Organizers of ‘Maddox Matters’ rally for change within Maine’s child welfare system

Published: Jul. 1, 2021 at 5:08 PM EDT
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ROCKLAND, Maine (WABI) - Loved ones of 3-year-old Maddox Williams of Stockton Springs are calling for change within the Department of Health and Human Services following his death.

His mother, Jessica Trefethen of Stockton Springs, is accused of killing him.

A group called ‘Maddox Matters’ has formed in hopes of creating systemic change.

”We have enough data to make change. We do not need to wait months to reinvent the wheel.”

Jessica Gleason and others are breaking their silence on what they say is a broken child welfare system.

A rally was held Thursday at the Department of Health and Human Services office in Rockland where organizers called on a government oversight committee to look into 3-year-old Maddox Williams’ death.

Loved ones of 3-year-old Maddox Williams gathered in Rockland Thursday for a peaceful rally...
Loved ones of 3-year-old Maddox Williams gathered in Rockland Thursday for a peaceful rally calling for change within the child welfare system.(WABI)

Maddox is the fifth child under the age of five to die in Maine since the beginning of June.

Some family members of Maddox were in attendance, and while they continue to grieve, they’re happy to hear folks are stepping up for change.

“We’re happy to see the support. It’s good. The more people, the more likely change will happen,” said Mikayla Williams, Maddox’s’ paternal aunt.

Holly Cough made the trip from Bucksport. A foster mom and teacher, the death of Maddox hits close to home.

“I’m affected very deeply by the loss of these young lives. Four deaths under the age of four in the last month is four too many,” she said.

Organizers are also calling for DHHS supervisors to follow the policy in the legislature that aligns with the oversight committee.

Gleason says even if the system works for 90% of Maine children, it’s still worth changing for the other 10%.

“We have the guidance,” said Gleason. “We have the documentation and the evidence to support that. They just need to do what directs them to do so.”

Last week, DHHS announced the hiring of Casey Family Programs to help with their investigation into the recent child deaths.

“Their goal is to look broadly, not just at child welfare, but at our public health and health systems to find out if there are any patterns or practices that we should change as soon as possible,” DHHS Commissioner Jeanne Lambrew told reporters during Wednesday’s final Maine CDC briefing.

An online petition is also demanding a better call for action in cases regarding children under the care of someone who may be struggling with their mental health.

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