Cutler Institute for Health and Social Policy

Children, Youth and Families

Esther Attean honored by Americans Who Tell the Truth Project

Esther Attean, training specialist at the Muskie School of Public Service, has been honored by artist Robert Shetterly’s Americans Who Tell the Truth (AWTT) project, an initiative to promote models of courageous citizenship in schools and communities around the country.

The AWTT combines art and history, portrait and narrative, in student-centered presentations that empower and inspire action for the common good. Attean’s portrait, which was unveiled December 4 at a public ceremony at the State Capital Building, will join more than 200 others on the AWTT website and will be included in traveling exhibits that present people throughout American history who have worked for social, economic, and environmental justice.

Attean, a Passamaquoddy Tribal citizen, is co-director of Maine Wabanaki REACH (Reconciliation, Engagement, Advocacy, Change, and Healing) and co-founder of the Maine Wabanaki-State Child Welfare Truth and Reconciliation Commission process. The Commission, which was officially mandated by the five Wabanaki Chiefs and the Maine Governor Paul LePage in June 2012, represents a historic agreement to uncover and acknowledge the truth of what happened to Wabanaki children and families in the Maine child welfare system, create opportunities to heal and learn from the truth, and collaborate to improve the child welfare system for Wabanaki children and families.

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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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