Sen. Diamond applauds Government Oversight Committee’s decision to subpoena child protection records

Posted: September 21, 2022 | Senator Diamond

AUGUSTA — On Tuesday, the Legislature’s Government Oversight Committee voted to subpoena the Department of Health and Human Services for the child protection case files of four Maine children who were allegedly killed by their parents in the summer of 2021. The Department has thus far refused to release the case files to the Committee as part of the Committee’s ongoing review of Maine’s child protective system, citing concerns that doing so could jeopardize ongoing criminal investigations.

“I’m so thankful to the Committee for the great work they’ve done over the past year, and for their decision today to subpoena the Department of Health and Human Services for these critical records,” said Sen. Diamond. “As a former member of the Government Oversight Committee myself, I believe it’s vital that committee members have first-hand, confidential access to these files; it’s the only way the Committee will be able to make recommendations for true and lasting change to the system. Today, the Committee decided to take advantage of their ability to challenge the Department’s decision, and in doing so they are standing up for the people of Maine and for the four children who were tragically killed last summer.”

In July, the Government Oversight Committee requested the Department share with members of the Committee the case files for 6-week-old Jaden Harding, 3-year-old Hailey Goding, 3-year-old Maddox Williams and 1-month-old Sylus Melvin. All four children died in the summer of 2021, and in all four cases a parent has been charged with murder or manslaughter in connection with the child’s death. Under advice from the Attorney General’s Office, DHHS refused the request. The Office of Program Evaluation and Government Accountability (OPEGA), which aides the Committee in their work, will have access to these files. However, Committee members themselves will not, unless the Committee is successful in legally challenging the Department’s decision.

On Tuesday, the Committee voted unanimously of those present to direct OPEGA to request and begin review of these four records immediately, as well as to review a random sampling of other child protection case files from the past 18 months. The Committee also overwhelmingly voted to subpoena DHHS for the four case files in question in order to allow Committee members to review them in an executive session at their next scheduled meeting.

The Government Oversight Committee is next scheduled to meet at 9 a.m. Wednesday, Oct. 19 in Room 220 of the Burton M. Cross Building, located at 111 Sewall St. in Augusta.