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May 29, 2024 24 mins
Kevin Carey CEO of YAI | CEO's you should know
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Hi everyone, Welcome to this week'sedition of CEOs you should know. This
is Steve Dallison. I'm joined todayby Kevin Carrey, CEO of YAI.
Kevin, thank you for coming intoday. Thank you so much for having
us. Why. It sounds likea really amazing organization. Right before the
podcast, we actually found out youguys have a location so close by as
well, right we do? Wedo, Yes, it is an amazing

organization. We provide services and supportsto people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
We operate in New York, NewJersey, and California, have about four
thousand employees and provide supports about twentythousand people a year. So wow,
that awesome. On. Yes,thank you, it sounds like quite an
amazing organization. So I'm excited tobe able to dive into today. Your
journey there started as you were theCFO and then recently you assumed the role

of CEO. So tell us alittle bit about your background and what influenced
you to originally join YAI. Yeah. So, I've been part of the
IDD community for about fifteen years througha previous employment opportunity at Easter Seals New
York and when the opportunity to joinwhy I came up in twenty sixteen.
I was really excited because why Ihas historically been well known in the field

for exceptional quality services and programs andmanagement. So I was really excited to
join the organization as CFO back intwenty sixteen. And when I got there,
I was not surprised to hear thatall the things that why I is
known for were true. And oneof the the biggest surprises to me when
I joined the organization was how dedicatedall the administrative staff, the finance staff,

the accountants, the payroll specialists,the accounts payable specialists were in the
mission of the organization, which reallyspoke to me and really helped drive my
enthusiasm for being part of the organizationand for trying to continue to grow within
the organization there. I think it'ssomething that's really unique about why I,
and what we always say make staffreally successful is when somebody has that connection

to the mission. It doesn't matterif you're coming in as an entry level
position or if you're coming in asa CEO. If you're not there and
connected to the mission, you're notgoing to be successful in your role.
And I think we have a reallydedicated staff and really great management and leadership,
and we're really excited about the futureand the opportunities that we have at
YI. That's awesome and it alwaysmakes a difference when the people behind you

right support the full mission. Sothat's an awesome journey and it's really refreshing
to hear that everybody also embodies whatyou guys represent on an internal basis as
well. So you served as theDirector of Financial Operations and Business Development at
the Children's Aid Society prior to it. How did that experience get you ready
for YAI and get ready to stepin that CFO role. Initially, Yeah,

I've had the very fortunate experience inmy career working for some really fantastic
mission based organizations. So I startedout at the Lover Manhattan Development Corporation,
which was a quasi city state agencyfounded after nine to eleven to rebuild and
revitalize lor Manhattan. And I've alsoworked at Easter Seals New York and a
Children's Adate Society, and all ofthose organizations really set me up for my

position at YI, first to CFOand then as CEO. I've been really
lucky to have some wonderful mentors andleaders that I've worked with who have really
shown me that it's the pride inyour work. It is the dedication to
the mission, and it is reallyfocusing on the outcomes and the quality of
what we're what we're here to doevery day, the work that we do

because it's mission focused and it reallyhas a huge impact on people. Really
starts from the top, and ifyou don't have the right leader, the
right strategy, the right buy infrom that group, then you're not delivering
the optimal outcomes for the people whoreally depend on those services. And from
my time at Children's Aid, atEaster Seals, and at Lower and Heead
Development, I really was fortunate towork with some really wonderful leaders that instilled

that in me, and hopefully Ican continue to instill that in other people
who work at YI today and willbe the future leaders of other organizations.
It's awesome. It's always impressive whenyou kind of have lived the entire passion
all throughout right and now it kindof got you to that CEO SEA And
I think one of the other coolthings is I also saw that you work
with a lot of nonprofit organizations outsideof YI, I you tell us a
little bit about that and the workyou do with them. Sure, you

know the field that we're in atYI, which is to support people with
intellectual and developmental disabilities or IDD.There's a lot of providers like YI,
and it's unique because while we don'tnecessarily have competitors, we call them partners
because we're all in it for thesame reason. We're all in it to
provide exceptional supports for people with IDD, and I've been fortunate enough to work

for other organizations and to be onthe board of other organizations to support that.
One thing that we learn all thetime from each other is best practices,
what's working, what's not working,How we can use things that other
organizations are doing to then implement itYI and improve the lives that people are
supporting, because that's really what we'rehere to do. We really look at
ourselves as innovative, as flexible,as adaptable. At YI, we don't

want to just do what we've alwaysbeen doing because everything changes. Funding changes,
the needs the people are supporting changes, the definition of community inclusion changes,
and we want to keep up withthat and make sure that we're providing
the most exceptional supports for people withIDD. So being able to be a
part of other organizations and hear whatthey're doing, you know, sometimes gives
me some ideas and sometimes it allowsme to share ideas of what YI is

doing to really focus on improving thelives of people with IDD, which is
what we're here to do. That'sawesome. We talked about this a little
bit earlier about your employees, rightand then really buying into too the mission
and representing that like no other.How do you prioritize and support their professional
development as their members of YI.Yeah, that's a great question. We
know that our employees are the keyto the success, and our success really

is to deliver those quality services topeople with IDD. So it's really important
to keep employees engaged to make surethat they understand the impact that they're having
to focus on the quality of servicesthat we're trying to deliver. So we
have done a lot of things thelast couple of years to try to improve
that engagement or increase that engagement.One thing is to show that YI is
a career, not a job,and that's something that we try to say

a lot. You can come inas an entry level DSB and work your
way up to a supervisor, adirector, a regional director. You could
switch and move into accounting or intoHR. You could be the future CEO
one day. We want to reallyshow staff that there is a pathway within
the organization for them to grow personallyand professionally, and we really focus on

that the last couple of years tomake sure that staff understand that and that
staff know that there is that pathway. We also really focus on training at
YI. We've been known for decadesfor the training services that we provide both
internally and externally. So we havea big external training program where we provide
trainings to other providers both in theIDD field and outside of the IDD field

on hard skills and soft skills,and we focus internally on making sure that
staff have those trainings and the abilityto continuously learn on the job and to
do the best work that they cando. People were supporting our succeeding and
benefits obviously is a big component makingsure that staff have the benefits that they
need and that will keep them onthe job, and listening to staff is

a key piece. Also, onething that I instituted when I became CEO
A year ago. We call officehours, which is an opportunity for staff
to come and meet with me oneon one, whether it be virtual or
in person, in fifteen minute sessionsand just tell me what's on their mind.
And that has enabled me to reallyunderstand what's working, what's not working

at the organization where we can dobetter. And it's also an opportunity for
staff to feel like they're being heardand that they have a way to connect
and guide the direction of the organization. And it's been really helpful. We've
always why I had an open doorpolicy, so staff always had the ability
to voice their concerns or their ideas, but this sort of formalized a little

bit more and gave them a directroute to the CEO, which I don't
think has existed before. And it'sbeen really meaningful to me. I think
it's been meaningful to staff, andI've met with about one hundred and fifty
staff over the last year and it'syou know, I think that, yeah,
it's been a great, great initiative, and it helps me again to
really know as the leader of theorganization, where staff need to go in

order to make sure that we're excelling, that they are staying engaged and you
know, recognizing the hard work thatthey're doing. I'm sure they appreciate the
transparency and it is probably really rewardingfor you to also be so connected to
all the different employees within the organization. It is it is, you know,
one of when I was a CFO, I did not have the same
opportunities that I have as CEO toget out into the programs and to meet
with staff and to meet with thepeople we support. And that's been one

of the most beneficial parts of myjob, is getting out and seeing on
the ground what's working, what's notworking. You know, it's very easy
to sit in an office and youknow, think that you're doing the right
thing all day. But if you'renot out there hearing directly from the people
that we're supporting, hearing from thestaff, hearing from management and supervisors as
to what that's happening on the ground, it's easy to lose sight of that

and to not really you know,focus on the strategies and the priorities of
the organization in order to move usin the right direction. YEA one hundred
percent sounds like a great culture.I think two of the most important things
for employees is really having their voicesbe heard and also having that growth in
that training, that path to success. And obviously you're living, breathing example
of that going from the CFO roleto the CEO role, so they obviously

see that prime example and what youexhibit. Yeah, you know, we
have a strong culture at YI.We like to talk about collaboration, respect,
professionalism, and joy. I thinkit's one thing that we try to
never lose sight of is that weshould be happy in the work that we're
doing. It's very, very difficultwork being a direct support professional, which
is what most of our staff areproviding those direct services to people with IDD

and we want to make sure thatpeople, the staff who are doing this
for a difficult job, are happydoing the job and feel the reward of
what they're doing because it has ahuge impact and the people we're supporting,
and it's really important that staff understandthat, Yeah, that's awesome. One
of the significant achievements of at YIwas integrating the International Academy of Hope into
the organization. How has this integrationreally helped the services? How has it

helped the support of the different individualsand brain based disorders? Sure So I
Hope International Academy of Hope is aschool for children with traumatic brain injury and
other brain based disorders. That's theprogram that's right down the street that we
talked about before when it first cameto I Hope. Excuse me, when
I Hope first came to YI backin two thousand and seventeen, I had

been asked by the board chair ofI Hope to come and meet the school
and see if it would be agood fit with YI. So I went
to the school and immediately saw thatthere was a tremendous amount of synergies between
what the school was doing and whatwe could do with the school At YI.
The school was running very very well. It had tremendous staff and had
a really really good program. Theyjust lacked some administrative support with finance,

hrit those kind of things, andthat's where they were looking for the integration
with YI. So we move forwardthat partnership and fast forward seven years later.
The school went from thirty eight studentsto almost one hundred and fifty students.
We just moved last year into abrand new stave of the art facility
that was built and designed with thestudents in mind. And that's an important

concept because most of the students whogo to that school are non ambulatory and
nonverbal, so we built the hallwaysextra wide to accommodate for wheelchairs. We
have a therapeutic pool in the basementso that students can utilize that therapy in
terms of their physical therapy needs thatthey get at the school. We have
huge gyms for occupational therapy, speechtherapy, and physical therapy at the school

to help provide those supports to thestudents. And we also really have emphasized
the use of assistive technology and adaptiveequipment. So many of the students,
as I mentioned, are nonverbal andnonambulatory, and just because they can't speak
doesn't mean they don't have anything tosay. So we really utilize assistive technology

and adaptive equipment to enable students tovoice their their desires, voice their wants,
and tell us what they want todo. And the good thing about
that integration between I HOPE and YIis now we have now been able to
implement a lot of those things thatI HOPE was doing into the broader spectrum
of the services we provide at YI, So a lot more assistive technology through

our Center for Innovation Engagement have beenbrought into YI and we're now implementing more
technology to support people outside of Ihope that we may never have done if
we didn't have this integration in thefirst place. That's awesome. It sounds
like a remarkable facility camping to seeit firsthand, and it sounds like technology
is a big part of it,right, Like you have to have the
cutting edctonology absolutely point to be ableto really assist and take care of the

individuals the appropriate way. Yeah.Absolutely. Technology is a huge focus of
ours at YI for the last coupleof years and we see it in the
next couple of years as well.It's something that the state, you know,
the state funds all of our operations, has not really invested in in
terms of people with IDD and peoplewho are being supported by organizations like YI.

The focus is always on providing residentialsupports or dayhab or community have and
direct care supports, which is whichis obviously critically important. But enabling people
to utilize technology just the way youdo or I do, you know,
gives them a voice or gives thema sense of inclusion in the community.
And we're really focusing on innovation andthe use of technology and providing those opportunities

for people with idd where they don'tnormally get that outside of the organization.
Yeah, it sounds extremely important andcrucial for the organization. Like you said,
you want to make sure that theyhave a voice, and it sounds
like technology is allowing them to beable to do so. So that's that's
awesome. Throughout your entire time andyour belief in the mission, was there
a personal experience that you had ormoment that really like reaffirmed your dedication to

YI and the mission of the organization. Yeah, it's that happens almost every
day when I go out and visitour programs and I see the impact that
we have, and as I mentionedearlier, that's my most rewarding part of
my job is getting out there andvisiting the programs. A specific example that
comes to mind is about a yearago, I was giving some tours to
a prospective new board member and wewent and visited a supportive employment which excuse

me, a supported apartment, whichis a home where somebody who doesn't need
as much supports can live in.So there's not twenty four to seven staffing.
This is this person's own apartment andstaff come and check on them when
they need it. And so weasked Peter if we come and visit his
apartment to show the board member whata supportive apartment looks like, and Peter
said yes, of course, Sowe got there. Peter had went out

that morning and bought donuts for usand got waters for us. When we
came to visit his apartment, hewas so proud to show us that he
had cleaned it that morning. Hewas showing me how he plays his guitar,
and we talked for a while abouthow he was really looking to get
meaningful employment and employment is such acritical piece of helping people with idd fulfill

dreams and their desires if they wantthat, and so Peter and I had
a great conversation. We ended upbecoming somewhat of penpalace. We email back
and forth to each other, andabout three months ago Peter did get a
job and he called me and leftme a voicemail because I was not in
that day, and was so excitedto share with me that he got a
job and asked me to come andvisit him at work, which I did

about a couple of weeks later,and you know those are That's one story
of dozens, if not hundreds,of the impact that we have on people
every day, and it really helpsme to remind myself and remind the team
of what we're doing, why we'redoing, and why it's so important.
That must have been an extremely rewardinglistening to the voicemail. Yes it was.
To Peter. Yes, that's awesome, awesome feeling, and awesome to

see. Obviously all the work andthe hard work that you and your team
do come to fruition and be ableto impact lives just like that. That's
that's an awesome story. Thanks forsharing that with us. Looking back at
your first year of CEO, arethere any key lessons or insights that you
personally experienced for the first time whenit came to leaders sit Yeah, that's
a great question. I think inlooking back, one of the things that

that I've done better now that Ineed that I could have done better in
the beginning is really be a littlebit more focused and direct when we have
tasks that need to be done.You know, there's millions of things that
need to get done in an organization, like why I every single day and
even the smallest task can seem impossiblewithout clear direction on who's responsible, what
are the timelines, what are thedeadlines. So I think, you know,

focusing on really making sure that peopleare empowered to do their job and
that they understand what the expectations andresponsibilities are is something that I've been working
on myself, and I think we'redoing a little bit better now and focusing
on being flexible and adaptable. Iknow I mentioned that earlier, but in
the line of business that we're in, in you know, people focused work,

not everybody is the same. Infact, the twenty thousand people we
support are all very very differ sowe have to be adaptable and flexible,
and I think coming into a leadershiprole understanding that we need to really be
person centered and person focused is somethingthat WHYI has always been really really well

known for and something that I embraceat the start, but didn't necessarily understand
what that meant. And as I'vegrown as a leader of the organization in
the last year, it sort ofrenewed my focus on what's important and what
I can do to help impact thelives of the thousands of people that were
supporting. So that's one lesson thatI think I've learned. That's an important
lesson found the theme of adaptability.Right, one of probably the biggest things

that people sometimes struggle with is worklife bounce. In addition to being a
CEO, your husband and your fatherobviously even a lot of people that you're
responsible for at YI as well.How do you balance that all and how
do you kind of deal with thatyour personal life as well as your professional
Yeah, well, my family keepsme just as busy as my job keeps
me. Very fortunate. I havea beautiful, lovely wife who's very very

supportive. I have two wonderful childrenwho are seven and five, so they
keep me very very busy on theweekends. And my wife and I both
come from very big families who arewho are really supportive, not just of
us, but of the work thatI do. And I think that's really
really important to have, you know, family members that support and believe in
the work and and help me torealize those goals. When I'm not working,

I like to, you know,relax with the kids and with my
wife. We go hiking a lot. We love to spend as much time
outdoors as we can. When theweather cooperates. I coach my son's baseball
team and my daughter soccer team.So a very typical suburban dad. And
I love to read when I whenI do have the time to do that,
and yeah, spend as much timeoutdoors as possible. And I think

one one thing I've been trying todo with my kids, and they're little,
there's seven and five, is youknow, raise them in this world
of understanding of people with intellectual anddevelopmental disabilities. These really really important for
me in the role that I'm in, but also just as a community member
to understand, to advocate for people, and to empathize for people when it's

needed. And you know, Ibring my kids to our annual event every
year, our Central Park Challenge.I bring them to work when I can,
or to other work events. Infact, my daughter's first Central Park
Challenge she was ten days old,so really made sure that she was part
of it from the beginning. Andyeah, it's been great. The family
is very supportive, and I thinkwork life balance is one of the biggest
challenges that we have at the organizationbecause the work is so demanding. And

I'm not speaking for myself now,I'm speaking for most of our direct sport
professionals who work incredibly hard. Mostof them put in a lot of overtime,
and you know, it's an areathat we try and focus on at
why I you know, there's adelicate balance between allowing staff to or needing
staff to work that many hours basedon the really tough labor market that we

have, but also making sure thatstaff understand and can protect themselves and that
if you can't take care of yourself, you cannot take care of somebody else.
So it's something that we constantly talkabout work life balance. And this
month is mental Health Awareness Month,so we you know, are you know,
sharing information with staff about how totake care of themselves. But it
is something that you know, wewill continuously do and as a leader for

the organization, I think it's reallycritically important that staff understand how to take
care of themselves so they can bethe best selves at work. One hundred
percent. It's a really important topicfor all employees. So they're very lucky
to have a CEO that has thatmindset. So looking ahead, what are
your future aspirations for YI, Like, where do you see the future going
as you and the CEO role?Yeah, I think it's really important to

continue to innovate within the organization.There's a lot of providers that do what
we do at YI and that doit really really well. But we don't
want to just do what we've doneforever. We want to do new things.
We want to do things differently.I think one thing that we really
focus on is community inclusion for thepeople we're supporting and moving people into less
restrictive settings. So we have somepeople who live with us in a supervised

setting, which means they're staff twentyfour to seven, and they may not
want that or they may not needthat, and so to help them move
into a supportive apartment or into theirown apartment where there are no staff if
they can and if they desire thatsomething that we're looking to do to really
downsize some of our programs so thatthey're not these big programs that have so
many people either living there or goingthere for a day program, but really

individualized care and individualized attention for whatif each person wants and what each person
needs. So focusing on community inclusion, really getting out of the old way
of thinking and thinking based on eachperson in a person centered approach and designing
programs around each person. So talkingto everybody, what do you want to

do, how can we support youin your vision for yourself and seeing how
we can actualize that. That's awesome. I know. The Central Park Challenge
is one of the most significant fundraisingevents for you guys, right, Can
you share some highlights about the eventand how the funds that are raised really
support YI? Yeah? Yeah.Central Park Challenge is our biggest fundraiser.

It's every year the first Saturday inJune. This year it's on June first.
It's from eight am to noon.We'd love to get as many people
there as possible, so we welcomeall the listeners to come out to Central
Park on June first. We haveBill Ritter from WABCTV as the MC and
he's been our MC for over twentyyears. Maria Maldo from Q one oh
four seven will be there this yearas well, just on the hallway.

The Blue Man Group will be there, and we'll have thousands of people with
IDD their families and our staff thereas well. And it's really a fun,
festive atmosphere, a way for YIto showcase the work that we do,
the impact that we have, andfor people to learn about what we're
doing and participate in that. Andthere's lots of ways that people can participate

just by coming to the park.They can donate, they can volunteer,
There's, you know, lots ofdifferent ways for the community to get engaged
with us. And we're really excitedabout the event this year, so hopefully
we'll see everybody there absolutely before wewrap up. How can our listeners find
out more about YAI, Yeah,they can go to our website YI dot

org. Also follow us on allof the various social media platforms. We're
on Instagram, Facebook, YouTube,TikTok, all the platforms, and there's
lots of different ways to get engagedwith the organization. There is you can
become an employee. If someone's lookingfor a job, I welcome them to
go to our website and look tosee what opportunities we have there. There's

volunteer opportunities as I mentioned before,you can donate for corporations, there's corporate
sponsorships. There's also employment opportunities,which is a huge area of need for
YI. You know, we're reallyfocusing on creating employment opportunities for all the
people we support who want employment,and we're looking for corporations that are looking
to hire people with disabilities, andso there's ways to partner they are,

whether it be through interviews or throughactual hiring. And our program actually supports
people in employment. So if somebodythat we're supporting gets a job, it's
not as if they start that joband they're by themselves. We support them
and we help them, you know, excel and work at the place where
they are getting employment from. Sothere's those opportunities as well. And there's

also coming out to the park andseeing us on June first. That's awesome.
Well, I'm excited to go seethe facility firsthand. I'm definitely gonna
come down. You can definitely checkout the Central Park Challenge. But thank
you Kevin for coming in to beour guest on CEOs You Should Know.
But more importantly, thank you forall the amazing work you Andy hy Hey,
I does it sounds like a reallyamazing organization that I'm glad so many

of our listeners got to know alittle bit better. So thank you everybody
for tuning in and for joining us, and we will see you next week
on the next edition of CEOs YouShould Know. Thank you, Thank you
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