Cutler Institute for Health and Social Policy

Children, Youth and Families

Gretchen Robbins, M.S.

Senior Policy Associate


12 E. Chestnut Street, Augusta

Contact Information

Phone: (207) 626-5224

Gretchen is a Senior Policy Associate at the Cutler Institute for Health and Social Policy at the Muskie School of Public Service. She is the lead for providing training and technical assistance to States and Tribes in Training Systems and coordinates the Peer Training Network for the National Child Welfare Resource Center for Organizational Improvement (NRCOI). She also works with supervisors in building leadership skills as an instructor for the National Child Welfare Workforce Institute, Leadership Academy for Supervisors.

In her current position, and as a former director of the Muskie School’s Child Welfare Training Institute, a prior collaborative effort between the University of Southern Maine and the Maine Department of Health and Human Services, her primary focus is on promoting best practice in child welfare through engaging practitioners, supervisors, and managers in positive change toward meeting outcomes for children, youth, and families. With over 30 years of child welfare experience, Gretchen appreciates sharing state of the art practices with those continuing to do the extremely important work of child welfare. She knows that she is making a difference for children and families. 


  • Master of Science, Human Development, University of Maine
  • Bachelor of Science, Child Development, University of Maine

Areas of expertise: facilitation, coaching, curriculum development, training delivery.

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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