Sen. Diamond applauds the Government Oversight Committee’s decision to investigate the state’s child welfare system

Posted: August 11, 2021 | Senator Diamond

AUGUSTA – On Wednesday, the Legislature’s Government Oversight Committee voted to approve a scope of work proposal for the Office of Program Evaluation and Government Accountability (OPEGA) to adhere to in their investigation of Maine’s child protective services. In attendance was Sen. Bill Diamond, D-Windham, who issued the following statement in response:

“I applaud OPEGA’s staff for putting together this thorough plan. By following the steps they laid out, OPEGA will be able to conduct a rigorous and detailed investigation of our child welfare system that I believe can result in real, meaningful reforms and changes. Their work will help fix a broken system and save children’s lives. This is the most optimistic I’ve felt about the potential for improvement in the 20 years I’ve been working on child welfare issues, and the sense of urgency the Committee is bringing to this investigation is very refreshing. I’m immensely grateful to the OPEGA staff, the Government Oversight Committee and everyone who will participate in this important investigation over the coming months.”

This review comes after four Maine children, all younger than four years old, died between May 31 and June 20 of this year. Two of these cases have resulted in manslaughter charges for the children’s parents, and Jessica Trefethen has been charged with murder in the case of her three-year-old son Maddox Williams. While details about these cases are still forthcoming, reports indicate that concerns about Maddox Williams’ neglect had been made known to the Department of Health and Human Services. Sen. Diamond submitted a request to the Committee, asking them to order an investigation into Maine’s child welfare system, on June 30 of this year.

The Committee unanimously voted to approve OPEGA’s scope of work proposal, with some additions and amendments that were suggested during the work session. The investigation will focus on three key areas:

  • Part one, protecting child safety – initial investigation and assessment;
  • Part two, protecting child safety – reunification and permanency; and
  • Part three, oversight of Child Protective Services.

Sen. Diamond asked that OPEGA also investigate options for expediting the prosecution of child deaths as appropriate, since much information about these recent cases won’t be available until the trials have concluded. Sen. Diamond also submitted a bill to this end, after learning that trials in connection with recent child deaths likely won’t be concluded for 18 to 24 months, due in part to a court backlog created by the pandemic.

OPEGA is scheduled to report back to the Committee on Jan. 15, 2022, regarding part three of their scope of work; on March 15, 2022, regarding part one of their scope of work; and on September 30, 2022 with a final report inclusive of all three parts.

If you suspect a child is being abused or neglected, call 1-800-452-1999. If you have questions or concerns about a child protective services case, you can contact the ombudsman’s office at 1-866-621-0758. For emergencies, dial 911 or call your local police department.