Cutler Institute for Health and Social Policy

Children, Youth and Families

Ahmen Cabral

Policy Associate
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338H Wishcamper Center

Contact Information

Phone: (207) 228-8548

Ahmen Cabral is a Policy Associate with the Cutler Institute of Health and Social Policy where she provides coordination for the Youth Leadership Advisory Team (YLAT), engaging youth leaders in the foster care system in advisory committees, policy and practice change, and training. Because of her broad experience in a variety of social service settings involving both youth and adults, she believes that building on the existing assets of individuals and communities is the best way to establish networks and connections with many partners. Ahmen’s areas of expertise include group facilitation, policy writing, research and evaluation, grant writing, adolescent development, transition frameworks, community engagement, and network building. She is continually inspired and energized by youth leaders and community partners who demonstrate a strong commitment to support all young people as they meet the challenges of moving successfully into adulthood.

Ahmen received her BS in Rehabilitation Services from the University of Maine atFarmington and her MS in Social Work from the University of New England.

Cutler Institute awarded $600,000 to help youth raised in foster system

Marty Zanghi

USM's Cutler Institute for Health and Social Policy has been awarded a $600,000 grant to help young people raised in Maine's foster system to prepare for college and the workforce.

The money comes from the Annie E. Casey Foundation as part of a $5.4 million national effort aimed at youth who are homeless or in either the foster care or juvenile justice systems.

"Many of these young people have suffered abuse or trauma and were raised in poverty and neglect," said Marty Zanghi, the Cutler Center's youth development director.

The money -- including an expected $400,000 more in matching funds -- will pay for contracted work with agencies in the target areas, starting with the greater Portland area and Penobscot, Kennebec and Somerset counties.

Nationally and in Maine, only about 3 percent of people who grow up in the foster care system achieve a college degree, he said.

"It's dramatically lower than the rate for the general population," Zanghi said. "It's a horrible outcome."

It doesn't have to be that way, though.

"There are young people that overcome these circumstances," he said. "I know people who have master's degrees and Ph.Ds."

The Casey Foundation's national effort is being called the "Learn and Earn to Achieve Potential" (LEAP) initiative.

The initiative is working on partnerships in Maine and nine other areas: Alaska, Arizona, California, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska and New York. In each case, people will adapt two evidence-based models to meet the needs of these youth, including support to address the trauma they may have experienced in their lives.

In Maine, the work will include a pair of successful programs, Jobs for Maine Graduates (JMG) and Jobs for the Future. Results will be carefully tracked, Zanghi said.

After the first year, the program is expected to grow.

"Eventually, the additional help will be available to all children, 14 and over, in the foster care system in the state of Maine," Zanghi said.

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