PORTLAND, Maine — The closure of Casey Family Services offices in Portland and Bangor will result in the layoffs of more than 40 people and leave “hundreds of families and children” without the specialized foster care programs they’ve become accustomed to, Portland Mayor Michael Brennan said Tuesday evening.
Brennan, who is chairman of the Annie E. Casey Foundation board of advisers, said the foundation’s decision to shutter the Casey Family Services offices nationwide blindsided his panel. He said he learned of the larger organization’s decision Monday afternoon, less than 24 hours before the foundation unveiled its plan to the public.
“This is a very disappointing decision,” Brennan told the Bangor Daily News on Tuesday. “There was no transparency in the process. This was a decision made by the board of trustees without consulting the advisers at all. … This is not a financial decision. This was not a case where they didn’t have the money necessary to continue services. This was purely a philosophical decision made by the board of directors and the president of the Annie E. Casey Foundation to get rid of the direct services.”
Casey Family Services’ Maine headquarters is at 75 Washington Ave. in Portland, and a satellite location exists at 30 Summer St. in Bangor.
Bangor Mayor Cary Weston did not immediately return a call on the subject Tuesday night.
Brennan said Casey Family Services has an annual budget of between $40 million and $45 million, compared with the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s endowment of $2.8 billion and its annual grant allocations totaling between $175 million and $200 million.
The Annie E. Casey Foundation is a private charitable organization dedicated to helping build better futures for disadvantaged children in the United States, according to its website. It was established in 1948 by Jim Casey, one of the founders of UPS, and his siblings, who named the foundation in honor of their mother.
In an announcement of the move Tuesday, foundation officials said the decision represents a shift of priorities from managing foster care and child welfare programs to providing more funding to other organizations that provide those services.
Casey Family Services employs 280 people and provides foster care programs under state contracts in Maryland, Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont. Casey Family Services provides what it describes as “therapeutic foster care services” to about 400 children over that area.
“The decision to change our strategy to focus on helping nonprofit human services agencies improve their service to families instead of operating our own foster care agency is a significant milestone in our organization’s history,” said Patrick T. McCarthy, trustee, president and CEO of the Casey Foundation, in a statement. “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.
“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,” he continued. “This success is due to a skilled and dedicated staff and we deeply regret the impact this transition will have on them. 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.”
According to the timeline the foundation announced on Tuesday, “the majority” of children and foster families working with Casey Family Services will make the transition to other public agencies and organizations by the end of this calendar year, with a small number of employees held over until June 30, 2013, to help with clients who need longer to make the transition.
But Brennan said the “quality and intensity” of the programs provided by Casey Family Services, which specialized in working with older and “high-needs” foster children, is “unmatched” by any other group or agency in Maine.
“I don’t agree with this decision [to close Casey Family Services],” Brennan said. “I think it’s the wrong decision.”