Maine’s young people who are returning to their communities following involvement in the child welfare or youth justice systems should receive more help from local agencies, according to a new report released by researchers from the University of Southern Maine’s Muskie School of Public Service.
The report, “Place Matters: From Pipelines to Pathways for Maine’s Older Youth,” provides an overview of the forces at play that contribute to youth system involvement and makes recommendations for next steps. “Pipelines to Pathways” is authored by Mara Sanchez, Erica King and Robyn Dumont. All work in the Justice Policy Program of USM’s Muskie School of Public Service.
The report also includes county-by-county information on Maine’s economic and social well-being, using recent and historical data. Accompanying the data are resources and recommendations for system officials, community leaders and policy decision makers.
“Roughly 35,000 young people in Maine are currently experiencing homelessness, are disconnected from school, or are involved in Maine’s behavioral health, child welfare or youth justice systems,” said Erica King, a justice policy associate at USM. “These aren’t small numbers, and Maine needs all of these young people to thrive.”
The report calls on governmental systems and communities to use data as a starting point to invest in community-based strategies, as well as to build collaborative efforts to impact youth outcomes in positive ways that keep them in their communities.
“Maine has several data blind spots when it comes to youth system involvement, due to a lack of data availability and data sharing between systems,” said Sanchez, a justice policy associate at USM. “Investing in data capacity would increase understanding of youth outcomes, which would aid in the improvement of those outcomes.”
The report is the second in a series of reports planned by the USM’s Muskie School’s Justice Policy Program. An upcoming toolkit will demonstrate how communities can map where assets currently exist and where opportunities lie to serve youth transitioning to adulthood across the state.
“The data in this report shows the obstacles Maine faces, but it also shows the resilience of communities,” Sanchez said. “Working together, Maine can turn these pipelines into positive pathways, and make sure that young people are better off.”
Listen to more about youth incarceration from Maine Public's radio call-in program, "Maine Calling." Among the panelists on the program were Erica King.