Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Maine mother sues DHHS in federal court seeking contact with daughter

An Eddington woman is asking a federal judge to force the Maine Department of Health and Human Services to allow her contact with her 7-year-old daughter, who is living with her father’s girlfriend in Ellsworth under an agency safety plan.

Toni Barronton, 33, claims that DHHS violated her right to due process after it reneged on a decision to let the girl live with her temporarily after her father, Patrick Lynn, 32, allegedly violated his probation by using drugs.

More >> Maine mother sues DHHS in federal court seeking contact with daughter

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Active shooter training helps first responders prepare for worst case scenario


Tragically, school shootings are happening too often in the United States.

So far in 2019, there have already been 12 school shootings in which someone was hurt or killed. That's according to Education Week, a independent news organization covering K-12 education.

Saturday, May 18, 2019

New Task Force Aims To Improve Maine's Juvenile Justice System

Maine's Chief Justice Leigh Saufley joined civil rights and children's advocates, lawmakers and members of Gov. Janet Mills' cabinet for the first meeting of a newly-created task force to examine Maine's juvenile justice system.

The 30-member task force will be looking at a alternatives to juvenile incarceration. Justice Saufley says a similar task force achieved success ten years ago by slashing the number of kids in detention in Maine but she says it never met a second goal to establish a community-based system of treatment and placement programs.

More >> New Task Force Aims To Improve Maine's Juvenile Justice System

Friday, May 17, 2019

Amid calls for faster child welfare system reforms, Mills plans a hiring surge

Democratic Gov. Janet Mills, in her proposed two-year budget, is heeding advice from an auditor of the state’s child protective system by proposing the state hire more caseworkers.

The budget amendments, announced on Tuesday, add $2.8 million to the $8 billion budget proposal, in money to hire 62 new staff in the Office of Child and Family Services — 43 caseworkers, six background check unit staff and 13 positions in intake, which handles calls and reports of suspected abuse or neglect.

More >> Amid calls for faster child welfare system reforms, Mills plans a hiring surge

Maine Senate OKs expanded testing for lead in school water

The Maine Senate is unanimously supporting a proposal to provide more comprehensive testing for lead in school drinking water.

The Senate approved the proposal by Democratic Sen. Rebecca Millett, of Cape Elizabeth, on Thursday. Millett's bill is designed to require all schools to test drinking and cooking water for lead contamination.

More >> Maine Senate OKs expanded testing for lead in school water

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Maine Senate OKs end to non-medical opt-outs for vaccines

Maine has moved one step closer to ending the state's religious and philosophical exemptions to vaccines with the Democratic-led Senate's 18-17 vote on a bill Tuesday.

The bill to end the exemptions now faces a round of procedural votes in both chambers before heading to Democratic Gov. Janet Mills' desk. The bill narrowly moved forward with a vote from Democratic Sen. James Dill, who had previously backed an effort to protect Maine's religious exemptions.

More >> Maine Senate OKs end to non-medical opt-outs for vaccines

Mills adds child welfare caseworkers, opioid crisis to budget request

Gov. Janet Mills on Tuesday unveiled amendments to her two-year, $8 billion budget proposal that would significantly boost the state’s child protective services system, add treatment and prevention funding for the opioid crisis and further invest in mental health services.

“This change package prioritizes pressing investments needed to protect children’s safety, to repair crumbling schools, to pay back the previous administration’s debt, and to save money in the event of an economic downturn,” Mills, a Democrat, said in a statement. “These changes address critical needs, reflect decisions made in the first four months, and build on my pragmatic budget proposal to deliver a solid economic foundation and the initiatives Maine people want and our state needs. I look forward to working with lawmakers as the budget process begins in earnest.”

More >> Mills adds child welfare caseworkers, opioid crisis to budget request

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Young and on their own in Maine

An invisible trend, fed by an affordable housing crisis and opioid epidemic, has led to a record high in homeless students – and a 227 percent spike in children without a guardian.

More >> Young and on their own in Maine

Saturday, May 11, 2019

This Bangor school secludes and restrains kids more than almost any other in Maine

Kyle Michaud took a job as an education technician at the Bangor Regional Program in May 2016 thinking it would help him become a teacher. But he didn’t expect to spend so much time dragging students down the hallway and shutting them into small rooms.

He remembers one morning in January 2018 when he barked orders to restrain a middle-school student in the bathroom after the student’s behavior became dangerous.

More >> This Bangor school secludes and restrains kids more than almost any other in Maine

As new leaders take over Maine’s child welfare system, caseworkers say they’re still ‘drowning’

In the 15 or so months since two Maine children died from abuse in their homes despite having had repeated contact with child welfare caseworkers, state leaders have vowed to reform the beleaguered system.

But deployment of those reforms, gleaned from two separate investigations into the department — one of which is still ongoing — after the deaths of 10-year-old Marissa Kennedy and 4-year-old Kendall Chick, have hit bureaucratic snags.

More >> As new leaders take over Maine’s child welfare system, caseworkers say they’re still ‘drowning’

Monday, May 6, 2019





I declared today, May 6, 2019, as Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day in Maine. Let us reaffirm our commitment to ensuring every child is living a safe and healthy life in their homes and in their communities.

Saturday, May 4, 2019

Government intervention in child care continues to hamper its affordability

Expanding access to affordable child care is of pressing concern to many Maine families. As we’ve noted in the past, Maine lost more than 600 child care providers between 2008 and 2018, most of them in family child care. This is typically the most affordable option for parents, meaning their exit from the market has hurt the affordability of this service. According to Child Care Aware of America, in 2018, the annual cost of center-based care for a four-year-old in Maine was $8,776.

Legislators are often asked to tackle this problem, but more often the not, the so-called solutions end up making matters worse. One such effort this legislative session is LD 1012, sponsored by Sen. Rebecca Millett, a bill that would tweak subsidies for families who qualify for assistance through DHHS and prioritize public funding for providers that have a higher rating on Maine’s quality rating scale.

More >> Government intervention in child care continues to hamper its affordability

Maine will provide records on Long Creek suicide attempts to advocacy group

The Maine Department of Corrections has agreed to turn over records pertaining to suicide attempts at the Long Creek Youth Development Center to an advocacy group for people with disabilities.

Disability Rights Maine, the state’s officially designated advocate for people with disabilities, filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court last year alleging that the state was violating federal law by refusing the group access to the facility’s records of suicide attempts.

More >> Maine will provide records on Long Creek suicide attempts to advocacy group

Religious exemption to vaccination wouldn’t be keeping the faith

A day after the Maine Senate's passage of a bill preserving the exemption, faith leaders and others say no major religious organizations oppose vaccinations to prevent infectious diseases.

More >> Religious exemption to vaccination wouldn’t be keeping the faith

Friday, May 3, 2019

Governor Mills brings back 'Children's Cabinet'

Governor Janet Mills promised during her inauguration to bring back the “Children's Cabinet” and on Thursday, the first meeting was held since 2010.

Senator Angus King created the cabinet when he was governor, for government agencies to collaborate on policies to support Maine children.

More >> Governor Mills brings back 'Children's Cabinet'

Yay.

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Caregiver convicted in beating death of 4-year-old girl

A Wiscasset woman accused of fatally beating a 4-year-old girl in her care was convicted Tuesday in a case that led to changes in Maine’s child welfare system.

Calling the abuse “outrageous, revolting, shocking and brutal,” Superior Court Justice William Stokes announced that he found 44-year-old Shawna Gatto to be guilty of depraved indifference murder in the death of Kendall Chick in her home in December 2017.

More >> Caregiver convicted in beating death of 4-year-old girl



Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Maine lawmakers want a say in latest effort to revamp services for at-risk children

The Judiciary Committee today will hold public hearings on two bills that would reverse a 2018 law in order to prioritize family reunification in Maine’s child welfare system. A third bill also up for a public hearing today in the committee from Sen. Bill Diamond, D-Windham, would establish an investigative commission of lawmakers and experts who will present research and proposed reforms to the child welfare system.

The reunification bills, proposed by Rep. Lori Gramlich, D-Old Orchard Beach, and Rep. Patty Hymanson, D-York, would restore language stripped by former Gov. Paul LePage and the 128th Legislature last August, after the deaths of 10-year-old Marissa Kennedy and 4-year-old Kendall Chick, allegedly at the hands of Kennedy’s parents and Chick’s caregiver.

More >> Maine lawmakers want a say in latest effort to revamp services for at-risk children

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Maine schools under pressure amid spike in youth homelessness

Maine is seeing a growing number of young people, from preschool through 12th grade, who are homeless or displaced. They are moving into shelters, couch surfing with other families and, in rare cases, camping or living in cars. According to the National Center for Homeless Education the number of homeless youth increased by 30 percent in just two years.

More >> Maine schools under pressure amid spike in youth homelessness

Sunday, April 14, 2019

‘The smallest amount of effort could have saved this child’




Evidence that emerged during the murder trial of Shawna Gatto shows that the system failed 4-year-old Kendall Chick long before she died of suspected child abuse. But important details remain elusive.

More >> ‘The smallest amount of effort could have saved this child’

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Bill to strip Maine vaccination exemptions moves ahead despite GOP opposition

A bill that would repeal nonmedical exemptions to Maine school immunization requirements won a split legislative committee’s backing on Wednesday, putting the measure supported by Gov. Janet Mills’ administration on track to pass.

The proposal from Rep. Ryan Tipping, D-Orono, yielded the longest public hearing of the legislative session in March, with nearly 1,700 people filing written testimony to the Legislature’s education committee. That included hundreds of opponents who cited parental rights or pseudoscientific arguments overstating the risks of vaccination.

More >> Bill to strip Maine vaccination exemptions moves ahead despite GOP opposition

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

DHHS: Unsafe sleeping cause of half of child deaths in Maine

Officials with the Maine Department of Health and Human Services say 26 children have died in Maine over the past two years.

More >> DHHS: Unsafe sleeping cause of half of child deaths in Maine

DHHS says it’s moving to make kids safer, after report shows 26 deaths since 2017

Maine’s Department of Health and Human Services announced Monday it is taking immediate action to improve child safety following the report of 26 child deaths since 2017.

The department said in a statement it would launch a public awareness campaign about unsafe sleep environments for children, especially infants, noting that 48 of 107 child deaths from 2014 to 2019 were related to unsafe sleeping situations.

More >> DHHS says it’s moving to make kids safer, after report shows 26 deaths since 2017

Sunday, April 7, 2019

And even they suck at it...

A new Annie E. Casey Foundation report shows that more young people in foster care have been placed with families than in group homes over the last decade – and Maine is leading the way.

In 2017, Maine placed 94% of foster children in family settings, making it one of the top six states in the country. Maine also has a higher share of teens living with families.

More >> Report: Maine Leads in Placing Foster Youth with Families

Saturday, April 6, 2019

Vaccination rates continue to drop among Maine schoolchildren

Vaccination rates among schoolchildren continued to drop in Maine this school year, when the share of kindergartners receiving one required vaccine dropped for the third straight year, according to data from the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

The share of kindergartners vaccinated for measles, mumps and rubella dropped from 94.3 percent in the last school year to 93.8 percent statewide, and the share of schoolchildren citing nonmedical exemptions from vaccine requirements rose from 5 percent to 5.6 percent.

More >> Vaccination rates continue to drop among Maine schoolchildren

Saturday, March 30, 2019

Lawmakers discuss bill aimed at bringing children back to Maine who have been sent to other states for mental health and behavioral services

A public hearing was held on a bill Friday aimed at bringing over 50 Maine kids with mental health and behavioral problems back to our state.

We're told these kids have been shipped out of state for services because Maine doesn't have adequate staffing to serve them.

More >> Lawmakers discuss bill aimed at bringing children back to Maine who have been sent to other states for mental health and behavioral services

Friday, March 29, 2019

Report says more Maine kids were in state custody, waiting to be adopted, in 2018

The number of children in state custody increased by 17 percent and the number of children in foster care rose by 20 percent from 2017 to 2018, according to a new report.

Additionally, Maine led the nation in 2017 for the highest rate of children diagnosed with anxiety disorders and was third for the rate of children diagnosed with depression.

More >> Report says more Maine kids were in state custody, waiting to be adopted, in 2018

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Lawmakers advocate for improvements to Maine’s lead testing program

Bills that aim to improve testing for lead in children went before the Legislature’s Health and Human Services Committee on Tuesday and most people who testified at the public hearing spoke in favor of the measures.

Maine is the only New England state that does not require a universal blood test for lead in all infants, but bills by Rep. Victoria Morales, D-South Portland, and Sen. Nate Libby, D-Lewiston, would make testing mandatory for 1- and 2-year-olds across the state. Morales’ bill would go a step further, and also test 6-year-olds. Currently, testing is only required for 1- and 2-year-olds in the Medicaid program. Children who have private insurance are not part of that mandate, although many pediatricians routinely test children regardless of whether they have Medicaid or private insurance. Doctors are currently required to ask all parents whether their children are at risk of being exposed to lead by asking about the age of their residence and other questions. But according to Tuesday’s testimony, it’s not clear how many pediatricians are doing the assessments.

More >> Lawmakers advocate for improvements to Maine’s lead testing program

Saturday, March 23, 2019

Maine gets an “F” for efforts to address lead in school drinking water

Reacting to pervasive lead contamination in schools’ drinking water, Environment Maine Research & Policy Center gave Maine an F grade today for addressing the problem, according to a new national report. In the second edition of Environment Maine Research & Policy Center’s Get The Lead Out study, the state showed poor progress as Maine received an “F” grade in 2017, as well. We are calling for swift action to ensure lead-free water in Maine’s schools.

“Schools should be safe places for our kids to learn and play, but Maine is still failing to protect our kids from lead in drinking water,” said Carissa Maurin, State Director with Environment Maine Research & Policy Center. “We need policies that actually get the lead out of faucets and fountains in our schools and pre-schools.”

More >> Maine gets an “F” for efforts to address lead in school drinking water

Monday, March 18, 2019

Maine woman arrested in Beverly, charged with kidnapping 2 children

A 28-year-old woman wanted for kidnapping her two children from Maine was arrested in a home here after a "Be On the Lookout" alert was issued.

Brittany Bohan, 28, was apprehended Monday by Massachusetts State Police. She was charged with being a fugitive from justice and on a court warrant and will be arraigned Tuesday in Salem District Court, police said.

More >> Maine woman arrested in Beverly, charged with kidnapping 2 children

Friday, March 15, 2019

Mother of Ayla Reynolds asks court for more time to find girl’s father



The mother of missing Maine toddler Ayla Reynolds is asking for more time to find the little girl’s father.

An attorney for Trista Reynolds told CBS 13 a request was filed in court for an additional 60 days to find Justin DiPietro.

More >> Mother of Ayla Reynolds asks court for more time to find girl’s father

Saturday, March 9, 2019

DHHS Commissioner Outlines Plan To Improve Child Protective Services

State officials told members of the legislature's Government Oversight Committee Friday that improvements to the child protective system are underway. The panel held a public hearing on the latest report following the abuse deaths of two girls last winter, which details a number of concerns raised by caseworkers. Some lawmakers and citizens say they want more to be done, and soon.

According to the report, the top concerns reported include large caseloads and a shortage of foster placements, which means caseworkers often spend hours or days with children in hotels and emergency rooms. Child protective workers are also frustrated that changes in protective services were made without their input in the wake of the deaths of two girls.

More >> DHHS Commissioner Outlines Plan To Improve Child Protective Services

FYI: They are all clueless.  What they need to do is to provide the services that help to keep kids safe in the home so they don't have the foster care system flooded with frivolous cases. 


Friday, March 1, 2019

Political advocacy in classroom ban, cursive bill, both fail

Two bills have failed in committee that would have made changes to Maine schools. One would have banned teachers from engaged in political or ideological advocacy in the classroom. The other would have required students in elementary school learn cursive.

More >> Political advocacy in classroom ban, cursive bill, both fail

Saturday, February 23, 2019

Flaws in Maine’s child protection system frustrate frontline workers, report says

The Legislature’s watchdog agency reported Friday that Maine’s child protective system is hobbled by overburdened caseworkers, staffing shortages, inefficient computer systems and a lack of foster families that forces caseworkers to supervise abused or at-risk children in hotels and hospitals for long periods.

 The findings, based on a survey and interviews with staff in the Office of Child and Family Services, are part of a new report to the Legislature’s Government Oversight Committee that follows the deaths of two children in 2017 and 2018.

More >> Flaws in Maine’s child protection system frustrate frontline workers, report says

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Lawmakers, educators introduce bill to stop "food shaming" in public schools

Lawmakers are once again introducing a bill to stop so-called "food shaming" in schools, saying students who can't pay for their meals are being singled out.

"I know they can't learn without it. I know they struggle," said Dea Swain, who works as an ed tech in Aroostook County.

More >> Lawmakers, educators introduce bill to stop "food shaming" in public schools

Friday, February 15, 2019

Maine’s new DHHS chief: ‘We need to restore trust’

DHHS is the state’s most embattled — and, after education, second most expensive — department. The agency’s child welfare arm, the Office of Child and Family Services, is in the midst of an audit, commissioned last year after a government watchdog report found evidence that DHHS mismanaged the handling of abuse complaints related to the deaths of two young girls.

In a sit-down interview with the Bangor Daily News, Lambrew said she wants to restore trust and morale among department employees, broaden the state’s social service programs, and increase general department transparency.

More >> Maine’s new DHHS chief: ‘We need to restore trust’

Maybe if they stop stealing babies...

A consultant hired to review Maine’s child welfare system found these flaws

Early findings in a new report evaluating eight child welfare cases handled by Maine’s Office of Child and Family Services show a system-wide need for department improvements — a likely precursor for a more comprehensive report to come.

More >> A consultant hired to review Maine’s child welfare system found these flaws

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Report: Maine has the highest percentage of children with mental health disorders

A new study is putting Maine at the top of the list when it comes to the number of children with mental health disorders.

This revealing report was just published in a leading medical journal.

More >> Report: Maine has the highest percentage of children with mental health disorders

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Mills seeks new director to oversee troubled child welfare system

Gov. Janet Mills’ administration is looking for a new director of the office that oversees the state’s troubled child welfare system.

The administration is conducting a national search for a director of the state’s Office of Child and Family Services, a division of the Maine Department of Health and Human Services that has lacked a permanent director since April 2017.

More >> Mills seeks new director to oversee troubled child welfare system

Monday, January 21, 2019

A young girl had to leave Maine for mental health care. It’s been 6 months.

Lora’s 15-year-old daughter is pleading to come home to Washington County by the time she turns 16.

The girl, who struggles with developmental delays, behavioral problems and aggression, is living at a youth home 1,500 miles way in Carbondale, Illinois. She’s been there since November. Before that, she spent about four months at a youth home and psychiatric hospital in Vermont.

More >> A young girl had to leave Maine for mental health care. It’s been 6 months.

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Bill would end non-medical vaccine exemptions in Maine

Lawmakers in Maine will consider a bill designed to end non-medical exemptions from childhood vaccinations this year.

Maine has one of the lowest vaccination rates for children entering kindergarten. It's also home the country's highest rate of whooping cough, a dangerous disease that can be limited with the use of an easily available vaccine.

More >> Bill would end non-medical vaccine exemptions in Maine

Saturday, January 12, 2019

Maine lawmakers have blueprint for reworking youth behavioral health services

The findings of a report on the state’s youth mental health services are straightforward — and rightfully harsh.

Behavioral health services for children are not available quickly — or, sometimes, at all. Too often services are not available in the communities where the children who need them live. When Maine children do get services, the quality is inconsistent, and there is little coordination, especially as they transition to adulthood.

More >> Maine lawmakers have blueprint for reworking youth behavioral health services

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

First review in two decades shows all the ways Maine failed kids with mental health problems

A private consulting firm has concluded that Maine can do far more to serve children with behavioral and mental health needs, after finishing a wholesale review of services in the state.

After five months of interviews, data analysis, surveys and town hall meetings, Boston-based Public Consulting Group determined that services are often not available immediately or at all for children with behavior and conduct disorders, autism, developmental delays, depression or anxiety, post-traumatic stress and attention deficit disorder.

More >> First review in two decades shows all the ways Maine failed kids with mental health problems

Saturday, January 5, 2019

Gov. Janet Mills said she wants to bring back the Children’s Cabinet. Here’s what that is.

What have we gotten ourselves into?  



During the past year, the violent deaths of two little girls and the prevalence of mental illness among teens in Maine’s youth prison have stoked worries about how the state cares for its kids.

The prominence of these concerns earned them a place in the inauguration speech of Gov. Janet Mills. But the Democrat’s first move to address complex issues that span the work of different state agencies will likely be obscure to most Mainers.

More >> Gov. Janet Mills said she wants to bring back the Children’s Cabinet. Here’s what that is.