President and Chief Executive Officer
A respected clinician and public sector leader, Patrick McCarthy joined the Annie E. Casey Foundation in 1994 to manage its Mental Health Initiative for Urban Children, a five-year, $20 million effort to provide high-quality community-based mental health services for children in four high-poverty communities. With a career serving in multiple capacities in the mental health and human services fields, McCarthy brought to Casey a broad perspective on what children, families and systems need to prosper. Throughout his tenure, he has led efforts to improve human services practices and policies to boost positive results for the nation’s most vulnerable kids and families. He held positions of increasing responsibility before being appointed the president of the Foundation, replacing Doug Nelson in 2010.
Before joining the Foundation, McCarthy held positions ranging from psychiatric social worker and head of a school for youth with emotional and behavioral challenges to university professor and division director at the Delaware Department of Services for Children, Youth and their Families. He holds a master’s degree in social work from the University of Pennsylvania and a Ph.D. from the Bryn Mawr College Graduate School of Social Work and Social Research.
“My career has always focused on strengthening and helping to support families, especially those living in concentrated poverty, in order to help their children succeed,” McCarthy says.
Growing up in a low-income family in a close-knit community, McCarthy understands “the importance of a strong and supportive family, no matter what the income challenges are.”
Another key influence on his career was the time he spent leading a state juvenile corrections system, where he witnessed “the limits of the system and in some cases the harm” it did to young people.
The father of four says he has come to value the “my family” test: “If I think something would be bad for my own kids, why would I want it for somebody else’s?”
As a leader, McCarthy takes seriously his responsibility “to support, motivate and make room for everybody’s talents in support of the Foundation’s mission.” From that perspective, he doesn’t regard his accomplishments in terms of individual achievements. “The Foundation’s success depends on teams of people working together to advance our mission and to position the organization to do more good for more kids and families,” he says. “We have to work in partnership with lots of other folks within and outside the Foundation.”
McCarthy credits his Casey colleagues with teaching him a whole new level of “coalition-building” skills.
“Whether in workforce development, child welfare, juvenile justice, community change, grade-level reading or data and policy advocacy, Casey folks have demonstrated what can be achieved when you partner with diverse organizations,” he says.
McCarthy believes an essential challenge for everyone at the Foundation is to “keep the culture vibrant, strong and focused on creating results through our work.”
An avid runner, McCarthy says he applies an important lesson from long-distance races to the challenges of responding to some of the most critical social issues of our time.
“When I’m running a marathon, I’ve learned to stay focused on the present, without getting distracted by thinking about the miles I’ve already run or overwhelmed by thinking about the miles yet to come or how difficult the road ahead might be,” he says. “I try to remind myself all the time to run the mile I’m in.”