Cutler Institute for Health and Social Policy

Children, Youth and Families

Laura Dyer, B.A.

Research Analyst


332H Wishcamper Center

Contact Information

Phone: (207) 228-8343

Laura supports senior staff at the National Child Welfare Resource Center for Organizational Improvement (NRCOI) in their work to provide training and technical assistance (T/TA) to states and tribes. Laura enjoys working on the NRCOI's national research efforts, bringing together descriptive information, resources, and materials from child welfare staff and administrators to support T/TA. She assists with the coordination of the NRCOI’s Peer Networks, publications, national webinars and conferences, social networking sites, and requests for information from child welfare staff. Having previously worked on the Violence Against Women Act Measuring Effectiveness Initiative, Laura assisted in the collection and analysis of data on grants administered by the Office on Violence Against Women.

Laura considers herself lucky to have the opportunity to work with such talented and passionate individuals, both on the NRCOI team and from within child welfare agencies.


  • Bachelor of Arts, Communication, University of Southern Maine
  • Certificate of Graduate Study in Applied Research and Evaluation Methods, Muskie School of Public Service

Research interests:  children, youth, and families; child welfare and domestic violence, mental health, juvenile justice, and the courts; organizational improvement; leadership.


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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