HOPE Program Helps Maine Families Achieve Economic Independence

October 28, 2022

The Higher Opportunities for Pathways to Employment (HOPE) program, offered  through the Maine Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) Office for Family Independence (OFI), supports Maine parents in  pursuing meaningful careers  while helping to address Maine’s workforce needs. 

HOPE provides wraparound support for parents to reduce barriers to pursuing higher education and help them attain education and training in career-oriented fields that can provide a pathway to economic independence. HOPE uses a wholistic approach that recognizes that parents face a range of challenges to accessing higher education. For example, parents who can’t access or afford reliable child care or transportation often end up dropping out of class or not pursuing educational or training opportunities; and those who put their education on hold may have unpaid fees that keep them from reenrolling. The HOPE model provides funds to pay expenses including classes, child care, car repair, books, technology, and even dental care and corrective eyewear that may be needed to help parents stay in school. Along with financial support, the HOPE program also connects participants with student navigators who provide individualized help with resolving logistical barriers like finding child care, selecting and registering for classes, developing a schedule and workload that fits their life, and applying for financial aid.  

In addition to benefitting individual Maine families, the HOPE program is also helping to provide a pipeline for participants to attain degrees, training, and licenses needed to access meaningful and well-paying careers in key sectors. Since the program began in January 2020, HOPE has helped 193 parents earn a total of 205 degrees and credentials, including associates and bachelor’s degrees and short-term occupational training in in-demand fields ranging from accounting and early childhood education to skilled trades like masonry, commercial driving, precision machining, and electrical technology.   

One sector where HOPE graduates are finding success and filling critical roles is health care. Of the 205 credentials earned, 73 percent have been in the health care field: 

  • 52 HOPE graduates earned nursing degrees and completed training programs leading to certified nursing assistant, licensed practical nurse, and registered nurse credentials; 
  • 42 HOPE graduates earned credentials in behavioral health such as substance use disorder counselors, social workers, and mental health and rehabiliation technicians; and
  • 56 credentials earned by HOPE parents help support the vital work of health care, including health care administration, medical assisting, medical billing and coding, gerontology, phlebotomy, and massage therapy.

Many HOPE graduates have found employment directly after completing their education or training. In a recent survey of participants, a majority of respondents reported that the credentials they obtained with support from the HOPE program led to positive outcomes like increased wages, new jobs, and promotions. None of the respondents reported they were unable to work in their field of study.

According to one HOPE graduate who obtained a nursing degree and RN credential, “I cannot even begin to explain how much of an impact being able to further my education has made for myself and my family. I feel so hopeful that I have permanently broken the chain of generational poverty.”

More information about HOPE, program eligibility, and how to apply is available online and on the HOPE Program Facebook page