Cutler Institute for Health and Social Policy

Children, Youth and Families

Great Expectations: Implementing a High-Stakes Testing Program in Maine


This paper describes the initial inception and development of a child welfare pre-service testing program in Maine. In 2007, the Maine Office of Child and Family Services (OCFS) and the University of Southern Maine began to develop a high-stakes test that child welfare trainees must successfully complete prior to securing employment in the regional offices. The purpose of the program was to ensure that trainees graduated with sufficient mastery of child welfare fundamentals, and to increase credibility of the profession and training program. One of the main objectives of test development was to create a comprehensive set of assessment tools that could reflect the considerable range of job expectations on the typical caseworker. This came to include a knowledge test, skill assessment and field practice review. This paper will review the early accomplishments and challenges in developing a multi-]layered testing program.

Publication Type: 
Report (Conference Paper)
Publish Date: 
January 1, 2009

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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