Wednesday, 12 September 2018 12:23

New laws aim to improve child protective system

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AUGUSTA - For most of this year, the Maine Department of Health and Human Services has been embroiled in controversy.

Now the agency's acting commissioner says laws signed by Gov. Paul LePage last week should strengthen the state's child welfare system.

 

The deaths of two young girls allegedly happening at the hands of caregivers who are accused of physically abusing them rocked the people of Maine.

 

First was the death of 4-year-old Kendall Chick in Wiscasset in December 2017. Then came the death of 10-year-old Marissa Kennedy of Stockton Springs in February of this year.

 

The revelations surrounding those deaths showed the public what child protective case workers deal with on a daily basis.

 

A legislative investigation to determine whether the child protection service failed these children concluded there were faults in the system.

 

DHHS Acting Commissioner Bethany Hamm said Tuesday that laws pushed through the Legislature on the governor's behalf will improve the system but there is still more to be done. However, new supervisory and case worker positions will be created. Additionally, a new systemwide software program will be installed within the next several months.

 

"We're excited about the opportunity to bring some new technology to help us combat child abuse and neglect in the state of Maine," Hamm said.

 

In addition, the department will provide counseling for case workers.

 

"On a daily basis, our caseworkers enter into homes and see horrific things," Hamm said.

 

Earlier this year, some legislators said they were being told morale in the Child Protective Service bureau was at an all-time low.

 

What's the spirit among caseworkers now?

 

"They're very cautiously optimistic is a good way to put it. They're encouraged by the support they've been given by both the governor and the Legislature and the administration as a whole," Hamm said.

 

Further, Hamm said, these new laws provide a foundation for future legislatures to further improve the system.

 

"You can't say with 100 percent certainty that that every child will be protected. That's our goal. That's our mission," Hamm said.l

 

Hamm says the new laws may not right all the wrongs within the system but are positive first steps toward reaching that goal.

 

TJ Tremble

Reporter
[email protected]

T.J. Tremble joined WVII ABC 7 and WFVX FOX 22 in March 2016.

He was raised in Bangor, attended Bangor schools and graduated from John Bapst High School. He attended the University of Maine, studying political scienc...