Maine DHHS Announces Upgrades to Procedures in Keeping Kids Safe
After five children died last June, Maine DHHS officials say changes are already being enacted to the agency's child protective services system.
What Changes Are Being Made?
The modifications to procedures are meant to ensure that no child ever falls through the cracks in the system. Some of the changes announced this week include:
- Keeping active lines of communication open with hospitals and law enforcement agencies, including the Maine Department of Public Safety and legal experts, when making decisions about the safety of children with their parents or guardians.
- Improving information sharing about the health and safety of children in the welfare system whose parents are coping with mental health challenges or treatment for substance use disorders.
- Finalizing an updated policy for family team members that clarifies the guidance to child welfare staff on criteria for meetings to best support child safety.
- Increasing standby and after-hours staffing, especially on weekends and holidays, as well as building in flexibility in the lengths of shifts, clarifying expectations for ongoing case assignments, and better defining the roles of the caseworkers and supervisors.
- Increasing and improving engagement with parents, including developing a parent mentor program.
What Prompted These Changes?
Maine DHHS officials asked Casey Family Programs to help them in their investigation in July, after four child deaths that happened during the previous month. Just after that announcement, a fifth child died. All the children were four years old or younger and died from accidents or serious injuries.
- Brewer - Ronald Harding is charged with manslaughter for the death of his 6-month-old son
- Old Town - Hilary Goding is charged with manslaughter for the death of her 3-year-old daughter
- Temple - A young boy dies after accidentally shooting himself
- Stockton Springs - Jessica Williams accused of causing the death of her 3-year-old son
- Windham - A search for a missing 4-year-old non-verbal boy ends tragically when he's found deceased.
How Can You Help?
Anyone who's concerned that a child may be the victim of abuse or neglect is urged to call the DHHS 24-hour hotline at 1-800-452-1999. Calls may be made anonymously.