Children, Youth and Families

Lee Lauritsen, L.M.S.W.

Policy Associate II


12 E. Chestnut Street, Augusta

Contact Information

Phone: (207) 626-5081

Public child welfare has been the focus of Lee’s career. The opportunity to contribute to best practice in the field is exciting. Lee may never see the children and families who benefit, but she knows they are out there and this idea keeps her engaged.

For 19 years, Lee worked in various positions within Maine’s public child welfare system. As a supervisor and later an administrator, staff training caught her interest. After transferring to USM in 2004, she has had the opportunity to train child welfare staff at all levels in Maine. Topics include forensic interviewing, family team meetings, screening and hiring, performance management, and motivational interviewing. Skill areas she has developed include facilitation, curriculum writing (web based and face-to-face training), staff coaching, and distance education. Nationally, Lee works with supervisors in building leadership skills as an instructor for the National Child Welfare Workforce Institute's Leadership Academy for Supervisors. 

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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