faith-based organizations’’   A Public Charity to solve social problems—he singled out Indianapolis as a model.3 One of the first places he spoke about his ideas was in Indianapolis where, before the Front Porch Alliance in early , Bush endorsed government funding of faith-based organizations.4 Like Goldsmith, Bush exclaimed with certainty that faith-based organizations were ‘‘effective’’ and ‘‘have clear advantages over government.’’5 As president , to win support for the Charity, Aid, Recovery, and Empowerment Act, Bush explained to religious and nonprofit leaders invited to the White House that their support for faith-based organizations was essential. ‘‘Government can write checks, but it can’t put hope in people’s hearts, or a sense of purpose in people’s lives. That is done by people of faith who have heard a call and who act on faith and are willing to share that faith.’’6 For the first time, Indianapolis had been recognized as a leader in national social welfare trends. This attention did not demonstrate how much Indianapolis had changed—the city had always privileged private over public initiatives—but how much the national goals and mood had changed. In the s, leading social welfare experts saw poverty as a structural issue and assumed that government had a responsibility to provide a social safety net through government agencies or nonprofit organizations. These assumptions eroded in the s and s as public hostility to welfare mounted. By the late s, when many Democrats and most Republicans agreed that large-scale public assistance programs ought to be abolished, they began to look to churches to solve social problems . This chapter examines faith-based programs in Indianapolis within this larger national context. The monumental  welfare reform act and the trend toward privatization of government functions help explain how and why politicians began to call on churches to play a greater, if not primary , role in the provision of social services. When Bill Clinton became president, he fulfilled his campaign promise to ‘‘end welfare as we know it.’’ However, after Congress refused to support Clinton’s proposals to reform the nation’s public assistance program, conservative Republicans proposed their own, much more severe, welfare reform initiative, which Clinton signed  ‘‘One Soul at a Time’’ into law on the eve of the  presidential election.7 This welfare bill, officially titled the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act, dismantled the federal program Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC), in operation since , and replaced it with Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF).8 Under AFDC, the federal government had provided matching funds to the states, which were then required to provide cash assistance to unemployed single parents with children under age eighteen. Although the amount each state provided to families varied greatly, the federal government provided at least some semblance of protection to those who received assistance. In contrast, under TANF, the states exercise almost complete control over whether and how funds are distributed. Each state receives block grants distributed to social service providers. In many states, public welfare agencies directly administer TANF funds and services. However, the states, if they choose, can contract with private agencies to provide those services. TANF money is...


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