Saturday, March 24, 2018

Scarborough superintendent tries to halt student voter registration drive

The Scarborough school superintendent took steps Thursday to halt a student voter registration drive at Scarborough High School that was meant to drum up support for recall petitions aimed at ousting three school board members.

Superintendent Julie Kukenberger announced her effort in an email to the school community after about 30 seniors walked from the high school to the town hall next door to register to vote and sign the petitions.

More >> Scarborough superintendent tries to halt student voter registration drive

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Bill to allow guns in cars on school grounds is unanimously rejected by Maine House

AUGUSTA — Legislation that would have allowed firearms onto school grounds in Maine, provided they were locked in an occupied vehicle and unloaded, was unanimously rejected by the Maine House on Tuesday.

The bill, offered by Rep. John Martin, D-Eagle Lake, was introduced prior to a school shooting in Parkland, Florida, that claimed 17 lives, and was originally meant to allow parents who hunt to be able to pick up or drop off their children at school without having to remove their weapons from their vehicles.

More >> Bill to allow guns in cars on school grounds is unanimously rejected by Maine House

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

NEWS CENTER Maine files lawsuit against DHHS, demands access to child case files

After being denied access to Marissa Kennedy's and Kendall Chick's case files within the Department of Health and Human services, NEWS CENTER Maine has taken legal action.

More >> NEWS CENTER Maine files lawsuit against DHHS, demands access to child case files

Internal Investigations enable them to cover their tracks.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Governor LePage wants DHHS to remove more children from their homes

I've been meaning to do a follow-up to my March 4th post entitled:
DHHS and the Death of Marissa Kennedy - How one high profile child abuse case will lead to a spike in the number of child removals in Maine
because I believe this case will ultimately lead to a spike in the number of DHHS child removals and therefore the number of foster children in Maine.

At this point I have collected about 80 or so news articles and videos.  Nearly two weeks after my earlier post, I have read most of them.  Many support my theory.  I must say however, that the most disturbing thing about this whole mess is Governor Paul LePage.

Not only has Governor LePage has been using some really strange terms, but he has been demonstrating his lack of understanding about child welfare issues very clearly.  He is also threatening to make changes to the way child abuse cases are handled by executive order even before an internal (or  OPEGA) investigation identifies any of what needs to change.
"In this particular case, it is a comedy of errors both at DHHS, CDS, the mandatory reporters from the schools, law enforcement...everybody messed this up."
LePage calls child abuse death of Marissa Kennedy 'a comedy of errors'
Governor Paul LePage
"Comedy of errors," is a phrase that everybody has been trying to figure out.  I'm not even going to attempt it except to say that he is pointing fingers at everybody without knowing anything about the case.  He's even going as far as to blame the legislature for not supporting one of his desired policy changes regarding abused children from a few years ago.

First of all, CDS, which I assume means Child Development Services wouldn't have had anything to do with Marissa Kennedy because she's older than 4 years old.  It is possible that CDS would have been involved with another child who died back in December by the name of Kendall Chick but I believe he was responding to the Marissa Kennedy case.

Not only that, the Bangor school department has defended themselves stating that they made multiple reports about abuse concerns for Marissa.  I actually believe them because it is pretty much the way to the modern teacher to report every little scrape on the knee.
Bangor school district officials made multiple reports to the state last year over suspicions that a 10-year-old girl who was later allegedly beaten to death by her parents was being abused or neglected, Superintendent of Schools Betsy Webb said. The Bangor district made reports to the Department of Health and Human Services during the 2016-17 school year, when Marissa Kennedy was a student at Fairmount School, Webb said. “On a number of occasions, when our staff had reason to report suspected abuse or neglect, staff made the necessary reports to DHHS,” Webb said. “Educators are mandatory reporters. When they suspect abuse, they make a report to [DHHS] and to law enforcement,” Webb said. “They report, but they do not even receive information back as to what happens with the report.”
Bangor school officials reported suspected abuse of girl who later died, superintendent says
And Bangor Police are saying...

"Officers did not observe injury or behavior suggesting that Marissa or her siblings were in a dangerous or unhealthy environment... And any suggestion the officers had information they were, and did not act, is simply inaccurate."

Bangor Officials Respond following 10 Year Old Girl's Murder
So as you can see, LePages comments have not resonated well.  

But even more concerning than that is his more recent comments.
"I want to do what's best for the children, and this is what the dialogue is that we are not having: What is best for the child? It should be reunification in some cases, other cases it may not be," LePage said. 
"In this particular case, there's education involved, there's CDS, DHHS, law enforcement, there are so many different agencies involved and they were siloed – they don't share information," LePage said. "I think we need to start looking at ways to share information when people are at risk." 
LePage said the Maine Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) is dealing with a lack of resources, employee burnout and outdated software. All possible factors into why Kennedy's case fell through the cracks, he said.
LePage to toughen child services in wake of Kennedy case
Marissa Kennedy
Now in the first paragraph from the above quote LePage referrers to "reunification."  My understanding of the word "reunification" in regards to child welfare is when you give a child back to their parents.  This has nothing to do with the Marissa Kennedy case as she had not been removed from her parents.  Nor am I aware of any recent cases where a child was murdered in Maine after being "reunified" with their parents (Kendall Chick was in foster care kinship placement).  Not to mention that studies have shown that kids tend to do much better in their homes than they do in foster care.  Sometimes this simply means that the parents need a little support such as counseling or drug treatment, but whatever the case may be, if the parents get it together, they should damn well get the kids back.

Why LePage would be so concerned with DHHS's supposed goal of reunification which is hardy easy for a parent in Maine, is beyond me.  Reunification only happens after all of the concerns raised by DHHS have been fixed or addressed, and the parents demonstrate that they can keep the kids safe in the home.  Even after the kids do go home the social workers stay right up the parents butts for a time after that anyway and it's not that uncommon for a child to be taken again.

But then LePage goes on to say (although not a direct quote)...
Gov. Paul LePage suggested on Thursday that Maine’s child welfare system may leave too many vulnerable kids with their families and said he will unveil executive orders aimed at shoring up the system after the recent deaths of two girls.  (the second girl being Kendall Chick)
And that should scare the living shit out of you because it can only mean one thing.  He intends to "fix" that which he has no understanding of.  He intends to lower the standards regarding what DHHS can remove a child for.  

Friday, March 16, 2018

Maine To Fast Track Trafficking Tiny Human Asset Forfeiture Policies

Paul LePage has never come across to me as a man of compassion.

Neither has he even remotely reminded me of a scholar.

Something tells me he is putting Maine in play for those trafficking tiny human asset forfeiture policies.

More >> Maine To Fast Track Trafficking Tiny Human Asset Forfeiture Policies

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Parents 'outraged' after 'regrettable' police walkthrough incident at Windham High

The school's scheduled lockdown drill had been canceled, yet school officials said an officer while on a planned walkthrough entered the cafeteria and instructed students it was a drill and that "they should get down."

More >> Parents 'outraged' after 'regrettable' police walkthrough incident at Windham High

LePage says he’ll submit orders to change Maine’s child welfare system

AUGUSTA, Maine — Gov. Paul LePage suggested on Thursday that Maine’s child welfare system may leave too many vulnerable kids with their families and said he will unveil executive orders aimed at shoring up the system after the recent deaths of two girls.

The Republican governor gave few details about his proposals, but his Department of Health and Human Services is being probed by the Maine Legislature and doing an internal investigation after the recent deaths of 10-year-old Marissa Kennedy and 4-year-old Kendall Chick.

More >> LePage says he’ll submit orders to change Maine’s child welfare system

‘The time for silence is over’: Maine students join nationwide gun control walkout despite storm

Young people in the U.S. walked out of school to demand action on gun violence Wednesday in what activists hoped would be the biggest demonstration of student activism yet in response to last month’s massacre in Florida.

More >> ‘The time for silence is over’: Maine students join nationwide gun control walkout despite storm

Lawsuit: Child beaten at juvenile detention center

A lawsuit in Maine says an 11-year-old boy with mental illness at a juvenile detention center was beaten by corrections officers and denied medical care.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Maine filed a lawsuit Wednesday in federal court against the state Department of Corrections, medical care provider Correct Care Solutions and Long Creek Youth Development Center officials.

More >> Lawsuit: Child beaten at juvenile detention center

Friday, March 9, 2018

Closing Maine’s embattled youth prison ‘not so simple’

The advocates calling to close Maine’s youth prison and the people who run it agree on something: Fewer kids behind bars is better.

It’s an idea that over the past decades shuttered another youth prison and saw a sharp reduction of inmates at the Long Creek Youth Development Center. More recently, as the South Portland facility has struggled with a staffing crisis and a large population of teens with deep mental illness, this idea has led criminal justice reform groups to call for it to be shut down.

More >> Closing Maine’s embattled youth prison ‘not so simple’

Monday, March 5, 2018

Maine rethinks requiring student proficiency to earn a diploma

State education officials are proposing a radical restructuring of Maine’s proficiency-based diploma law, which was one of the first in the nation and touted by the governor as one of his key education reforms when it passed in 2012.

Six years later, Department of Education officials are proposing the elimination of a key tenet of the law: Students would no longer have to attain a standard level of proficiency in eight learning areas in order to get a diploma.

More >> Maine rethinks requiring student proficiency to earn a diploma

Lawyer: Mother charged in daughter's death was abused, did not kill girl

The lawyer for the Stockton Springs mother accused of murdering her 10-year-old daughter said he is questioning the state’s investigation and that his client did not abuse her daughter.

More >> Lawyer: Mother charged in daughter's death was abused, did not kill girl

Sunday, March 4, 2018

DHHS and the Death of Marissa Kennedy - How one high profile child abuse case will lead to a spike in the number of child removals in Maine


Today I'm going to explain a pattern that I have noticed during my years of blogging about child welfare issues and how that pattern is playing out today.  How a high profile child abuse case can be used as a springboard to promote knee jerk reactions from the legislatures and policy changes for better or worse.

I'm doing this because due to recent events in Maine, I believe it's going to happen again and not for the better.  In fact, I believe we're in for a major shift in policy in regards to the way Maine's Department of Health and Human Services handles child abuse cases.  Mainly that they're going to grow and there will be a large spike in the number of DHHS Child Removals leading to a large spike in the number of foster children in Maine over the next year.

All the signs are there.  Let me explain.

The case

I'm sure anybody in Maine must have by now heard of Marissa Kennedy, the 10 year old child abuse victim who died last week.
Now to anybody with a heart, this is a horrific case.  To Maine's local news media, it's a big juicy story.  To Maine's Child Welfare system (DHHS Children and Family Services) however, it's a growth opportunity.  

Again let me explain.

DHHS is about to go under the microscope.  This will happen because a number of people including members of Maine's Legislature are of the belief that DHHS could have / should have / would have done more to save this child prior to her death.  The Bangor Daily News is reporting that school officials reported suspected abuse to DHHS.  Police had been to the house on multiple occasions.  etc. 
Look at the above headline.  "Did officials miss warning signs about ex-New Windsor couple accused of killing child?"  Perhaps.  It happens.  Unfortunately some kids fall through the cracks.  It's sad when it happens but when it does questions are raised.  Could DHHS have done more to save this child?  

Some people in high places want to know.
Lawmakers and children’s advocates ratcheted up the pressure on the LePage administration Friday, calling for an investigation of how it handled reports of what state police say was a case of prolonged and severe abuse that led to the death of a 10-year-old girl in Stockton Springs.
Source >> Lawmakers press LePage administration for answers about abuse case that led to girl’s death
It doesn't stop with this one case.  The news media is also reporting that child abuse is increasing in Maine.   

This makes it a systematic problem.  That means that it's much larger than this one case.

Now when you mix all of this up into today's reality and add in things like Governor LePage cutting funding to child abuse prevention programs...

You have a recipe for disaster...  
which leads to policy change.  I.e.  They will start removing kids more quickly and it will be more difficult for parents to get them back, thus the system will grow.


This isn't the first time anything like this has happened.  In fact, this child abuse death leading to policy change has happened twice in Maine over the last 20 years or so with the most famous case being that of 6 year old Logan Marr.  After Logan's untimely death in a foster home back in January of 2001, Maine reformed it's child welfare system.  The new focus was on helping the families to keep kids safe in the home.

By January of 2011, Maine was celebrating the changes.  DHHS was considered a national model child welfare system and leaders at keeping kids safe in the home.
The states accomplishments under Governor John Baldacci included using kinship care instead of foster homes in more cases and increasing family preservation services so that the parents could become better parents instead of tearing the family apart and throwing the kid into foster care.  

Ultimately the number of foster kids in Maine was pretty much cut in half.  This was a good thing because prior to this Maine had one of the most notorious "Take the child and run" child welfare systems in the country.  

The second major high profile child abuse death that promoted a shift in Maine's CPS policies and procedures happened shortly after Governor LePage took office.  In May of 2012, 2 1/2 month old Ethan Henderson was thrown into a chair by his father Gordon Collins-Faunce.  Collins-Faunce had himself spent a good part of his life in foster care as well as a history of mental health issues.  He did not come out of it undamaged.

When asked for comment on this case, Lepage replied...
LePage told a television station Wednesday that he supports the death penalty “for those that kill babies” and feels DHHS has “gone from one extreme to another” when it decides whether to remove a child from a home in which abuse is suspected.
The department has been criticized in the past for being too quick to remove a child, LePage said, but now, “sometimes we’re putting them back too quickly and sometimes we’re not taking them out fast enough.”
Source >>  DHHS won’t release information on dead baby
And by October of the same year, the pendulum had swing back the other way, with "drug abuse" being the culprit. 
A spike in the number of children entering state custody because their parents are abusing bath salts has forced the state’s Office of Child and Family Services to add almost $1 million to its budget this year to accommodate 200 additional children living in foster care and in the homes of relatives.
Source >> Parents’ bath salts abuse sends more children to state custody
A year later, Commissioner Mary Mayhew was asking the legislature for an additional $4.2 million dollars because of the inflating number of foster kids in the state.  I must add that foster care is the much more expensive alternative.  The cheaper and better way is to help the family with needed services such as drug treatment, mental health services, etc.
At the same time LePage cut services to families.  This was based on his strong aversion to welfare.
These two cases that I have just mentioned caused the state to review it's existing policies, causing the pendulum to swing one way then the other.

Anyway, I could go on and on about that, but then we'd never get to how it's happening today.

Back to the present

So here we are today.  Things are heating up.  The court of public opinion passing judgement on the parents of little Marissa Kennedy.  The legislature calling for an investigation into the handling of this and several other child abuse cases.  Family preservation services that help to keep kids safe in their homes are becoming a thing of the past.  So what happens next?

Well DHHS will probably try to cover their tracks, shuffle around a supervisor and a CPS worker or two, and they will change their policies on how things shoudl be handled and they will be much more quick to remove children.  It's better to be safe than sorry, but that unfortunately leads to kids being removed who would do just as well in their own homes with a little bit of help and support from the community.  It will also lead to it being more difficult for parents to get their kids back out of care after they have been removed.  The legislature will throw more money at the problem and therefore the system will grow.

CPS workers tend to get jittery when they are under the watchful eye of news reporters.  God forbid anything like this happens again.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

The Rise of School Resource Officers in Maine

I suspect we will be seeing a lot more of this in the coming months.  
The Regional School Unit 13 board of directors will vote Thursday on whether to add school resource officers at a high school and elementary school in Rockland. 
If board members approve the plan, the district would establish a partnership with the Rockland Police Department to have an officer serve both Oceanside High School and the South School, an elementary school, according to the school board’s agenda. 
RSU 13 Superintendent John McDonald told the Courier-Gazette that he would also confer with the Knox County Sheriff’s Office about providing officers for Oceanside Middle School in Thomaston and the district’s other schools not located in Rockland. 
More >> Rockland-area school district considers adding police officers
Especially with the recent wave of threats made by students on social media right here in Maine.

I'm not opposed to school recourse officers in this day and age of school shootings.  I think it is worth having safety measures in place.  After all, psycho's showing up at schools with AR-15's has become a terrifying fact of life for many, especially with the news media overly sensationalizing and harping on it such as they do. 

Parents are afraid, hoping and praying that their kid won't be next victims in a long and bloody problem that our government can't seem to be bothered with enough to take action.

I'm also not totally opposed to teachers being armed if they are properly trained although I have a hard time picturing my daughters kindergarten teacher playing Kindergarten Cop/Commando in an active shooter situation with her gun drawn, leading all the kids to safety. 

What I am against is turning our schools into prisons, which is the next step.  You know when 7 year old kids start getting cuffed and arrested for behavioral problems?
Or when the cop decides that the child isn't being compliant and feels he/she has the right to take physical action?

You know, it's just the little petty details like this that they leave out when convincing you all that it's all in the name of safety.  

Therefore certain safety measures need to be taken so that the safety measures that are in place don't become a threat to the safety of our children instead.  Sadly, this has become another harsh reality in this day and age.

If we let it get out of hand, our schools will more and more resemble prisons instead of places of learning.

So lets use a little bit of common sense in regards to this issue.  Yes we need them there for safety, but don't let them become the school disciplinarians because then they will become just as much a part of the problem.

Neighbors Say DHHS, Police Alerted Before Child’s Death

Former neighbors of a couple accused of fatally beating a 10-year-old girl said they heard abuse and reported it to police and the Maine Department of Health and Human Services.

Julio and Sharon Carrillo were ordered held Wednesday on $500,000 cash bail during their first court appearance.

More >> Neighbors Say DHHS, Police Alerted Before Child’s Death

LePage administration to stop funding for child abuse prevention program Sept. 30

Gov. Paul LePage’s administration plans to stop funding a child abuse prevention program that works directly with at-risk families in individual neighborhoods across much of the state.

More >> LePage administration to stop funding for child abuse prevention program Sept. 30