Maine Senate supports creation of new child welfare service against Janet Mills opposition


AUGUSTA, Maine – In a move that surprised the measure’s sponsor, the Maine Senate on Thursday approved the separation of Maine’s child welfare system from the massive health department over objections from the governor’s administration Janet Mills.

The invoice of Senator Bill Diamond, D-Windham, would transfer posts and dedicate another $ 1.7 million for 11 new employees in a Department of Children and Family Services next year. The longtime lawmaker and former secretary of state has been working on such a concept since 2001, when 5 years Logan marr was killed by her adoptive mother in a high-profile case.

The system gained even more attention after Kendall Chick, 4, and Marissa Kennedy, 10, died at the hands of their caregivers three months apart in 2017 and 2018. This led to changes in the system. under Mills and the old government. Paul LePage, but a 2019 report found that the majority of social workers felt too overworked to do their jobs properly.

Diamond said he was frustrated with years of promises from the Maine Department of Health and Human Services to fix the problems and believes the separation of the department will allow him to better focus his resources and render the problems and solutions system more transparent.

“We all hope we don’t have another death, but we know the system hasn’t improved enough to make us all feel confident about this,” Diamond said during a speech on the ground before the vote.

His speech further indicated resignation to the failure of the bill. Diamond even said that “this should not pass” due to widespread opposition in a committee that voted 12-1 against. But 11 Republicans and 10 Democrats voted to keep him alive, which he said “shocked” him. He still faces more votes and still has an ascending road to the passage with a potential Mills veto looming.

It came after serious opposition of the Mills administration. Jackie Farwell, spokesperson for DHHS, said the bill would undermine the “important work” the state has put into improving the system by diverting resources and slowing momentum.

The state included 33 new social workers in its last two-year budget and hired them all last November. He wants 15 more in an updated two-year budget. A recent workload report found that the state would need 42 more social workers to manage the number of children in its care.

The money for the bill will still have to go through the Legislative Budget Committee if it authorizes the House and Senate. That panel’s co-chair, Senator Cathy Breen, D-Falmouth, opposed the measure, saying lawmakers have responded to calls for more staff and suggested the way to fix the system would be to meet the needs. dissatisfied with the adult mental health system.

A report Maine Child Welfare Ombudsman Christine Alberi – who provisionally supported the bill as a way to provide more resources to the ministry – found that the office still struggled to determine whether children are safe during initial assessments and in the reunification process. She recommended more training on these issues.

But the department argued in the rebuttals that it was providing refresher training and working with the Muskie School of Public Service at the University of Southern Maine to revise its policies and improve staff training.

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