Federal Government Approves Maine’s Plan To Protect Children and Strengthen Families

September 13, 2021

Maine’s plan to implement the federal Family First Prevention Services Act aims to prevent abuse and neglect, reduce the need for foster care, and improve children’s residential treatment

AUGUSTA—The Maine Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) announced today that the Federal government has approved Maine’s plan (PDF) to improve the lives of children and strengthen Maine families under the Family First Prevention Services Act, a federal law that provides states with an unprecedented opportunity to transform child welfare.

The Children’s Bureau, an office of the Administration for Children and Families in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, approved Maine’s Family First plan on Monday. The DHHS Office of Child and Family Services (OCFS) submitted the plan in February, which made Maine the first state in New England to submit its five-year plan and now the first New England state to gain approval to implement the federal law.

With today’s approval, Maine will receive an infusion of approximately $2.4 million annually for evidence-based services proven to keep children safe while preventing the need for them to enter state custody.

“Every Maine child deserves the opportunity to grow up in a safe and healthy environment,” said Governor Janet Mills. “The approval of Maine’s Family First Plan will provide unprecedented Federal support to advance important reforms to the state’s child welfare system and protect Maine children from abuse and neglect.”

“All children should grow up in safe, stable and nurturing families,” said DHHS Commissioner Jeanne Lambrew. “The federal Family First Act represents an historic opportunity achieve this vision by giving child welfare systems the tools and ongoing funding they need to prevent abuse and neglect and improve the lives of children and families who can remain safely together with the appropriate support.”

“Maine’s Family First Plan will propel our ongoing improvements to the child welfare system to ensure parents and families have the support they need,” said OCFS Director Todd Landry. “Under this plan, we will further improve our programs and expand prevention services with the goal of safe, stable, happy, and healthy children and families in Maine.”

“Maine’s Family First plan represents a meaningful opportunity to strengthen Maine families and help keep children safe by expanding services that are proven to work,” said Sen. Ned Claxton and Rep. Michele Meyer, chairs of the Legislature’s Health and Human Services Committee. “We applaud the Department for its thoughtful approach to this plan and look forward to continued collaboration to improve Maine’s child welfare system.”

Maine’s Family First plan was developed over the past two years in consultation with a variety of stakeholders, staff, and other state partners, and focuses on supporting families by:

  • Expanding and improving access to evidence-based prevention activities to prevent children at imminent risk from entering foster care,
  • Providing intensive in-home support programs for Maine families, and
  • Establishing quality standards for residential treatment programs that serve youth to enhance trauma-informed treatment.

Family First, signed into law as part of the Federal Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018, realigned and expanded Federal funding to states aimed at keeping children safely with their families and out of foster care. The law supports intervention services that recognize children succeed in safe and stable families with parents who have access to strong community supports, including mental health services, substance use treatment, educational and employment support, and strengthened parenting skills. Family First also provides funding for programs that promote quality prevention services, including trauma-informed, evidence-based interventions to mitigate the need for foster care placements.

As a result of today’s approval, OCFS is now advancing training programs for Department and judicial branch staff, drafting and updating contracts for evidence-based services, and developing a resource guide for Maine families.

More information about Maine’s implementation of Family First and Maine’s approved State Prevention Plan, is available on the OCFS website.