Catherine Cutler Institute

Penthea Burns

Senior Policy Associate: Children, Youth, and Families Program

Office Location

337 Wishcamper Center, Portland Campus


(207) 780-5861


Penthea Burns, is a Senior Associate at the Cutler Institute and Muskie School of Public Service. Since 1999 Penthea has worked with the Wabanaki tribal child welfare programs and the State of Maine DHHS to improve Maine’s compliance with the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) and to promote best child welfare practice with Native children, youth and families. She was involved in the development of the Maine Wabanaki-State Child Welfare Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Penthea co-directs Maine-Wabanaki REACH, providing education, tools and partnerships to promote strategies to decolonize our communities and institutions. She also works with the Children’s Bureau’s Capacity Building Center for Tribes developing distance learning materials to support tribal child welfare programs. Penthea developed the nationally recognized Youth Leadership Advisory Team, engaging older youth in foster care as leaders for change and child welfare system’s improvement and is the co-founder of Camp To Belong Maine.

Penthea enjoys writing and has published two collections of poetry. She has been involved in breeding Chinook dogs and dogsledding with them. She enjoys photography, gardening and visiting with her adult son, who lives in Philadelphia. Penthea is a student of decolonization and nonviolent communication.

Areas of Expertise

Penthea is a senior leader focusing on project design and implementation for social service and community based organizations. She has extensive expertise in meaningful stakeholder engagement with significant results for systems, organizations and stakeholders. Penthea is a creative and collaborative leadership skills in demanding situations with proven ability to interact with diverse groups, coaching, building relationships and improving results. She enjoys facilitation and is a strong, creative and reflective group facilitator.

Penthea is a long time writer who utilizes contemplative practices for creative expression and deepening spiritual learning.


  Please review Penthea Burns's publications on Digital Commons.



 Masters in Social Work