January 21, 2020
Maine DHHS Commissioner Lambrew and OCFS Director Landry Thank Governor Mills for Supporting Child Welfare System
AUGUSTA – Governor Mills announced during tonight's State of the State address that she will ask the Legislature to fund another 20 child protective staff at the Maine Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) who will work to ensure the health and safety of Maine children.
"We thank Governor Mills for supporting our child protective services workers, who are fundamental to our comprehensive strategy to prevent abuse, neglect and unhealthy experiences among Maine's children," said Health and Human Services Commissioner Jeanne Lambrew. "The safety of our youngest residents is first and foremost as we continue to work with Maine families and communities to tackle essential reforms now and into the future."
"Governor Mills has demonstrated her commitment to our staff who work most closely with children and families throughout Maine," said Child and Family Services Director Todd Landry. "Under the Governor's biennial budget and with the Legislature's support during the last session, we've taken steps to improve recruitment, retention, training and technology. The need to act with both urgency and thoughtfulness to protect the wellbeing of Maine children will continue to guide our work in the days, months and years ahead."
Under the biennial budget, legislators approved 62 new positions for the Department's Office of Child and Family Services (OCFS) as a critical down payment to reduce caseloads. These 62 positions included 32 new child protective caseworkers. All 32 have now been hired.
The addition of 20 new positions – which includes 16 caseworkers, 2 supervisors and 2 case aids – would, if approved by the Legislature, represent an approximately 10 percent increase in staffing for the Office of Child and Family Services since January 2019.
Under the Administration of Governor Mills, DHHS has acted to address longstanding weaknesses in Maine's child welfare system, while also developing strategies to ensure sustainable improvements to child safety and health over the long term. This includes the work of the Children's Cabinet, aimed at improving early childhood development as well as supporting older youth and working to ensure children are ready to learn and transition to adulthood successfully.
Other highlights include:
- Implementing a modernized intake telephone system for child welfare, increasing the number of calls answered live and decreasing the rate of abandoned calls and wait times
- Awarding a contract to develop a new Comprehensive Child Welfare Information System to improve data and workflow
- Establishing a Cooperative Agreement with the University of Southern Maine's Muskie School of Public Service to improve policy, training, and workforce development
- Launching a statewide public education campaign to promote safe sleep among infants called Safe Sleep for ME
- Extending the eligibility for Public Health Nursing home visits to all newborns
- Increasing transparency by establishing a publicly accessible dashboard of key data indicators for Child Welfare, Children's Behavioral Health, and Early Childhood Education