Cutler Institute for Health and Social Policy

Youth and Community Engagement

Camp Ketcha Youth Group

Youth and Community Engagement (YCE) staff engage with state, local, and tribal agencies, youth, and key community stakeholders to transform systems and communities so Maine’s young people experience better outcomes. Through our youth-adult partnership approach, we empower youth in transition to adulthood to serve as leaders and change advocates in partnership with adults. We help to build the capacity of individuals and communities to make significant changes to entrenched social problems through supporting people to tell their stories, developing multiple and accessible outlets for participation, and enhancing the capacity of community collaborations.

 YLAT LogoThe Youth Leadership Advisory Team (YLAT) is the voice for Maine’s youth in Foster Care. YLAT is a partnership of youth and adults working together to improve outcomes for young people in the foster care system through: public speaking and training; advising decision makers about youth priorities; youth-centered laws and policies; and resources and opportunities for young people in foster care.

 Maine Wabanki REACHMaine-Wabanaki REACH, a cross-cultural collaborative made up of Maine child welfare staff and Wabanaki representatives, established and advises the Maine Wabanaki-State Child Welfare Truth & Reconciliation Commission (TRC). REACH educates Native and non-Native people about the history of Maine and Wabanaki peoples, promotes healing from intergenerational trauma, builds allies for improved tribal-state relations and will oversee the implementation of the TRC recommendations.

Maine Youth Transition Collaborative

The Maine Youth Transition Collaborative (MYTC), made up of public and private partners from across Maine, works with young people, the child welfare system, and community members to ensure that youth transitioning from the foster care system to adulthood have the resources and personal connections they need to be successful. MYTC works with communities around Maine on the issues vital to a young person’s economic self-sufficiency, such as post-secondary education and employment.

SMYTNSouthern Maine Youth Transition Network (SMYTN)

The Southern Maine Youth Transition Network is a cross-sector collaborative comprised of youth and adults that seeks to reduce the number of teens and young adults in Southern Maine who are disconnected from school, work, and community through aligning programs so that older youth are guaranteed continuous support from secondary through postsecondary education and on to credentials and jobs. SMYTN includes public agencies, private service providers, faith-based organizations, businesses/industry sectors, foundations, and educators, as well as youth leaders with diverse life experiences and valuable expertise to share.

Portland EmpoweredPortland Empowered

Portland Empowered engages students and parents in educational reform and decision-making, increasing opportunities in Portland Public High Schools for including their voice and leadership in making learning more student-centered.




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.

New Chartbook on the Use of Maine's Long Term Services and Supports (LTSS)

Long Term Services and Supports Cover page image

Long term services and supports (LTSS) are a vital lifeline for the thousands of Maine adults who need them, and they account for a significant portion of the state's Medicaid (MaineCare) budget.This Chartbook prepared by the research staff at the USM Muskie School, provides information on all Maine adults who use LTSS: older adults; adults with physical disabilities; adults with intellectual disabilities/autism spectrum disorder or other related conditions; and adults with acquired brain injury.

The information provided in this Chartbook about the demographic trends that impact Maine's service system as well as data on the typical MaineCare service utilization and expenditures of different LTSS populations will inform the discussion among policymakers, providers, consumers, and advocates as they work together to ensure that Maine’s system of LTSS meets the needs of all its citizens.

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