Cutler Institute for Health and Social Policy

Children, Youth and Families

Maine Roads to Quality (MRTQ) chosen to lead state BUILD Initiative

Maine Roads to Quality LogoMaine Roads to Quality director Sonja Howard has been named the lead for a BUILD Initiative grant received by the State of Maine to help shape the technical assistance program offered to its early care and youth education practitioners.

The grant creates state teams that will engage in a structured dialogue with one another and with national experts to assess their current state technical assistance systems on four levels: early learning programs, technical assistance professionals, supervisor/sponsoring agencies, and state administration. State teams also will work to develop implementation plans to establish a more effective and efficient technical assistance system that can promote high quality early care and learning programs and achieve better outcomes for children. Maine is one of only eight states chosen to participate in this national initiative.

In addition, Maine Roads to Quality recently has been awarded a 21-month, $2.2 million contract from the Office of Child and Family Services, Maine Department of Health and Human Services, to improve the quality of early care and education settings in Maine through a statewide professional development system. The primary objectives of this effort include support for programs to advance Quality Rating and Improvement System (QRIS) steps, the distribution of scholarship funds to increase the professional development of practitioners in the field of early care and education, tracking professional development through one centralized provider registry for the State of Maine, and collaboration with other agencies in the state to support a network of services to support early care and education programs in Maine.

Through these two initiatives, Maine Roads to Quality is working to fulfill its goal of providing all families and children with access to a choice of quality child care options across diverse settings that meet their unique developmental, cultural, and linguistic needs.


Maine Roads to Quality (MRTQ) is a project of the Children, Youth & Families program at the USM Muskie School’s Cutler Institute of Health and Social Policy. Working with various partners across the state, including Maine’s Higher Education System, MRTQ strives to promote and support professionalism in the early care and education field.

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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