Committee unanimously supports Bellows bill to increase staffing for Child Welfare Services Ombudsman Program
A bill sponsored by Sen. Shenna Bellows, D-Manchester, LD 1094, “An Act To Increase Funding for Staffing for the Child Welfare Services Ombudsman Program,” was unanimously supported in the Legislature’s Health and Human Services Committee on Friday.
“The recent news about the startling number of children dying from potential abuse and neglect is alarming to everyone,” said Sen. Bellows. “I’m glad the committee members all agree that four additional positions in the child welfare ombudsman’s office is a very modest, but necessary, increase.”
Reporting from the Bangor Daily News revealed that “since January 2017, at least 22 children between the ages of 20 days and 10 years old died after the state’s child protective services system received concerns about abuse or neglect involving their families, according to data from the Maine Department of Health and Human Services.”
The Child Welfare Ombudsman Program was established in 2001 based upon data from 1999, a year in which there were 4,450 referrals that were screened in and investigated, of which 2,349 resulted in findings of substantiated abuse or neglect. In 2018, there were 26,636 referrals, of which 11,638 were assigned for investigation. This is more than five times what the volume was from when the program was established.
LD 1094 would add at least four people – including at least one administrative support person, one attorney and two professionals – to handle intake and investigation of complaints. An amendment to the bill requires that these new staff be provided office space to work in.
LD 1094 now moves to the Maine Senate and House for additional votes.