Maine will attempt to resolve communication and personnel issues in its child protection system


Maine will make several immediate changes to its child protection program after a report revealed staffing issues and system-wide communication failures, the Department of Health and Human Rights said on Tuesday. Maine Social Services.

The changes come less than a week after the release of a report by Casey Family Programs that revealed several issues within the Office of Children and Family Services that made it more difficult for officials to assess child safety.

The agency asked Casey to launch the investigation earlier this year after four children died in less than a month in the state from June 1, three allegedly by guards. Since then, another child has reportedly died at the hands of a parent.

The newly announced policies closely follow many of the seven recommendations for the department in that report, although the announcement noted that some of the actions built on previous policies, including those implemented immediately after the four deaths of ‘children in June.

Immediate actions the ministry will take will include improving coordination with behavioral health providers, establishing a protocol for working with hospitals and law enforcement in the event of suspected abuse, and supporting parental engagement with the child protection system.

The report noted that child welfare workers in Maine often had to rely on incomplete information in cases involving children in hospitals. Law enforcement agencies pass the limited information they have to social workers, but hospitals are often reluctant to provide more details to create a more complete picture of the concern about violating patient privacy laws.

DHHS will also be reviewing the after-hours and on-call staffing arrangements again, building on changes made after a working group meeting earlier this year. These changes included an increase in staff on weekends and holidays, greater flexibility in the length of shifts and a clearer definition of the roles of social workers and supervisors.

The Casey Family Program report noted that social workers assigned to on-call shifts outside of normal working hours often performed tasks, such as safety assessments, that were not part of their regular responsibilities and expertise. . The report also states that the work adds to the already full workload of these employees.

“There is no higher priority than protecting the children of Maine,” said Todd Landry, director of the Office of Child and Family Services at DHHS. “Our child protection staff are dedicated to this responsibility and we continue to do everything possible to support them in their essential work, including incorporating Casey’s scientific recommendations into our continuous improvements.”

The Casey Report identified several staffing issues, including high turnover rates and shortages of available workers due to quarantine protocols, in addition to on-call and off-duty staffing issues. Burnout, hostility from community partners and feelings of ineffectiveness contributed to the departure of workers from the agency, according to the report.

The report was the first of several expected on the system in the coming months, along with more expected from the Legislative Assembly’s government oversight committee. Child welfare is also already shaping up to be a dominant issue for debate in the next legislative session in Augusta.

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