The Social Service Field

Essay by katib_1980 November 2006

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Our social problems are far too intricate and expansive, and our public and private nonprofit system of services, including the current system of services offered by religious congregations, are too structured and tradition-based to expect a major redesign which would make the religious community the main providers of our country's social services. The nation's 300,000 churches, synagogues, and mosques would each have to put up $225,000 to make up for the proposed social service cuts (Shapiro, 1996). Raising those kinds funds would be extremely difficult considering that Father Fred Kammer, President of Catholic Charities USA, estimated that the average congregational budget is around $100,000 (Shapiro, 1996). If we took the total of the 300,000 congregations and increased their budgets by 125 percent we would in effect create a religious social service system that is twice the size it is now.

Would such a system be more effective in handling the range of problems that faces both the public system of services and the closely connected system of private nonprofits in any given community? This is highly doubtful.

On the practical side of things there has not been any lead time in making the shift from a welfare system that was purely public to one whose "job retention" function is and in many localities will continue to be in the hands of the religious community. (Fabricant 1992) This dynamic change in the basic function of the congregation from subsidiary player in the local system of services to most valuable player will have many ramifications not only for the way social services get designed and delivered at the local level, but also for the broader way our local institutions behave in shaping local policies.

Such an idea does not mean that we should not do something to overhaul our present system...