October 21, 2021

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Immediately after a sequence of fatalities, scrutiny starts off once more for Maine’s baby welfare method

If you are concerned about a child becoming neglected or abused, contact Maine’s 24-hour hotline at 800-452-1999 or 711 to converse with a baby protective expert. Calls may well be manufactured anonymously. For a lot more information, pay a visit to maine.gov/dhhs/ocfs/cw/reporting_abuse.

A spate of youthful children’s deaths above the previous month is concentrating a contemporary spherical of scrutiny on a condition youngster welfare technique that was also below the microscope 3 several years in the past subsequent the murders of two younger women at the hands of their caregivers.

These types of critiques, followed by plan adjustments, are a popular response to significant-profile deaths of kids, according to youngster welfare industry experts. Some in baby welfare have likened the cycle to a pendulum swinging amongst a concentrate on getting rid of kids from their parents’ residences and holding them with mothers and fathers.

The Maine Division of Well being and Human Providers on Thursday mentioned it would convey in Casey Loved ones Plans, a national group targeted on children’s safety and decreasing the need for foster care, to examine the fatalities of 4 little ones less than age 4 in just the earlier month and produce policy recommendations. The state’s baby welfare ombudsman, Christine Alberi, reported her business office planned to independently investigate a few of all those 4 deaths as portion of its outside oversight of the child welfare procedure. Police investigations are taking place as very well.

In excess of the previous thirty day period, a 6-week-previous toddler in Brewer was allegedly shaken to dying by his father, Ronald Harding an Old City mom, Hillary Goding, has been billed with manslaughter in the demise of her 3-12 months-aged daughter, Hailey and Jessica Trefethen was arrested Wednesday and charged with murder in the demise of her 3-12 months-outdated son Maddox Williams last weekend in Stockton Springs.

Maine DHHS mentioned it would also look into the June 17 dying of a kid in Temple who appeared to have died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. The department’s announcement preceded the information Thursday night time that a 4-calendar year-aged Windham boy had been found useless, even though law enforcement have not said foul participate in is associated.

“When a little something like this transpires, there’s a response. Folks want a thing carried out,” claimed Shawn Yardley, a previous Kid Protecting Solutions supervisor and CEO of Neighborhood Principles, a Lewiston social products and services company. “Even if it’s in yet another point out, the reaction is to aim on what to do with the chance now that there is notice on this situation.”  

The division has declined to say if any of the people whose children have died had been identified to the youngster welfare system, citing authorized demands and the ongoing criminal investigations. On the other hand, DHHS caseworkers appeared to have dealings with Maddox Williams and his moms and dads.

Maddox expended the to start with two decades of his existence dwelling with his father, 30-yr-old Andrew Williams, just before the father allegedly brought Maddox, then 2, with him when he burglarized a dwelling in Rockland in January of very last year. Law enforcement identified as DHHS to choose care of Maddox immediately after his father’s arrest.

Then, before this 12 months, DHHS returned Maddox to his mother’s custody on March 8, the day soon after Williams was arrested yet again, according to the criminal criticism against Trefethen.

The number of children’s fatalities in the past thirty day period is “unprecedented in Maine” and justifies higher-stage review to ascertain the children’s involvement with DHHS and other social companies, stated Michael Petit, a previous state human services commissioner beneath Gov. Joseph Brennan from 1979 to 1987.

“Kids are regularly mysterious to the social providers network if they are not in school still,” he said. “If the moms and dads are keeping them back from Head Start off or working day treatment or home traveling to, it may indicate that no one realized [about the kids’ family situation] and so the concern will become, ‘How do we make absolutely sure that in the long run, somebody knows?’”

In 2019, 18 youngsters who had some prior get hold of with DHHS died, in accordance to the department. In addition, that year a 14-thirty day period-outdated from Presque Isle with no prior involvement with DHHS was killed by his father, who then killed himself.

Previous yr, 10 little ones with some stage of kid welfare involvement died, and an additional whose family had no DHHS involvement died.

Most of all those deaths ended up ruled accidents, with a lot of of them the end result of moms and dads and kids co-sleeping, in accordance to DHHS. Some were the final result of pure leads to, and five have been young adults who died by suicide.

When a higher-profile baby dying takes place, policymakers typically thrust to different kids from their organic people and area them with foster households, stated Richard Wexler, the government director of the Nationwide Coalition for Baby Defense Reform.

Next the December 2017 murder of 4-year-aged Kendall Chick in Wiscasset and the February 2018 beating dying of 10-yr-outdated Marissa Kennedy in Stockton Springs, lawmakers allotted funding for far more boy or girl welfare caseworkers, but also handed a policy adjust to shift the point out away from prioritizing the reunification of small children with their mothers and fathers.

The number of little ones remaining separated from their mothers and fathers began to rise following Marissa Kennedy’s demise, and the state been given extra reports of suspected little one abuse and neglect.

The range of little ones in foster care also rose all through the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic very last 12 months just before declining once again as DHHS has said it is making an attempt to uncover lasting placements for small children.

An emphasis on separation burdens caseworkers and leaves them a lot less time to correctly display screen for youngsters in legit danger, Wexler mentioned.

“Child abuse fatalities are as exceptional as they are horrifying,” he explained. “It’s like acquiring needles in a haystack. Why would you boost the dimensions of the haystack?”

Caseworkers informed the Bangor Everyday News very last year that the improvements designed in the aftermath of Marissa Kennedy’s and Kendall Chick’s deaths still left them “drowning” in spite of some advancements, which include the employing and education of new caseworkers. Federal details  demonstrate that while Maine grew its ranks of caseworkers soon after 2018, the workload for just about every caseworker stayed about the same as the technique investigated a lot more families.

A single substantial-profile kid death that didn’t spur Maine’s baby welfare method towards additional separations was the 2001 death of 5-year-previous Logan Marr at the arms of her foster mother.

In reaction, Maine began minimizing the selection of small children in foster treatment, and putting much more youngsters who couldn’t be with their mother and father with kinfolk relatively than with foster moms and dads they did not know. Over time, Maine’s kid welfare program arrived to be viewed as a countrywide product.

“We’ve neglected the legacy of Logan Marr,” Wexler mentioned.