Annie E. Casey Foundation

Annie E. Casey Foundation


* Assets: $2,824,840,373 (2017)
* Grants Received: $1,631,284 (2017)
* Grants Awarded: $92,318,440 (2017)

The Annie E. Casey Foundation (AECF) was established in 1948 by United Parcel Service (UPS) co-founder Jim Casey (1888-1983), along with his two brothers (George and Harry) and his sister (Marguerite), in honor of their mother, for whom they named the Foundation. Initially devoted to supporting child welfare and long-term foster care, AECF has evolved, over the decades, into an organization emphasizing multiculturalism and race-based programs intended to benefit nonwhite minorities. As David Hogberg of Foundation Watch wrote in 2012, the Casey Foundation “has taken a new direction during the nearly three decades since James Casey’s death.”

It is somewhat difficult to define, with precision, the late Jim Casey’s politics. In Greg Niemann’s 2007 book Big Brown: The Untold Story of UPS, the author called Casey “conservative and far from radical.” Yet Niemann also noted that while most of UPS’s founders “were primarily political conservatives, they adopted what could be considered today rather radical pro-labor ideas.” And David Hogberg, for his part, fleshes out the portrait of Casey:

“The Pacific Northwest of Jim’s early years had a robust social movement, and Seattle, where the Casey family settled, was already known across the country as a haven for left-wing politics. Activists called for the emancipation of the working class from the ‘slave bondage’ of capitalism. They wanted the working class in possession of economic power, to control business enterprise without regard to capitalist masters. This is the atmosphere in which Jim Casey matured. Remember, he was always watching. He couldn’t have helped but notice the unrest and reasons underlying the working-class argument. It’s an open question whether James Casey would support the current direction of the Foundation he established.”

AECF today professes a commitment to: (a) “developing a brighter future for millions of children at risk of poor educational, economic, social and health outcomes”; (b) “strengthening families, building stronger communities,… ensuring access to opportunity”; and (c) “influenc[ing] decision makers to invest in strategies based on solid evidence” regarding “what works.”

In practice, the Foundation generally favors a greater amount of centralized government control over such domains as the health care, employment, and personal incomes of American citizens. Thus it issues many grants designed to help federal, state, county, city, and neighborhood-based agencies create “more innovative, cost-effective responses to the issues that negatively affect children: poverty, unnecessary disconnection from family, and communities with limited access to opportunity.” As the Capital Research Center puts it: “The groups receiving Casey grants all say they want to help families with children. But what they most have in common is the desire to advocate for more government-sponsored welfare entitlement programs…. [The Foundation] now uses its grant dollars to support organizations that believe the best way to help children and families is to advocate for welfare assistance, job-training programs, public education, and other policies that make use of government mandates and tax dollars.”

In an effort to persuade political leaders, program administrators, the news media, and the American people to oppose any cuts in government welfare expenditures, AECF spent a number of years helping to bankroll “Assessing the New Federalism,” an Urban Institute research project that was launched in response to the welfare reforms that President Bill Clinton signed into law in 1996. Between 2000 and 2012, AECF gave at least $17.5 million to this initiative, whose findings confirmed the Casey Foundation’s bedrock belief that increased government spending and an expanded federal welfare bureaucracy are vital to the adequate funding of America’s “social safety net.”

To address the problem of poverty (and its associated ills), the Casey Foundation in 1995 launched a “Jobs Initiative Program” to provide funding and support for “community-based” initiatives (in such fields as construction, healthcare, manufacturing, and teleservices) designed “link low-income/low-skilled adults to businesses with good paying jobs.”

On the premise that the federal government was doing too little to alleviate poverty in America, AECF in 2006 identified the “challenge of helping rebuild distressed communities” as its top grant-making priority for the immediate future.

Also in the mid-2000s, AECF oversaw initiatives that sought to: increase the pay and lighten the workload of social service employees; “improve the access of disadvantaged young adults to family-supporting employment”; provide mental health services and discussion-group forums “for children and families in disadvantaged neighborhoods”; fund “a wide range of organizations that work directly with disadvantaged children, youth, and families”; “improve housing and social and physical infrastructure”; and “increase public and private investment in [low-income] neighborhoods.”

AECF’s grantmaking today has several major Areas of Investment:

(1) Child Welfare:

  • The Child Welfare Strategy Group provides “strategic consulting and technical assistance” to help child welfare agencies become more effective in “helping children heal and recover from maltreatment.”
  • The Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative seeks to help young people aged 14 to 26 who are in, or are transitioning from, foster care.

(2) Juvenile Justice:

  • The Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative aims to “reduce the use of juvenile detention — the holding of youth before adjudication — and increase more effective interventions.”
  • Since 2005, AECF and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation have led a highly successful crusade to make the juvenile justice system increasingly lenient—even for the worst offenders. Rejecting the “get-tough-on-crime” approach that helped to dramatically cut crime rates nationwide beginning in the 1990s, Casey and MacArthur have: pushed for alternatives to incarceration for youthful offenders; opposed the practice of trying minors as adults; spearheaded the movement to abolish the death penalty for juveniles; and helped to almost entirely eliminate life sentences for young murderers. In addition, these Foundations developed close relationships with the Obama Justice Department, where their views and strategies were highly influential.
  • Frowning upon incarceration as a means of motivating youthful offenders to reform their lives, AECF established its Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative (JDAI) in 1993 as a pilot project designed to: “decrease the number of youth unnecessarily or inappropriately detained”; “reduce the number of youth who fail to appear in court or re-offend pending adjudication”; and “redirect public funds towards effective juvenile justice processes and public safety strategies.” Founded on the premise that every stage of the juvenile justice system, from arrest through sentencing, is rife with racial injustice, JDAI says: “It is impossible to talk about juvenile detention reform without talking about the disproportionate confinement of youth of color.”
  • Building on JDAI’s work in the field of detention reform, the Casey Foundation’s Reducing Youth Incarceration (RYI) program strives to promote new state-level policies and practices that cut the number of youth placed into correctional institutions and other residential facilities. RYI does this by producing an array of issue briefs, policy reports, how-to manuals, and other materials designed to inform policymakers and juvenile-justice practitioners.
  • In 2006 the Casey Foundation issued a widely discussed report titled “Race Matters: Unequal Opportunity Within Criminal Justice,” which concluded that the U.S. justice system is replete with: “embedded racial inequities” that “work against women and men of color”; “racial stereotyping and discrimination”; “disproportionality at every step of the criminal justice process”; “statutory biases”; “poverty’s interaction with race in criminal defense”; “disproportionate imprisonment”; “differential post-release consequences”; “disparate impact on families and children”; and “disparate impact on neighborhoods.”
  • AECF and the MacArthur Foundation co-funded a study titled Transfer of Juveniles to Adult Court: Effect of a Broad Policy in One Court, which was published by the U.S. Justice Department in December 2012. Critical of trying youthful offenders as adults, this study found that: (a) “the majority of youth transferred to adult court who return to their community resume some level of antisocial activity, and many are subsequently arrested or placed in an institutional setting”; and (b) “youth who associated with more antisocial peers resumed antisocial activity more quickly and were re-arrested more quickly than those who had more positive social relationships.”

(3) Kids Count:

  • AECF funnels a great deal of money to the Kids Count Network, a group of state-based child-advocacy and research organizations that aim to promote “smart policies” on a variety of issues including child welfare, juvenile justice, education, and economic opportunity. The Network’s online Kids Count Data Center features state and local statistics that track the well-being of children—as measured by hundreds of key indicators—over time and across geographical locations. This website is supplemented by the Foundation’s annual Kids Count Data Book.
  • In 2014, AECF released Race for Results, an extensive report detailing the progress of children from various racial and ethnic groups in the United States. The “key takeaway” from the report, says the Foundation, was this: “Overall, the index shows that at the national level, no one racial group has all children meeting all milestones. Using a single composite score placed on a scale of one (lowest) to 1,000 (highest), Asian and Pacific Islander children have the highest index score at 776 followed by white children at 704. Scores for Latino (404), American-Indian (387) and African-American (345) children are distressingly lower, and this pattern holds true in nearly every state.”

(4) Economic Opportunity:

  • The Work, Education and Income program invests in initiatives geared toward: (a) “expanding access to postsecondary education and skills training for adults and youth”; “building partnerships with businesses and others to increase career opportunities for low-wage workers and job-seekers”; “helping families find additional ways to supplement their income through tax credits and other public benefits, and through social enterprise and microenterprise models that lead to jobs for less-prepared adults”; and (d) “promoting changes in federal and state policies on paid family leave, criminal records, and other issues to better serve low-income families.”
  • The Financial Well Being program disburses money to groups and projects that aim to increase “access to fairly priced, appropriate financial products and services.” It also protects consumers from “high-cost products and practices that deplete family resources,” and it promotes federal and state policies that “support asset building, affordable financial services, and consumer protection.”
  • The Center for Working Families program is an AECF initiative that provides low-income individuals and families with financial coaching and education; helps them find work in their preferred fields; and helps them take advantage of public benefits like the earned income tax credit.

(5) Community Change:

  • AECF’s Family-Centered Community Change program seeks to “integrate often disconnected services for kids and adults” in “high-poverty neighborhoods” located in Buffalo, Columbus (Ohio), and San Antonio.
  • The Civic Sites program pursues similar objectives in Baltimore, where AECF’s headquarters are located, and Atlanta, home to UPS.

(6) Evidence-Based Practice:

  • The Evidence2Success initiative “helps identify problems and solutions” that have “proven” to be effective at helping children. Its principal tools include: (a) the Evidence2Success Youth Experience Survey, which provides public agencies and communities with a “big picture” view of how youngsters are doing and the challenges that influence their development; and (b) Blueprints for Healthy Youth Development, whose objective is to “match” children’s individual strengths and needs with “cost-effective, evidence-based programs designed to help.”

(7) Leadership Development:

  • The Casey Foundation’s Leadership Development program works with partners around the country to develop the skills and talents of current and emerging young leaders in the social and public sectors.
  • The Children and Family Fellowship program is a leadership-training initiative geared toward executives in “sectors working to improve outcomes for children, families and communities.” It uses group seminars and individual coaching to give trainees “the confidence and competence to lead major system reforms and community change initiatives that get results.”

(8) Research and Policy:

  • AECF investments in this category encourage a focus on Research and Evaluation to determine what ideas and approaches are “most effective for improving the well-being of children and families,” particularly in the areas of “family permanence, poverty and opportunity, and community change.”
  • The State and Federal Policy Reform program aims to “strengthen decision makers’ capacity” to “promote the effective administration of essential safety-net programs proven to lift families out of poverty”; promote the expansion of refundable tax credits for low-income working families; improve access to federal child welfare benefits; and provide alternatives to youth detention and incarceration.

(9) Equity and Inclusion:

  • The Equity & Inclusion program seeks to “advance equitable opportunities for all children, families and communities, regardless of their skin color or community of residence.” In other words, it makes a special effort to earmark a certain percentage of its philanthropy for nonwhite minorities.

For information about past Casey Foundation initiatives, click here.

A highly noteworthy recipient of AECF funding was the Center for American Progress (CAP) Action Fund’s “Half In Ten” Poverty Reduction Campaign, which collected some $218,000 from the Casey Foundation in 2010.

  • “Challeng[ing]” America to cut its poverty rate in half by the year 2020, this Campaign’s seminal document was a 2007 CAP report titled From Poverty to Prosperity, which was produced by a task force co-chaired by Peter B. Edelman. Other members of the task force included national ACORN president Maude HurdAFL-CIO official Linda Chavez-Thompson, and Brookings Institution economist Alice Rivlin. Specifically, the report called for the minimum wage to be raised and then indexed to an hourly rate equivalent to half the national average; an expansion of the Earned Income Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit; the enactment of the pro-union Employee Free Choice Act; taxpayer-funded child care assistance for all low-income families; and the reestablishment of federal Youth Opportunity Grants.
  • Not only did “Half In Ten” endorse the Edelman task force’s recommendations; it also lauded President Barack Obama’s expansion of the Food Stamp program; supported Obama’s expansion of unemployment insurance eligibility; claimed that a Republican budget proposed by House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan would “harm our most vulnerable citizens”; and rejected a Republican bill designed to prevent welfare dollars from being spent in strip clubs, casinos and liquor stores. “Half In Ten” director Melissa Boteach described that bill as “yet another instance in the creeping trend of conservatives to demonize the poor.”
  • According to the Capital Research Center, “The [AECF] grant to ‘Half In Ten’ illustrates how the Casey Foundation works: it promotes public policy research, cultivates grassroots and elite coalition-building, and develops an effective public relations program: groups and elected officials are urged to ‘sign a pledge’ committing themselves to the effort. The announced aim is to help the poor, but the practical effect is to fund nonprofit advocacy groups to build support for more government programs.”

Among the many hundreds of additional Casey Foundation grantees are the following: the American Civil Liberties Union Foundation; the Arab American Institute Foundation; the Aspen Institute; ACORN (more than $1.7 million from 2001-09, including $685,000 to ACORN Housing Corporation); the Brennan Center for Justice; the Brookings Institution; the Center for American Progress Action Fund; the Center for Community Change; the Childrens Defense Fund; the Council on FoundationsDemos; the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights; the Independent Media Center; the Institute for Womens Policy Research; the Ms. Foundation for Women; the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy; the National Council of La Raza; the National Immigration Law Center; National Public Radio; the Neighborhood Funders Group; the New America Foundation; Planned Parenthood; the Public Broadcasting Service; the Public Justice Center; the Rockefeller Family Fund; the Tides Foundation and the Tides Center; and the Urban Institute.

To view a list of additional noteworthy grantees of the Annie E. Casey Foundation, click here.

(Information on grantees and monetary amounts courtesy of The Foundation Center, GuideStar, ActivistCash, the Capital Research Center and Undue Influence)

Additional Resources:

Annie E. Casey Foundation: Helping Children Becomes Advocacy for the Welfare State
By David Hogberg
June 29, 2012

Stopping Juvenile Detention: The Casey and Kellogg Foundations Sponsor Policies That Will Increase Criminal Behavior
By Joseph Lawler
February 2010

Going Soft on Juvenile Crime: How the MacArthur and Casey Foundations Distort Youth Offender Policies
By Fred Lucas
May 2013

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