Focusing on the Factors that Help Kids Succeed

Posted May 14, 2014
By the Annie E. Casey Foundation
Blog focusingonthefactorsthathelpkidssucceed 2014

Today, 12,000 babies will be born in the Unit­ed States or come here to grow up. Each one is full of poten­tial and all of them deserve the oppor­tu­ni­ty to real­ize it. 

As the father of four, I remem­ber each time I set­tled one of my chil­dren into his or her crib for the first time, filled with a sense of hope and joy mixed with awe and ter­ror. My wife Cate and I hoped we would know, and be able to do, the right things to enable these small bun­dles to become all they held the promise to become. They are young adults now and each is forg­ing ahead strongly. 

Their progress pleas­es me but it also gives me pause. It is not just my chil­dren or chil­dren born into sim­i­lar­ly well-resourced fam­i­lies who deserve to suc­ceed. Mil­lions of chil­dren have their futures com­pro­mised before they are even born because their fam­i­lies are poor, they live in neigh­bor­hoods that are dis­con­nect­ed from oppor­tu­ni­ty, their oppor­tu­ni­ties are con­strained by racial dis­par­i­ties or they expe­ri­ence trau­ma and tox­ic stress. Some will defy the odds through unusu­al grit and focus. But suc­cess in this coun­try should not require hero­ic effort or extra­or­di­nary luck. 

I am priv­i­leged to lead an orga­ni­za­tion whose mis­sion is to ensure that every child has the strong start in life that will enable him or her to suc­ceed. Work­ing with count­less part­ners and allies, we are com­mit­ted to ensur­ing that chil­dren, their fam­i­lies and the com­mu­ni­ties they live in thrive. 

At the Casey Foun­da­tion, we focus on the fac­tors with the great­est influ­ence on a child’s chances to succeed.


Chil­dren do best when they grow up in lov­ing and resilient fam­i­lies, and there is no sub­sti­tute for the guid­ance and sense of belong­ing that a strong, capa­ble fam­i­ly provides. 

We work to ensure that all kids have a life­long fam­i­ly con­nec­tions. We sup­port pub­lic sys­tem reforms and prac­tices that help chil­dren and youth involved in the child wel­fare and juve­nile jus­tice sys­tems stay con­nect­ed to their fam­i­lies and that lim­it the time they spend in group or insti­tu­tion­al care.


Fam­i­lies need thriv­ing neigh­bor­hoods to sup­port their finan­cial suc­cess and their children’s development. 

We help com­mu­ni­ties become nur­tur­ing places to raise a fam­i­ly, with sta­ble hous­ing, effec­tive schools, vibrant busi­ness­es and sup­port­ive ser­vices. We forge part­ner­ships to pro­mote fam­i­ly-focused com­mu­ni­ties and we fund ini­tia­tives that demon­strate the pos­i­tive impact of this approach.


The best path­way out of pover­ty is a job that pays fam­i­ly-sup­port­ing wages and ben­e­fits. And the best prepa­ra­tion for find­ing and keep­ing a job is to get a good edu­ca­tion, start­ing from the ear­li­est learn­ing expe­ri­ences through a post­sec­ondary credential. 

We sup­port a wide range of efforts to ensure that par­ents can access job train­ing, qual­i­ty child care and oth­er sup­port­ive ser­vices that help them over­come bar­ri­ers to employ­ment. We also help fam­i­lies build sav­ings and receive all the ben­e­fits for which they qual­i­fy as they become self-sufficient.

Our goals are ambitious.

We strive to use our resources to achieve the trans­for­ma­tive changes need­ed so that all chil­dren and fam­i­lies in this coun­try can succeed. 

We are dri­ven by a relent­less focus on data and results. Casey holds itself and its part­ners account­able for mak­ing a mea­sur­able dif­fer­ence for the largest num­ber of chil­dren and fam­i­lies pos­si­ble, pro­mot­ing strate­gies backed by sol­id evi­dence. Strong lead­er­ship makes all the dif­fer­ence, so we work to devel­op the lead­ers that reforms demand and the tools they need to suc­ceed. We help com­mu­ni­ties build the capac­i­ty for long-term change and invest in state and fed­er­al pol­i­cy reforms that con­tribute to more effi­cient and effec­tive pub­lic sys­tems and services. 

The Foun­da­tion always has been a cham­pi­on for bet­ter out­comes for dis­ad­van­taged kids. Yet despite decades of progress, our work is far from done because too many chil­dren and fam­i­lies still are strug­gling to suc­ceed. In the years ahead, we will con­tin­ue to iden­ti­fy new oppor­tu­ni­ties to lever­age our expe­ri­ences, new devel­op­ments in the field, the ener­gy of new lead­ers and the poten­tial of new part­ner­ships to gen­er­ate solu­tions that can help the nation real­ize the poten­tial of mil­lions of kids who would oth­er­wise be left behind.

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