It is unrealistic to presume that churches and other private charities can fill the void resulting from welfare reform (Sider,1995; Conniff, 1997); yet there are ways to structure an effective church- and community-based continuum of care that will help to do so. In this article African-American churches are viewed as major players. An explanation of the systems theory of isomorphic replication provides a key to understanding the success of this collaborative model, which addresses issues facing communities while building on their strengths and assets and reckoning with the challenges of working collaboratively. Recurring issues of race, culture, trust, and control are studied in various dimensions of the collaborative process, providing insight that can turn stumbling blocks into a map for creative systemic change.

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