Cutler Institute for Health and Social Policy

Children, Youth and Families

Child Care and Children with Special Needs: Challenges for Low Income Families

1/1/2001 - 1/30/2004
Helen Ward

<p>This project, conducted in Maine, examined the child care and work challenges of low income families with children with special needs. Faced with the often impossible task of finding suitable, stable child care for their special needs child, many parents are nevertheless forced by economic necessity to join the labor force. Despite the higher incidence of disabilities and chronic health problems among low income children, there has been surprisingly little research done about the experiences of these families in balancing work and family.</p>

<p>Staff from the Cutler Institute, Children, Youth and Families Program area, conducted a three-year study funded by the Child Care Bureau, Administration for Children, Youth and Families of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to learn more about the challenges of this vulnerable subpopulation. While our primary focus was on access to child care, we also examined the related issues of welfare reform, the impact on work force participation of having a child with special needs, and the issue of coordination of early intervention services under the Individuals with Disabilities Act with the child care system.</p>

<p>Our goal was to understand better the issues facing low income families with children with special needs across the programs and policies affecting their employment, access to child care and meeting the special needs of their children. We conducted focus groups of parents and individual, in-depth interviews with child care and other service providers who interact with this population. We also conducted a statewide survey of child care providers and parents of children with special needs. Lastly, we analyzed data from the National Survey of America

Project URL:
Start Date: 
Mon, 2001-01-01
End Date: 
Fri, 2004-01-30
Legacy Muskie ID: 

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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