Children, Youth and Families

Melanie Knox

Public Welfare Program Analyst
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Office

12 E. Chestnut Street, Augusta

Contact Information

Phone: (207) 626-5270

Melanie has been with the Muskie School for 18 years. Prior to joining  Muskie, she worked 18 years in government service, with the last 8 years in public welfare and 5 years in direct service with clients. Research is her first love and she is most happy when working on a variety of projects. Melanie has earned certificates in mediation and facilitation from USM and is always looking for work involving focus groups and interviewing. She also trains Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) staff on a variety of topics, but her favorites are teaching DHHS workers how to present orientation to clients, as well as teaching supervisors/managers how to identify and deal with the “bad apple.”

Melanie has worked with a Food and Nutrition Service project, which gave her the opportunity to work with Somali women, school children, and farmers markets around nutrition and food safety, another area of interest. This project gave her opportunity to help author a recipe and activity book for school children on nutrition and blog to Food Supplement participants about healthy low cost meals on the Maine Nutrition Network website. Melanie has experience with polling technologies, conference planning, logistics, leading workgroups, developing materials, literature reviews, and research, and she has worked on projects involving paternity, sex offenders, breast feeding moms, nutrition, and court training, to name a few. Melanie is currently working with the Division of Child Support Enforcement at the Office for Family Independence.

Melanie has raised 4 children while earning a bachelor’s degree in mental health and human services.

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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