In May 2001, Gary Stangler began as Executive Director of the Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative, an initiative created by Casey Family Programs and the Annie E. Casey Foundation to leverage resources and public will to help youth in foster care make successful transitions to adulthood. Prior to joining the Initiative, Stangler served as the director of Missouri's Department of Social Services for eleven years. Appointed by Gov. John Ashcroft (R) in 1989, he was reappointed by Gov. Mel Carnahan (D) in 1993. He began his career in the Department of Social Services in 1980 and worked his way up the ranks. He has also served on the board of the American Public Human Services Association (APHSA) from 1994-1998 and, on several occasions, testified before Congress on foster care, indigent health care, and family preservation. Stangler also serves on the board of The Center for the Study of Social Policy, is a fellow with the Center for Family and Policy Research at the University of Missouri - Columbia, and has received numerous awards, including the Lewis Hine Award for service to children. Stangler is a graduate of the University of Missouri - Columbia and the Program for Senior Executives in State and Local Government at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.