Data shows 22 Maine kids have died since 2017 after reports
AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) — At least 22 children have died since January 2017 following concerns reported to the state about their safety, Maine state records show.
At least eight died with open abuse or neglect cases before the Department of Health and Human Services, the Bangor Daily News reported this week.
Seven cases had been opened 69 or fewer days before the deaths, according to data provided by the Department of Health and Human Services without identifiable information. The families of the eight children who died with open abuse or neglect cases had previously went through as many as eight reviews.
Four of those deaths were classified as homicides: Marissa Kennedy, 10, last February in Stockton Springs; Kendall Chick, 4, in Wiscasset in December 2017; Jaxson Hopkins, 7 weeks old, in Troy in January 2017; and 14-month-old Quinten Leavitt in March 2019. Another 13 deaths were ruled accidents, according to the newspaper.
The deaths of Kennedy and Chick led to several state investigations and a package of legislative reforms aimed at improving the state’s struggling child welfare system.
Maine Child Welfare Ombudsman Christine Alberi said she was alarmed of the number of cases involving extensive state involvement and the fact that eight of the accidents were co-sleeping deaths. She said she plans to ask the state for more details, including the extent of substance use playing a role in co-sleeping deaths.
“There is no way to know whether DHHS missed something or not in these cases that could have prevented a death, even if there was an open case,” Alberi said. “A significant DHHS history increases the risk to the child, but without specific information, it is impossible to know.”
The state’s records include details about when the state fielded reports and steps taken by caseworkers.
That includes the April 2018 death of a 5-month-old boy that what was deemed an accident. The state had received at least nine reports about his family dating back six years, and a 2015 assessment found evidence of neglect by both parents.
The state’s health agency closed the file in June 2016 after ensuring the couple received mental health and substance abuse treatment.
By March of this year, the state opened an investigation following three reports made while the child was alive. Parental neglect was ruled a factor in the boy’s death.
Information from: Bangor Daily News, http://www.bangordailynews.com