Putting the Plural in Casey

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It's image remake time for the Seattle-based Casey Family Program (CFP). Started in 1966 by hometown-boy-made-good Jim Casey, founder of the United Parcel Service, the agency received yet another bountiful gift when UPS went public in 1999, boosting CFP's assets to a staggering $3 billion. Not bad for a child welfare agency that in 1998 was annually serving just 3,392 kids (average age: 15) in foster care in 14 states west of the Mississippi.

With that kind of fly-around money in the bank, CFP Chief Executive Officer (since 1989) Ruth Massinga and the seven trustees ordered up a new strategic plan worthy of its investment portfolio, and a mission "to support families, youth and children in reaching their full potential." But first the group needed "a new name, logo and tagline to match our bold new directions," CFP says. Bold move #1: add an "s" to the agency's name to become Casey Family Programs. Move #2: a Nike-esque swoosh in the logo. Move #3: add the tagline, "Foundations for the Future."

Despite the corporate cosmetics, the five-year strategic plan does meet and even exceed the children and youth field's ever-so-modest standards for actual boldness. Says the plan, "Our focus will be sharper. The 1995-2000 plan featured 18 goals  -   too many. Now we'll concentrate on three: permanence, transition, and prevention." Says Massinga, who served from 1983 to 1989 as Secretary of Maryland's Department of Human Resources, "We want to have a big impact on kids becoming successful" after leaving foster care.

CFP will launch an attention-getting fourth approach by actually becoming "a grantmaking organization to test promising practices, and a more influential picture of child welfare in the public eye." Emboldened by its $3 billion in assets, CFP  declares that "to succeed, we'll have to take risks  -   so it's inevitable that we'll sometimes fail. But the question will never be, 'How can we avoid failure?' It will be, 'What did we learn?'" To that end, a Casey Family Grants Program is, says Massinga, "under development" as a separate foundation with trustees appointed by CPS's trustees, chaired by attorney Richard Ford of Seattle.

In 2001 the new foundation will make $15 million in grants and will be "growing subsequently," says Massinga. In the grant-making arena, CFP writes, "We have no desire to trudge down well-worn paths  -   we want to promote forward-thinking programs that can be sustained and that deliver measurable results." To avoid those well-worn paths CFP will set up a Knowledge Development Center so that "as we invest or encounter promising methods," they can be both funded and replicated.

Boldest of all is CFP's pledge "to expand from serving 1,600 children one-on-one to reaching at least 100,000 through more programs and more partners." Of course, meeting a statistical goal like that is, as any chad-wise resident of Palm Beach County can tell you, all in the counting.

Massinga notes that CFP already helps about 8,000 teens in foster care placement with other child welfare agencies. Another 3,000 are reached through 12 communities in a jointly funded effort with the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration to help high-risk parents (through a program called Starting Early Starting Smart) avoid substance abuse and having their children sent to foster care. By year's end, says Massinga, CFP will serve "25,000 youngsters," making the agency "probably as big as" Girls and Boys Town based in Nebraska. With 25,000 teens leaving foster care each year, there is little likelihood of transitional living soon becoming a saturated market for program service providers.

For the key task of program development, Massinga has recruited Barbara Kelley Duncan, who for the past five years has been vice president for leadership development and  the Black Commu-nity Crusade for Children at the Children's Defense Fund. Prior to joining CDF, she was executive director of the Union Industrial Home for Children in Trenton, N.J.  Kelley Duncan will work from CPS's small D.C. office as vice president for entrepreneurial development.

Another component of its image-building effort is a new free national magazine,  ASK. (with the period), which began publication last spring with a circulation of 5,000. The glossy 18-page ASK. contains good photos and brief articles aimed at CFP's staff (which will "soon break 800," says Massinga) and other youth workers.

Joining her former Child Welfare League of America (CWLA) colleagues Kathy Barbell and Fran Gutterman at the Casey Family Programs' D.C. office is Robin Nixon. She handled youth development and independent living issues at CWLA for the last seven years. At CFP Nixon will direct the National Foster Care Awareness Project and coordinate a coalition of 19 national groups working to keep the needs of youth transitioning from out-of-home care on the nation's policy agenda. On the transitional living expansion list so far are programs in Atlanta, Indianapolis, Sacramento and Seattle, which will serve youth up to age 23 referred by any child welfare agency. "As we start to jump the Mississippi River," Massinga is resigned to being confused with the other legacies of Jim Casey's philanthropic generosity to disadvantaged children. Chuckles Massinga, "We've been confused [with the Annie E. Casey Foundation and its affiliated Casey Family Services] for our whole existence." The nation's more than 500,000 kids in foster care could use more of this kind of confusion. Contact: (206) 282-7300,  (202) 467-4441, or www.casey.org.

Besides Nixon's departure, other changes at CWLA include the departure of Anne Sullivan, the League's adoption expert, to work for the Shelton, Conn.-based Casey Family Services. Like its CFP cousin in Seattle, the Shelton agency operates foster care programs in Northeastern states but is an integral part of the Baltimore-based Annie E. Casey Foundation (assets: $3.6 billion), from which it received $23.7 million in operating funds in 1999.

The promotion of Sue Brite at CWLA to the new deputy director for knowledge management post was not unrelated to the departure of Communication Director Mary Layton, reportedly passed over for promotion. Replacing Barbell in the CWLA foster care slot is Millicent Williams, who spent the past two years at the National Association of Social Workers. Rodney Albert, a former state of Oklahoma juvenile justice specialist, and since 1994 a staffer at the Justice Department's Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, is now at CWLA as director of juvenile justice and once again working for Shay Bilchik, a former OJJDP administrator. Contact: (202) 638-2952, or www.cwla.org.