Child welfare agency leader faces tough questions from Maine lawmakers

The director told the committee that coverage of an audit failed to capture good work they’re doing but was not available for an interview
The director of Maine’s Office of Child and Welfare Services faced a series of questions from...
Published: Oct. 19, 2023 at 5:57 PM EDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

AUGUSTA, Maine (WABI) - The director of Maine’s Office of Child and Welfare Services faces a series of tough questions from Maine lawmakers Wednesday.

Todd Landry spoke before the Government Oversight Committee during a nearly four-hour meeting that became tense at certain moments.

Landry’s appearance came two days after the release of an internal report from OCFS, which showed Maine’s rate of repeat maltreatment among children is roughly twice the national average.

“I very much regret that in certain media reports that they chose to present only certain pieces,” Landry told the committee.

A spokesperson for the Maine Department of Health and Human Services said Thursday that Landry was not available for an interview.

Landry explained to legislators that he felt reporting failed to capture the good work being done by the agency.

“Many positive areas of that report such as our kinship care, such as our numbers of children living in congregate care versus in a home-like setting, such as our success in permanency data, many positive aspects of that,” Landry said.

Republican state Sen. Lisa Keim responded to Landry’s statements on coverage of the report.

“Of course, they didn’t mention things in the report because you can’t see them,” Keim said.

In an interview Thursday, Keim stated that if a vote were taken Thursday, she would enter a vote of no confidence in Landry.

“There has been no progress made that can be measured by outcomes. He has not moved the needle in the right direction even an inch,” she said.

On Monday, a spokesperson for Maine DHHS said part of the reason for high rates of repeat child maltreatment is because the state uses a broader definition of the term.

“Maine law and Department policy approaches maltreatment comprehensively, defining it to include both indicated (low/moderate severity) and substantiated (high severity) findings of abuse or neglect. This helps to ensure that Maine identifies, reports, and responds to child maltreatment,” an email from the department stated.

A spokesperson for the agency also noted that the report shows progress on some metrics, such as timeliness of initiating investigations and providing services to families.

The report also found that in over half the cases reviewed, the agency accurately assessed all risks and safety concerns, but in only about one-quarter of reviewed cases, an appropriate safety plan was actually developed.

“He is constantly deflecting the outcomes from himself and the office and if he wants that role, he has to accept that the responsibility is on his shoulders and he is not doing that,” Keim said.

In response to the Government Oversight Committee’s feedback, a DHHS spokesperson said the agency heard the Committee’s feedback and will continue to engage with members.

“Our work to improve the child welfare system is never done and we remain committed to striving to keep children safe by keeping families strong,” a spokesperson wrote.

Members of the Government Oversight Committee say they plan to hold weekly meetings to discuss child welfare issues from now at least until the end of the year.