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Maine lawmakers call on Government Oversight Committee to investigate DHHS

Maine Child Welfare Ombudsman Christine Alberi says she’d like to see increased training around crucial decision making points.
(Gray tv)
Published: Jul. 14, 2021 at 6:04 PM EDT
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AUGUSTA, Maine (WABI) - Several people are calling on the legislature’s Government Oversight Committee to launch an investigation into the Maine Department of Health and Human Services following the deaths of four children last month.

Director of Child and Family Services Todd Landry addressed the committee Wednesday to explain the in depth review they will be taking.

The state has contracted with a child welfare research organization to work with state agencies to come up with improvements to operations.

Landry says ultimately the decision to reunify a child with their parent comes from the court with recommendations from case workers and supervisors.

Maine Child Welfare Ombudsman Christine Alberi says she’d like to see increased training around crucial decision making points.

“We found the Department continued to struggle with practice issues and decision making around two crucial points of child welfare involvement, the first when making the decision of whether or not the child will be safe in a home during an initial investigation, and the second is when making the decision whether the child will be safe in the home once unified with the parents,” Alberi said.

“The assessment of risk happens throughout the life of the case, and it could be different for each case depending on the different circumstances that come up with that case. As all of you are aware, once a child comes into custody and even the process of a child coming into custody is not a unilateral decision and even reunification is not a unilateral decision,” Landry said.

State Senator Bill Diamond addressed the committee saying he wants the OCFS to admit the system is broken so they can all work together to fix it.

The Office of Program Evaluation and Government Accountability will begin working immediately to develop a plan for looking into OCFS.

The oversight committee will meet again on August 11th to finalize the plan and take a formal vote.

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