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.