OBAMA JOB WATCH: Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships (Updated May 11)

Update, May 11: David Myers will head the Center for Faith-Based and Community Initiatives at the Department of Homeland Security. For the past decade, Myers has been executive director of Teen Living Programs, which provides housing and services to Chicago-area youth. Myers holds a Master’s of Divinity degree from Goshen Biblical Seminary in Indiana, and serves on the boards of the Chicago-based Youth Network Council and Illinois Collaboration for Youth.

Myers inherits what was a relatively dormant corner of the faith-based initiative under former President George W. Bush. A search of DHS’s website produces only a 2007 privacy impact assessment for the center’s web portal. Youth Today could not find that portal through any conventional means.

Update, April 14: DuBois now has a counterpart at the Department of Education. Education Secretary Arne Duncan announced that Peter Groff will be his director for the Faith-Based and Community Initiatives Center in the Office of the Secretary.

Groff comes to D.C. from Denver, where he was the Colorado Senate President and serves as executive director for the Center for New Policy and Politics, which he founded in 1997. Groff’s wife, Regina, is pastor of the Campbell Chapel A.M.E. Church in Denver.

If the center’s website is any indication, Groff will be breathing life into a flatlined operation; the website has not been updated since March of 2007.

Update, Feb. 5: Obama has announced a Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, which will help establish the goals and parameters of the White House office for the new administration.

A few details on the faith-based operation are now known: there will be offices within agencies as there were under Bush, and the total number of staff working under Director Josh DuBois is expected to be about 50.

Mixed in among several religious leaders are five people from the youth work world who have been named to the 15-member council:

*Judith Vredenburgh, the retiring executive director of Big Brothers Big Sisters of America

*Larry Snyder, president of Catholic Charities

*Eboo Patel, founder and executive director of Interfaith Youth Core in Chicago

*Fred Davie, president of Public/Private Ventures

*Richard Stearns, president of World Vision

The new administration has changed the name of this office, started by Bush and first run by John DiIulio – it used to be the Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives – but it maintains its place within the Domestic Policy Council.

There is no need for speculation on this position. Obama has selected a young but close adviser, 26-year-old Josh DuBois, to run the office.

DuBois already has gained experience in the political and religious spheres. He worked for Obama when he was a senator and was his religious adviser on the campaign trail. DuBois, who has been an associate pastor at Calvary Praise & Worship Center in Cambridge, Mass., received a master’s from Princeton in public affairs in 2005.

“He is a man of good character, someone able to reach out to faith-based groups across the country” says the Rev. Jeffrey Brown, executive director of the Ten Point Coalition in Boston.

DuBois is the first piece in place on faith-based, and the question is, how many more will there be? The administration will have another faith-based outreach worker in the Office of the Public Liaison, and has discussed expanding the role of the White House office. But it is not yet known whether Obama intends to place a faith-based office in domestic agencies like Housing and Urban Development, Health and Human Services, and Education.

In Boston,  Brown says he would most like to see urban churches get involved in preventing youth violence. “Engaging youth at the street level ought to be an essential part of every urban church’s mission,’ Brown said. “I know Josh understands that.”


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