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September 2010Vol. 11, No. 7Maine's Youth Leadership Advisory Team

The Maine Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) developed the Youth Leadership Advisory Team (YLAT) to bring together young people involved in the child welfare system and create opportunities for them to learn and practice leadership and advocacy skills. YLAT, in partnership with DHHS and the Muskie School of Public Service at the University of Southern Maine, encourages youth members to join their peers to advocate for system reform, advise policymakers, and contribute to the efforts of improving outcomes for children and youth in Maine's child welfare system. Youth are recruited from foster care, trained, and then provided with leadership opportunities and supported throughout this process.

To mark the 10th anniversary of YLAT, the publication Youth Leadership Advisory Team: An Innovative Approach to Systems Improvement was produced in March 2010. Written by Marie Zemler Wu, Penthea Burns, Marty Zanghi, and Dianna Walters, the report presents the YLAT program model to both aid other jurisdictions considering a similar approach and to help guide the YLAT team as they prepare for the future.

The authors conclude that YLAT has benefited youth in Maine in the following ways:

  • There has been a reduction in the number of children and youth in care, as well as a reduction in the number of youth in congregate care.
  • Average time to permanency has decreased.
  • The number of youth who leave care without a permanent connection has decreased significantly.
  • Both youth and DHHS staff have a greater understanding of the need for permanency for older youth.

This publication was funded by a grant from the Innovations in American Government Award, a program of the Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation at Harvard Kennedy School, and the Annie E. Casey Foundation. It is available on the YLAT website: (338 KB)