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.  

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