The Latest: Committee votes on child welfare bills
Aug. 28, 2018
AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) — The Latest on Maine's child welfare system (all times local):
A legislative committee has expressed mixed support for Republican Gov. Paul LePage's child welfare bills.
The Legislature's health and human services committee Monday considered bills set for votes Thursday.
The committee voted 6-2 in support of a bill to boost caseworker pay, eventually buy a new computer system, hire 16 new supervisors and boost payments to foster families.
A majority of the committee also voted to also hire 16 new caseworkers and eight new case aides. It's unknown how much that'll cost.
The panel voted 5-3 to urge lawmakers to nix a bill to require the state to make "reasonable efforts" to keep families together. Current law makes it a priority.
The panel also voted 8-2 against a bill to make failing to report child abuse a crime.
Caseworkers warn a $21 million reform package could worsen or leave unaddressed long-standing problems in Maine's struggling child welfare system.
A legislative committee Monday discussed Republican Gov. Paul LePage's five bills.
Maine's seen more abuse reports and higher caseloads following LePage administration policy changes requiring more assessments of abuse allegations. The bills would boost caseworker pay, hire more supervisors and criminalize failing to report child abuse.
Several caseworkers called for more front-line jobs, but said support and training is needed to retain workers. Westbrook Police Chief Janine Roberts said she doubts criminal penalties would encourage more child abuse reports.
One bill aims to have Maine only make reasonable efforts to keep families together. But Maine Child Welfare Ombudsman Christine Alberi said what the bill's impact will actually be is unclear.