Maine DHHS and Maine Child Welfare Action Network Release Child Safety and Family Well-Being Plan

Governor Mills proposes $1 million in her forthcoming change package to launch the plan to keep children safe by keeping families strong

AUGUSTA— The Maine Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), in partnership with the Maine Child Welfare Action Network (MCWAN), today released the Child Safety and Family Well-Being Plan (PDF), a bold new framework to guide policymakers and community members in keeping Maine children safe by keeping families strong. Governor Mills is proposing $1 million in her forthcoming budget change package to launch the Plan, which she announced in her February State of the Budget address.

The Governor called for this Plan in recognition of the importance of preventing child abuse and neglect and limiting the need for child protective intervention. Too often, children, youth, and families end up interacting with the state's child welfare agency long after needed supports could or should have been accessed. The Plan envisions Maine as a place where all children, youth, and families live in supportive communities where they can get the help they need, when they need it. It describes concrete, short-run actions to move Maine toward that vision, such as helping communities establish flexible funds for families to be used for basic needs, improving mandated reporter training to ensure community members understand supports for families, building community capacity to prevent substance use and mental health disorders, and developing metrics and reporting guidelines to track the performance of the Plan.

This Version 1.0 of the Plan will serve as a framework for the Maine DHHS, other state agencies, and community partners to build upon. It is informed by research and feedback DHHS and MCWAN received through a series of community engagement sessions in March 2023. More than 250 people provided input into what’s working well within the array of child abuse prevention supports and services and what can be improved.

“With the release of the Child Safety and Family Well-Being Plan, we are recommitting our state to a fundamental belief that we will keep children safe by keeping families strong,” said Governor Janet Mills. “This plan represents a blueprint for how we can ensure kids have healthy food, safe housing, and child care and how we can support parents with job training and education, and mental health and substance use services – all of which will support the development of stronger families and lead to safer, healthier kids, a goal shared by all. I thank the Maine Child Welfare Action Network for their partnership on this new plan and look forward to my Administration putting it to work for Maine families and kids.”

“There is no higher priority for the State, communities, families, and friends than preventing neglect and abuse of children,” said DHHS Commissioner Jeanne Lambrew and Office of Child and Family Services Director Todd Landry. “The Child Safety and Family Wellbeing Plan sets that principle into action, providing a framework to keep children safe by keeping families strong. We thank our partners at the Maine Child Welfare Action Network, the Legislature and throughout the state for contributing to this vital and ongoing work.”

“The Child Safety and Family Well-being Plan, and its further development and implementation, provides everyone with an important opportunity to see their role and responsibility in supporting families, and outlines the actions we can take to ensure children, youth, and their families experience safety and stability in communities across our state,” said Melissa Hackett and Debra Dunlap of the Maine Child Welfare Action Network. “We thank the Mills Administration for their partnership in prioritizing investments and actions that keep kids safe by keeping families strong. As in the development of this plan, and moving forward in its implementation, ongoing state and community partnership is essential to improving outcomes for families.”

“This Plan lays out the path to strengthening families, so that parents and children have the resources and supports they need to thrive together,” said Representatives Michele Meyer and Michael Brennan. “Good work can only be accomplished through collaboration, and we eagerly join our partners in the Mills Administration and in the community in taking the next steps in this collective work to keep Maine children safe.”

“Maine’s Community Action Programs are proud to support the work of bringing community members together to consider the challenges and solutions needed for families across our state to thrive,” said Megan Hannan, Executive Director, Maine Community Action Partnership. “We look forward to the further development and implementation of the Child Safety and Family Well-being Plan, as we join state and community partners in our shared responsibility to ensure children, youth, and their families have every opportunity to thrive.”

“Preventing early adversity is the most critical and foundational step to improving the health and well-being of Maine children,”said Heidi Aakjer, Executive Director of Maine Children’s Trust. “We applaud and welcome Governor Mills’ leadership to prioritize primary prevention and strengthen state and community supports for families through Maine’s Child Safety and Family Well-being Plan. We, in partnership with our state and community partners, including Maine’s Child Abuse and Neglect Prevention Councils, Maine Families Home Visiting and parent leaders, are eager and ready to answer Governor Mills’ call to action to shape positive family life and childhood experiences ensuring all Maine families thrive.”

“As a Community Coordinator I have witnessed the power of parents and community members coming together in partnership in their local communities to share their collective wisdom to remove barriers and strengthen our families together,” said Christine McMillen, Community Coordinator for the Child Abuse and Neglect Prevention Councils in Penobscot and Piscataquis counties. “This plan will support our local work in every community in Maine.”

“Community-level, cross-sector collaboratives bring diverse partners together to imagine, implement, and sustain strong programs and systems, which can improve child and family well-being,” said Charley Martin-Berry, Director of the Community Caring Collaborative. “They can help build trust, innovation, and critical shared accountability in communities. We look forward to this Plan as an opportunity to build out this critical community infrastructure across our state to better support children and their families.”

The Plan lists a set of strategies including:

  • Continuing to develop, implement, and update the Plan in partnership with families, state agency partners, and communities;
  • Promoting supportive communities where children, youth, and families feel comfortable seeking help;
  • Improving the economic security of parents and caregivers to provide safety and stability for their children;
  • Providing services and resources to help parents and caregivers ensure the safety, health, and nurturing care of their children; and
  • Improving coordination of supports and services for children, youth, and families.

Within each strategy, the Plan lists actions that are already underway as well as policy options to advance the Plan’s goals.

To jumpstart the plan, Governor Mills has proposed two change package initiatives totaling $1 million to fund an education campaign and support for communities. DHHS would use the funding to launch a marketing campaign aimed at parents, acknowledging the importance and challenges of parenting and communities’ role raising the next generation, and encouraging families to connect to help and information. Additionally, funding would be provided to Maine-based organizations to develop enhanced and coordinated strategies around community-based efforts to strengthen families in Maine.

The Plan (PDF) builds on the many existing prevention efforts led by DHHS and community partners that can increase protective factors and reduce risk factors for families. The process moving forward will include further direct input from families, and a focus on reinforcing collaborative work to ensure children are safe and families are strong. The Plan will be reviewed annually to assess progress and to make any needed changes as the Plan evolves.