Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative Moves to the Casey Foundation

Posted July 1, 2015, By the Annie E. Casey Foundation

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Today, the Jim Casey Youth Oppor­tu­ni­ties Ini­tia­tive becomes a unit of the Annie E. Casey Foun­da­tion. As part of this tran­si­tion, the Foun­da­tion wel­comes San­dra Gas­ca-Gon­za­lez as direc­tor of the Jim Casey Ini­tia­tive. With these devel­op­ments, the Foun­da­tion and the Jim Casey Ini­tia­tive cel­e­brate the next chap­ter in the nation’s efforts to ensure young peo­ple between the ages of 14 and 26 make suc­cess­ful tran­si­tions from fos­ter care to adulthood. 

Launched in 2001, the Ini­tia­tive works nation­al­ly, in 17 states and local­ly to improve poli­cies and prac­tices, pro­mote authen­tic youth engage­ment, apply eval­u­a­tion and research and cre­ate com­mu­ni­ty part­ner­ships in sup­port of young peo­ple. Its work is intend­ed to help young peo­ple in fos­ter care achieve greater suc­cess in edu­ca­tion, employ­ment, hous­ing, health, social cap­i­tal, finan­cial capa­bil­i­ty and achiev­ing permanency.

As direc­tor, Gas­ca-Gon­za­lez will lead nation­al, state and local efforts to improve poli­cies and prac­tices so all young peo­ple have the oppor­tu­ni­ty to suc­cess­ful­ly tran­si­tion from fos­ter care to adult­hood. She is known for address­ing deep-root­ed sys­tem chal­lenges and under­stands the impor­tance of work­ing with diverse stake­hold­ers across the com­mu­ni­ties being served. 

Gas­ca-Gon­za­lez suc­ceeds Gary Stan­gler, who has been a cham­pi­on for young peo­ple, hav­ing been involved in child wel­fare pol­i­cy and prac­tice for more than 30 years. Dur­ing his 14 years lead­ing the Ini­tia­tive, Stan­gler influ­enced key reforms to fun­da­men­tal­ly change the land­scape of child wel­fare at the state and local lev­el, from the Fos­ter­ing Con­nec­tions Act of 2008 to the Pre­vent­ing Sex Traf­fick­ing and Strength­en­ing Fam­i­lies Act of 2014. Stan­gler will remain an advis­er to the Jim Casey Ini­tia­tive team. 

A dri­ving val­ue of the Jim Casey Ini­tia­tive is that all young peo­ple should be active par­tic­i­pants in direct­ing their own lives and shap­ing their com­mu­ni­ties. This approach, known as authen­tic youth engage­ment, works only when young peo­ple and adults join togeth­er as true part­ner. With this val­ue firm­ly root­ed, Gas­ca-Gon­za­lez will con­tin­ue the Initiative’s lega­cy build­ing and sup­port­ing the capac­i­ty of young peo­ple to speak for them­selves and advo­cate for this work. 

Join­ing the Jim Casey Ini­tia­tive team at the Foun­da­tion are:

  • Paula Young Gen­try, senior asso­ciate for youth engage­ment, who leads efforts to ensure all young peo­ple are empow­ered to direct their own futures through authen­tic part­ner­ships with car­ing adults.
  • Leslie Gross, senior asso­ciate and nation­wide site coor­di­na­tor, serves as a crit­i­cal liai­son between the Jim Casey Initiative’s nation­al and state-lev­el efforts to help young peo­ple suc­cess­ful­ly tran­si­tion from fos­ter care to adulthood. 
  • Todd Lloyd, senior asso­ciate with the Foundation’s Exter­nal Affairs unit, leads pub­lic pol­i­cy efforts to improve out­comes for young peo­ple in fos­ter care for the Jim Casey Youth Oppor­tu­ni­ties Initiative.
  • Dian­na Wal­ters, pro­gram asso­ciate, works to improve poli­cies and prac­tices for old­er youth, pro­mote youth engage­ment, apply eval­u­a­tion and research and cre­ate com­mu­ni­ty partnerships.

With this com­mit­ted team, the Foun­da­tion is ded­i­cat­ed to build­ing a bet­ter path for young peo­ple tran­si­tion­ing from fos­ter care to adulthood.

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