Faith-Based Social Services

Americans donate about $120 billion a year to religious organizations which reflects one-third of all charitable contributions.  Faith-based organizations, including churches, provide numerous social services.

In A History of Charity and the Church presented by Nicholas Placido at the North American Christians in Social Work 2015 convention, we learn that almost all modern social services can be traced back to religious organizations.  Religious organizations in American established orphanages, the Salvation Army, YMCA, YWCA, and Volunteers of America. To read the full paper visit

Two of the largest faith-based organizations currently providing social services are:

  • Lutheran Social Services in America composed of 300 Lutheran nonprofit organizations serving 6 million people annually (1 in 50 Americans)
  • Catholic Charities USA, the national office for over 160 local agencies, serving 9 million people annually

The United States Senate Caucus on Foster Youth held a briefing on September 28 that featured faith-based organizations.  Jason Weber, National Director of Foster Care Initiatives for the Christian Alliance for Orphans, presented on Family Preservation, Support, and Reunification.  Communities of faith are uniquely positioned for preservation and reunification because of

  • A existing worldview that celebrates redemption and reconciliation
  • An existing supportive community and
  • An existing set of uniquely suited programs and structures including
    • Recovery
    • Marriage
    • Parenting
    • Mentoring
    • Personal finance
    • Benevolence

Let’s take a closer look at two of the “uniquely suited programs” that faith-based organizations provide.  Safe Families for Children was founded in 2003 in Chicago to help families in crisis by providing host families for short-term care of children.  Host families provide this care at no cost.  This service also prevents children from  entering state-funded foster care.  Now located in 70 cities, the program has over 4,600 host families that have provided care for over 24,000 children.   To see how the program works in action, watch the four-minute video here:

For more information on Safe Families for Children, visit

Another program, the CarePortal, matches needs of children in the child welfare system with the resources of local churches.  A child welfare caseworker emails the need to the network of churches.  If a church can meet the need, it responds and then provides the resource.  Some of the needs that churches meet are providing beds, bus passes, groceries, assistance with rent and utilities, and school clothing.

A foster mom found herself on the side of the road with a blown car engine and two foster children missing needed appointments.  She had been saving money for a car but did not have a sufficient amount to rent a car.   She had to walk the toddler to day care in the mornings before walking to work.  When a church was informed of the need, they provided a car at no cost to the foster mom.  Over 875 churches are helping 5,000 children this year.  For more information visit

Posted by Priscilla Martens

NFPN Executive Director


In testimony before the U.S. Senate Committee on Finance earlier this year, Dr. Nancy K. Young, the Director of Children and Family Futures, paints a grim portrait of opiate use.

  • Over a seven-year period of time, heroin dependency has doubled and overdose rates have nearly tripled.
  • Over 10 million people report non-medical use of prescription painkillers.
  • About half of infants born with exposure to opioids (NAS) during the mother’s pregnancy will experience withdrawal.
  • Children placed in out-of-home care due to parental substance abuse is fast becoming the main reason for removal, with infants making up the largest share.

What can be done to help families affected by opiate use?  The federal government has funded two grant programs that include evaluation.  Regional Partnerships  have been funded since 2006 with a total of 82 grants (including extensions).  Here are the key outcomes:

  • With services, most children were able to remain safely at home.
  • 83% of children in out-of-home placement were reunified with their family.
  • Only 4% of children had substantiated mistreatment within 6 months of returning home.

One of the Regional Partnership programs uses a model of Intensive Family Preservation Services to help families of NAS infants, with the following outcomes:

  • Mean scores on family functioning as measured by the NCFAS assessment tools showed improvement in all 10 domains.
  • 91% of children have remained in their homes following services.
  • 91% of families have had no additional substantiated maltreatment.

The federal government has also funded meth grants which have been used to support 12 drug courts (about 350 drug courts nationwide serve 19,000 families annually).  Here are the outcomes from the 12 meth drug courts:

  • 90% of children were able to remain in their own home.
  • Keeping children safely at home saved over $34,000 per child in placement costs at one site.
  • 68% of children in out-of-home placement were reunified within 12 months.
  • Under 6% of children re-entered foster care.

To read the complete testimony, visit:

The federal government has just issued a publication, “A Collaborative Approach to the Treatment of Pregnant Women with Opioid Use Disorders,” that provides guidance to child welfare professionals and service providers as they work to address this population’s unique needs.  The report recommends building a collaborative team with a comprehensive framework for intervention.

To view the report, visit:

New federal legislation (H.R. 5456) would fund substance abuse prevention and treatment services to keep families together.  The Family First Prevention Services Act is supported by over 400 organizations, including NFPN, and was passed by the House of Representatives in June.  It is awaiting action in the Senate.

To view the legislation, visit:

For a summary of the legislation, visit:

Posted by Priscilla Martens, NFPN Executive Director

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