Cutler Institute for Health and Social Policy

Children, Youth and Families

Child Care and Children With Special Needs: Challenges for Low Income Families.


Findings from this mixed methods study include:

  • Parents of young children with special needs face significant challenges finding and keeping child care arrangements for their child.
  • Parents report significant problems with the child care arrangements they have used for their child with special needs.
  • There are significant programmatic and financial barriers to supporting parents of children with special needs so they can work, and balance work and family.
  • The combination of all of these problems and the particular demands of caring for a child with special needs often result in employment problems and job instability.
  • Families of children with special needs face more economic difficulties (poverty, food and rent insecurity, lack of health insurance) than do families of children without special needs.
  • Certain types of disabilities have a greater impact on the number of child care and work problems than others.
  • Having a child with multiple special needs or having more than one child with special needs significantly increases the likelihood of employment difficulties and job instability.

Suggested Citation: Ward H, Morris L, Oldham E, et al.  Child Care and Children With Special Needs: Challenges for Low Income Families.  Portland, ME: University of Southern Maine, Muskie School of Public Service, Cutler Institute for Child and Family Policy; December 2006.

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December 1, 2006

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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