Cutler Institute for Health and Social Policy

Children, Youth and Families

Cutler Institute Director works to improve international child welfare practices

Kris Sahonchik

In March 2014, Kris Sahonchik, Director of the Cutler Institute for Health and Social Policy at the University of Southern Maine, returned from several weeks in Russia on an exchange program to enhance child protection, foster care and adoption. The purpose of the trip, which followed visits to the United States from Russian child welfare professionals, was to exchange information and ideas to improve child welfare practices in both countries.

Ms. Sahonchik, one of three Fellows focused on permanency for children for the US-Russia Social Expertise Exchange (SEE), met with human services professionals and toured orphanages and other child welfare facilities in St. Petersburg, Perm, and Moscow. She then made presentations to faculty and students at Moscow State University and social service professionals at the International Conference for the Deinstitutionalization of Orphans, hosted by the Moscow City Government Department of Social Welfare and the Social Project Development Center.  

Kris Sahonchik at SEE ExchangeBased on the available numbers, Russia has a significantly higher number of children in government care than the United States and it has a large majority of those children in orphanages, rather than in foster care as they are in the US. In Russia, as in the United States, Ms. Sahonchik recommends a stronger and continuing emphasis on gathering and analyzing empirical information to determine the kinds of policies and procedures that are effective and consistent with the cultural norms of the region. 

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Nellie Mae Education Foundation nominates Pious Ali for the Lawrence W. O'Toole Award

Pious Ali

Pious Ali, Youth and Community Engagement Specialist in Cutler’s Children, Youth, and Families Programs, has been nominated for the Lawrence W. O’Toole Award by the Nellie Mae Education Foundation. Pious is one of six nominees from the New England states.

The Nellie Mae Education Foundation believes that student-centered learning – where learning is personalized, engaging, competency-based and not restricted to the classroom – will prepare young people to graduate high school ready to contribute to their communities and succeed. This award is given out each year to an individual, school district, or non-profit that has exhibited great leadership in moving student-centered approaches to learning forward in the New England region.

The winner will be selected by online voting and will be awarded a $100,000 grant to help advance student centered learning!


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MYTC 2014 Celebration

Colby Swettberg, May 2014, MYTC

Every year the Maine Youth Transition Collaborative brings together youth and adult partners from around Maine to celebrate the year's achievements and milestones.

MYTC’s fourth annual celebration dinner was held at the Brunswick Hotel and Tavern on May 13, 2014. Over seventy young adults, adult partners, professionals, legislators, adoptive families, and friends came together for an evening of fun, renewed connections, learning, and good food.

The importance of mentors in the lives of young people was the theme for the evening. The keynote speaker, Colby Swettberg, Executive Director of Adoption and Foster Care Mentoring in Boston, was introduced by Jacob Hills. Ms. Swettberg talked about what good mentor-mentee relationships look like for youth in foster care and led a discussion about best practices and challenges to bringing youth and mentors together.

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