Cutler Institute for Health and Social Policy

Family Support and Independence

man with daughter

Many families share circumstances that require interaction with multiple public service agencies, such as families in financial distress, families with children with special needs, immigrant/ refugee families, or families involved in the child welfare system. The Cutler Institute provides training and technical assistance to the human service agencies that support a broad range of individuals and families in need of short-term or longer-term assistance.

Current Projects


OFI Training

Workforce Development – Office of Family Independence/Maine DHHS

For over 10 years the Standard Eligibility Policy Training Program has prepared new OFI workers to navigate ever changing federal and state rules, regulations and electronic processes in order to deliver efficient, accurate, and effective eligibility determinations for programs such as TANF, Food Supplement, MaineCare, and Disability Services. Training is delivered through a blend of online and classroom training, reinforced on the job through a series of Learning at Work Guides coordinated with local supervisors.


OFI TrainingDivision of Support Enforcement & Recovery, Quadrennial Review

Federal law requires that each state conduct a formal review of its child support guidelines at least once every four years. In 2012 Cutler Institute staff produced Maine’s report, based on an extensive process of stakeholder input, literature review, DSER case studies, policy analysis, and updates to economic forecasting. The report includes an analysis of different child support models and recommendations on changes to the Maine Child Support schedule to reflect new economic realities. 

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.

New Chartbook on the Use of Maine's Long Term Services and Supports (LTSS)

Long Term Services and Supports Cover page image

Long term services and supports (LTSS) are a vital lifeline for the thousands of Maine adults who need them, and they account for a significant portion of the state's Medicaid (MaineCare) budget.This Chartbook prepared by the research staff at the USM Muskie School, provides information on all Maine adults who use LTSS: older adults; adults with physical disabilities; adults with intellectual disabilities/autism spectrum disorder or other related conditions; and adults with acquired brain injury.

The information provided in this Chartbook about the demographic trends that impact Maine's service system as well as data on the typical MaineCare service utilization and expenditures of different LTSS populations will inform the discussion among policymakers, providers, consumers, and advocates as they work together to ensure that Maine’s system of LTSS meets the needs of all its citizens.

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