Cutler Institute for Health and Social Policy

Children, Youth and Families

Helen Ward

Senior Policy Associate
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238 Wishcamper Center

Contact Information

Phone: (207) 780-5831

Helen Ward, J.D., is a Senior Policy Associate at the Cutler Institute for Health and Social Policy at the Edmund S. Muskie School of Public Service, University of Southern Maine. Ms. Ward’s work in child and family policy has focused primarily on special populations navigating multiple systems, including families living in poverty, parents of children with special needs, families involved in the child welfare system and immigrant and refugee families. She has used mixed methods to understand these complex cross-systems issues and has applied the principles of participatory research to her work.  She is currently Project Director for the Colorado Child Welfare Training Project  for which she has developed cross-training curricula focusing on coordination between child welfare and other systems serving families and children including education, early intervention/preschool special education, the early care and education system, mental health, and immigration. She has also conducted several federally-funded research studies involving special populations including an examination of the child care and work challenges of parents of children with special needs, a study of the degree of coordination between child welfare and early care and education and early intervention in addressing the developmental needs of young children and research identifying the factors that influence child care decision-making of immigrant and refugee families and the implications for school readiness. She also was a consultant to an initiative at the Ford Foundation to address the needs of children of the working poor. This work involved conducting a series of parent focus groups in Virginia and writing a manual for Ford grantees and others working at the state level on how to do focus groups of low income parents.  Before joining the Muskie School, Ms. Ward worked as a consultant conducting research, policy analysis and evaluation work on children’s issues. Previously, she served as Deputy Director of the Connecticut Association for Human Services (CAHS) where she worked in a variety of issue areas affecting child and family well-being, leading coalitions, developing legislative proposals, conducting policy analysis and authoring a number of publications, including a report on low birth weight and infant mortality and a comprehensive study of Connecticut’s child care system. She earned her Bachelor’s degree from Oberlin College and her law degree from the Antioch School of Law.

Recent Publications:

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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