State must do a better job protecting children

 Rep. Caleb Ness (R-Fryeburg)

The state legislature will be back in session on January 3. This will be the shorter, second session of the term, because we don’t have the biannual budget to work through.

In the other news, the State’s failure to educate and protect children has been in the news lately. Problems within the Department of Human Services’ Office of Child and Family Services have risen to the point where criticism is coming from Democrats and Republicans on the legislative committees of jurisdiction in response to public pressure.  Take this sampling of Portland Press Herald headlines:

  •  Maine’s embattled child welfare director resigns 

The report is the result of listening sessions conducted across the state over the last year with caseworkers, foster families and others with first-hand experiences. It contains specific recommendations to support caseworkers and strengthen the role foster parents play in the family reunification process.

It is unacceptable that there were 32 child deaths from abuse of neglect in 2021, with another 48 deaths since. The situation has gone from bad to worse in a short period of time. I do not believe that the resignation of one official will end the problem. Lawmakers are pressing the DHHS Commissioner and others for their plans on how to correct a broken system.  

Although I do not serve on the legislative committees directly involved in these issues, I am carefully monitoring developments in hopes of passing legislation or forcing changes that will help prevent future tragedies. The situation is so bad that I am hopeful that there will be bipartisan support for needed changes that take into account the knowledge and experiences of those on the front lines. 

I wish everyone a happy and blessed New Year! If you have any input or suggests in regard to these or other issues, please do not hesitate to contact me at Caleb.Ness@legislature.maine.gov or call 207 287-1440. Thank you for your interest reading this and for your input and support.

Sincerely, 

Rep. Caleb Ness (R-Fryeburg)

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