Wednesday, December 11, 2013
By Eric Russell firstname.lastname@example.org
More than 90 Maine children currently in foster care will have to transition to another agency for services following Tuesday’s announcement that Casey Family Services will no longer provide direct care and counseling.
“For the children, it’s going to be a transition, and that’s hard because these kids already have been through a lot.” -- Therese Cahill-Low, director of the Office of Child and Family Services at Maine’s Department of Health and Human Services.
Casey Family Services is an arm of the Baltimore-based nonprofit Annie E. Casey Foundation that provides foster care, adoption and family reunification services in seven Northeast states, including Maine. It has offices in Portland and Bangor.
Foundation officials said the company will shift its focus from directly providing those costly services to providing grants to other nonprofit agencies that share the same mission.
“The decision to change our strategy ... is a significant milestone in our organization’s history,” Patrick T. McCarthy, trustee and president and CEO of the Casey Foundation, said in a statement Tuesday. “As the human-services environment changes, we see an opportunity to help strengthen the work of frontline staff who often make life and death decisions on behalf of vulnerable children and families.”
The shift will eliminate an estimated 280 jobs, including 42 in Maine, most of whom are social workers or clinicians. Of the more than 1,600 children in foster care, 92 are contracted through Casey Family Services. They will need to be transitioned elsewhere.
“We’re losing a quality provider of foster-care treatment, so that’s disappointing,” said Therese Cahill-Low, director of the Office of Child and Family Services at Maine’s Department of Health and Human Services. “For the children, it’s going to be a transition, and that’s hard because these kids already have been through a lot.”
Mark Millar directs the Maine division of Casey Family Services and has been with the agency since it was established here in 1986.
He said the announcement was difficult because it will put pressure on a vulnerable system, but he felt confident that other agencies will step up to meet the demand.
“We at Casey Family Services mourn the loss of providing services but the commitment Annie E. Casey has isn’t going to go away,” Millar said.
Casey Family Services’ work in Maine is split mostly into three areas. First, it works with local and state organizations to identify families that are at risk of having children removed from homes, and then it helps provide parents with skills needed to keep families intact. Second, in cases where children can no longer live with birth families due to neglect or abuse, Casey Family Services works to find foster families. Third, the agency works with parents who have adopted children through foster care to address any emotional or psychological challenges children face during adoption.
The Casey Foundation said that it plans to work with all states to transition most children and foster families to other service providers by the end of this year. All Casey Family Services offices will close for good by next July.
“As the director, I will ensure that each family that we serve has a smooth transition to meet both clinical and emotional needs,” Millar said.
Throughout the transition, the Casey Foundation plans to build partnerships with existing agencies that ultimately would receive grant funds to carry out adoption and foster-care services. It’s not clear how much in grant funding will be offered through the foundation and how that compares to the operating budget of Casey Family Services. Foundation spokesman Norris West said Tuesday that he could not immediately answer those questions.
Cahill-Low said she hopes the money remains the same, but she’s also nervous because Maine will soon have to compete nationwide for grant funds instead of providing those services directly.
Affected employees will receive training, where appropriate, and severance packages.
“We are proud of the contributions Casey Family Services has made in supporting families, working with foster parents, collaborating with public agencies, and providing outstanding care to children. This success is due to a skilled and dedicated staff and we deeply regret the impact this transition will have on them,” McCarthy, the Foundation's CEO, said. “We will honor the legacy of CFS and its people by continuing to work diligently to build better futures for children and families across the country.”
The Annie E. Casey Foundation was established in 1948 by UPS founder Jim Casey and his siblings, who named the organization after their mother, to promote public policy and reforms that protect vulnerable children and families. Casey Family Services was founded in 1976 to provide foster care services directly to children. It operates in all six New England states, as well as Maryland.
Staff Writer Eric Russell can be contacted at 791-6344 or at: