Cutler Institute for Health and Social Policy

Children, Youth and Families

YLAT Youth Leadership Advisory Team: An Innovative Approach to Systems Improvement

Abstract: 

The Youth Leadership Advisory Team (YLAT) brings together young people who are involved with the child welfare system and creates opportunities for them to learn and practice leadership and advocacy skills. YLAT is a three-way partnership including the Muskie School of Public Service at the University of Southern Maine, Maine's Department of Health and Human Services, and Maine's youth in care. Amid a comprehensive system reform, YLAT has been a guiding force and a clear voice. YLAT has enjoyed many successes and garnered attention--including requests for replication--across the nation. This paper grew from a desire to clearly articulate the YLAT model, both to aid other sites considering a similar approach and to help the team as they determine their strategies for YLAT's next decade of achievements.

Publication Type: 
Report
Publish Date: 
March 31, 2010
URL: 
http://muskie.usm.maine.edu/Publications/CYF/YLAT-innovative-approach-to-systems-improvement.pdf

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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