What’s Annie E. Casey Doing for Kids and Families with Its Full-Court Press?

The Annie E. Casey Foundation has real-life origins that explain its deeply child-focused approach. Jim Casey, who made his fortune starting UPS, named the foundation for his mother, Annie E. Casey, a single parent who struggled to raise him and his three siblings.

For decades, Casey has been one of the largest philanthropic grant makers in the area of youth services. Among its specific ventures: a child welfare strategy arm that consults on local reform initiatives, and the Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative, a long-running effort to help states lower reliance on pre-trial juvenile detention.

Now Casey is looking at the upcoming election cycle of 2016 as an opportunity for a “full-court press” on better policy for children and families. One of the leaders of this new push is Michael Laracy, Casey’s director of policy reform and advocacy, who among things oversees the foundation’s KIDS COUNT network and State Priorities Partnership.

How does Casey intend to get its issues catapulted to the top of the domestic policy agenda? We talked recently with Laracy to find out, and he pointed us to a yet-to-be released working paper from the foundation that lays out eight new projects that the foundation is supporting in 2014 and 2015 that aim to score some big points on the domestic agenda for children and families.

“We’ve had phenomenal results with a couple of them already,” Laracy said.

Photo credit:
Michael Laracy of the Annie E. Casey Foundation. Photo credit: Annie E. Casey Foundation.

Laracy pointed to the Georgetown Initiative on Catholic Social Thought and Public Life and National Association of Evangelicals. This initiative had a big vision—to create a summit that would bring together Catholics and Evangelicals around poverty and opportunity—and came to Casey, and in particular to Laracy, for help.

The leader of this effort, John Carr, senior policy director for the United States Catholic Bishops’ Conference, proposed his idea for a three-day summit that would convene leaders in policy and government on both sides of the aisle, combined with religious leaders across the Christian spectrum.

The summit brought together Robert Putnam, Arthur Brooks of the American Enterprise Institute, EJ Dionne, and President Barack Obama. The conversation that took place on the stage at Georgetown captured national attention, with videos and articles across mainstream and religious media characterizing it as the first real public dialogue among diverse thought leaders about where we can come together to address poverty and opportunity.

“We talked to him [John Carr] for about an hour and knew that we would want to fund it. Right then and there, we said, look, we’ll find the money,” Laracy said. So the foundation cobbled together $100,000 over a six-month period, and the summit was funded. “That was a huge, huge accomplishment and moved the agenda forward around poverty and opportunity a great deal.”

Casey is now making an effort to impact the dialogue around poverty and opportunity by taking advantage of the Pope’s visit next week. “We believe we can work with a number of organizations to make sure his message really resonates and gets out there,” Laracy said.

Casey will be working with PICO, a national network of faith-based organizations creating solutions to problems in urban, suburban and rural communities. PICO recently co-chaired the effort in Massachusetts to raise the minimum wage and create stronger earned sick time policies.

Laracy said Casey will support PICO’s push to create national momentum to address poverty and ensure that “what we’ve got to say gets amplified and reinforced by the Pope’s visit.”

Casey is also working with the Convergence Opportunity Project, the Program on Human Flourishing from the American Enterprise Institute and the Opportunity Agenda, among other grantees, to forward the full-court press on poverty and opportunity.

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About Kiersten Marek 22 Articles
Kiersten Marek, LICSW, is a clinical social worker in Rhode Island, and a Senior Editor for Los Angeles-based Inside Philanthropy, where she writes about economic and social philanthropy. Kiersten is also the author of Know Thyself: A Kid's Guide to the Archetypes, an identity development workbook.

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