President George W. Bush's executive order establishing the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives heightens expectations that local organizations will provide superior services to support the objectives of welfare reform and address poverty. However, this expectation raises concerns about the capacity of community-based organizations (CBOs) to effectively implement reform projects in nonmetropolitan areas with limited access to important support services. This paper addresses these questions using early findings from an evaluation of four locally-organized welfare reform projects in rural Texas. We find that the reform projects experienced shortcomings in management, funding, and community involvement that appear to limit overall effectiveness and the capacity of CBOs to sustain the provision of services over time.

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