Since 2004, the Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative has awarded grants to the Muskie School of Public Service to convene and facilitate the Maine Youth Transition Collaborative (MYTC). This Collaborative engages youth, as well as public and private partners from around the state, to support young people currently or formerly in foster care as they transition to adult life. Statewide partners come together in an advisory capacity; others collaborate with young people on committees and workgroups; and in some communities, the efforts have focused on building local community networks. Through the collaboration and support of its partners, MYTC has learned to broaden and deepen its approach to building community support. This 5-page paper, "Making a Brighter Future for Foster Youth in York County, Maine", sponsored by Maine Network Partners and Common Good Ventures, tells the story of lessons learned from two experiences in community network building. It provides a case example of how a community-based network comprised of youth, as well as public, private, and non profit participants, can drive significant positive change.
Cutler Institute for Health and Social Policy
Making a Brighter Future for Foster Youth in York County, Maine
Cutler Institute awarded $600,000 to help youth raised in foster system
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.