youth development research and policies. The Harvard Family Research Project, for instance, developed the idea of learning communities as one way to institutionalize continual and coordinated self-examination. The Forum for Youth Investment (formerly the International Youth Foundation) is also involved in such efforts to help community programs flourish.
Faith-based organizations have long been important providers of services to young people and the broader community, creating links between youth, families, and the community. Research on faith-based institutions and the role of religious organizations, such as churches and synagogues, suggests that they can contribute to community-wide efforts to promote youth development in several key areas, helping to reduce risky behaviors, building a value base from which young people make decisions, and involving a variety of people across the life span. While schools and social service agencies reach only targeted populations, congregations often touch a cross-section of the population. Nearly 40 percent of Americans say they attend some form of worship regularly and 65 percent are members of a church or synagogue (Saito and Blyth, 1992).
These institutions may attract increased attention with President George W.Bush’s focus on faith-based initiatives. President Bush has proposed to allow religious groups to compete on an equal basis with secular organizations for federal grants and to create a nationwide faith-based initiative. This has taken the form of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, which plans on using government subsidies to prompt religious and community organizations’ role in combating such problems as juvenile delinquency and drug abuse.
Catholic Charities is a good example of a faith-based national organization that stimulates local affiliates to undertake new activities, offers training and technical assistance in their ongoing work, assists with fund raising, and coordinates public policy advocacy. Two current examples of initiatives emanating from the national office of Catholic Charities are illustrative. Catholic Charities has been encouraging affiliates to get involved in restorative justice for young people who have gotten into trouble with the law. For example, Project Payback in Newark, New Jersey, is a program that allows young people to avoid incarceration by working in the community on service projects that help victims of crime.