Cutler Institute for Health and Social Policy

Children, Youth and Families

Tara Hembree

Training Specialist II
Image unavailable for Tara Hembree


12 E. Chestnut Street, Augusta

Contact Information

Phone: (207) 626-5213

Tara came to the Muskie School in 2005 from the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), where she was an eligibility specialist for 7 years. Tara worked in a variety of offices around the state with varying populations, which prepared her well for her job at Muskie. Tara is responsible for training new eligibility specialists on all policies and procedures relating to the MaineCare, Food Supplement, and Temporary Assistance to Needy Families programs administered through DHHS. Tara has expertise in the ACES computer system designed for Maine DHHS to determine client eligibility.  Tara trains new DHHS employees to navigate the ACES system so that they can provide excellent customer service and accurate benefits to their client population. In her spare time, Tara is working with DHHS staff and management as well as other Muskie employees to get the current classroom based training online. She has successfully delivered the first module of “Introduction” to three classes. The Food Supplement online curriculum is under development and will be ready for piloting by the end of this year. Tara has a husband and 6 year old son who loves music and keeps her busy. She also loves to knit and has an affinity for goats.

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.

Connect With Us