Casey Family Programs is the West Coast-focused operating foundation created as part of the philanthropy of United Parcel Service founder James E. Casey in 1966. With its East Coast counterpart, Casey Family Services (a division of the Annie E. Casey Foundation), Casey Family Programs provided foster care and stipends to orphans so that they could get food, clothing, and a start in life. (The east coast organization Casey Family Services ceased to provide foster care in 2012.)
Casey Family Programs consults with “child welfare programs and American Indian tribes” to “partner with families, communities, and other public and private stakeholders to safely reduce the need for foster care”,1 operates programs in five states serving about 1,400 families a year, testifies before Congress and state legislatures, and produces research reports and policy analyses on foster care issues.
Casey Family Programs makes grants to left-progressive advocacy groups involved in foster care policy and broader left-progressive advocacy. In 2018, Casey Family Programs reported providing financial support to the New Venture Fund, Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors, Tides Center, Children’s Defense Fund, and American Civil Liberties Union Foundation. 2
Casey Family Programs’ stated intention is “to safely reduce the need for foster care by 50 percent by the year 2020” and to demonstrate “how every child can have a safe and permanent family.” 3 The goal of this policy, “family preservation,” has been advocated by Casey Family Programs for a quarter-century and is quite controversial.
Lawyer Dennis J. Saffran, writing in City Journal in 2018, says the “taxpayer-provided services” for family preservation, “including payment of housekeepers to cook, clean, and shop for abusive or neglectful parents—were often extraordinarily generous, well out of the financial reach of other poor or even middle-class families.” 4
Sociologist Richard Gelles traces the origins of family preservation to the 1990s, when Casey Family Programs, working with the Annie E. Casey Foundation, the Children’s Defense Fund, and the Edna McConnell Clark Foundation, pushed the policy as a cost-effective way to keep children out of foster care. Gelles writes, “State and local agency heads, legislators and legislative aides, governors and presidential administrations were told about the unqualified successes of family preservation and the tremendous cost savings. The skeptics and other critics were either unknown or cast as merely academic gadflies.” 5
In 1997, Congress passed the Adoption and Safe Families Act, which mandates courts terminate parental rights if a child is in foster care for 15 out of 22 months or if a parent is found guilty of manslaughter or murder.
Casey Family Programs, collaborating with the Annie E. Casey Foundation and the American Humane Association, created a policy called “differential response,” which would divert 70 percent of the potential cases monitored into a track where parents are not as closely monitored. Harvard Law School professor Elizabeth Bartholet, in a 2015 review, wrote that Casey Family Programs’s emphasis on reducing foster care through differential response is unwise, because foster care is the best option “to protect children against the risk of death and other serious harm at home. It would work better for children if more often it was followed by timely termination of parental rights and adoption.” 6
College of William and Mary law professor James Dwyer charges that Casey Family Programs are one of a group of “liberal actors, dominant in the child welfare arena” who have “demanded that state governments adopt, as an explicit goal, reducing the number of black children in foster care—not, improving black children’s wellbeing, but simply more black children remaining in parental custody after maltreatment reports or returning quickly after removal to parents who abused or neglected them.” 7
American Enterprise Institute fellow Naomi Schaefer Riley says that the effort by Casey Family Programs and its allies in child welfare agencies and juvenile courts to keep African-American children out of foster care programs “puts children at risk” and is “based on racial ideology that ignores the evidence about child maltreatment.” 8
- “What We Do: Consulting,” Casey Family Programs website, https://www.casey.org?what-we-do/consulting/, accessed October 31, 2019.
- Casey Family Programs, Return of a Private Foundation (Form 990-PF), 2018, Part XV Line 3
- “Who We Are: About Us,” Casey Family Programs website, https://www.casey.org/who-we-are/about, accessed October 31, 2019.
- Dennis Saffran, “Massacre of the Innocents,” City Journal, Winter 2018, https://www.city-journal.org/hmtl/massacre-onnocents-15647.html
- Richard J. Gelles, The Book of David: How Preserving Families Can Cost Children’s Lives (New York: Basic Books, 1996), 133-34.
- Elizabeth Bartholet, “Differential Response: A Dangerous Experiment in Child Welfare,” Florida State University Law Review, 2015.
- James G. Dwyer, Liberal Child Welfare Policy and the Destruction of Black Lives (New York: Routledge, 2018), 85.
- Naomi Schaefer Riley, “The Race Theory That Keeps Imperiled Kids Right Where They Are,” Real Clear Investigations, September 27, 2019. https://www.realclearinvestigations.com/articles/2019/09/27/disparate_impact_and_the_danger_to_kids_who_sjould_be_in_foster_care_120404.html