Cutler Institute for Health and Social Policy

Disability and Aging

Working Together: Maine's Strategic Plan to Maximize Employment for People with Disabilities


This strategic plan is the result of one year of collaborative effort by individuals and organizations representing Maine's public, private and educational sectors. But behind this plan are the stories of Maine citizens with disabilities who seek the increased quality of life that comes with the opportunity to work, build careers, and contribute to Maine's workforce. It is also about Maine employers who need skilled workers and a reliable workforce to be competitive in a global economy, and yet for various reasons have had mixed success in recruiting and retaining workers with disabilities. <p>After careful consideration of findings through consensus discussion and voting, six areas were determined to have the highest priority for action in 2006 and beyond. For each of these areas, available resources and opportunities are identified, together with recommended short- and long-term activities. These details for each of the six priority areas can be found in the full report.</p>
<br>1. Create an employer outreach and education plan</br>
<br>2. Ensure that Maine state government is a model employer for people with disabilities</br>
<br>3. Better support young people with disabilities who are transitioning from school to work</br>
<br>4. Improve and expand vocational rehabilitation services</br>
<br>5. Expand benefits counseling to people with disabilities who work, or who want to work </br>
<br>6. Enhance data collection about workers with disabilities and ensure that data can be shared by relevant agencies providing services</br>

Publication Type: 
Publish Date: 
January 15, 2006

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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