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Following five child deaths, a new report outlines recommendations to improve child welfare in Maine

Darren Fishell
Bangor Daily News/file

A national organization is making several recommendations to improve Maine's Office of Child and Family Services in the aftermath of five deaths of young children in June. The Mills Administration released a report from Casey Family Programs Thursday after contracting with the organization this summer to review the state's child welfare practices.

There are seven recommendations in the report. Some call for better communication and coordination between child welfare staff and outside partners, including healthcare providers, hospitals, and public safety departments when abuse or neglect is suspected.

The report also recommends that Maine ensure it's following best practices so staff and supervisors are given assignments that match their experience, as well as appropriate workloads and timeframes to complete assessments. Maine's Office of Child and Family Services also needs to find better ways to engage with parents, such as mentoring programs.

The recommendations are a disappointment for Democratic Senator Bill Diamond, who says they merely outline what's already expected of child welfare. In a written statement, Diamond says longstanding issues are being ignored and he's worried that "we are stuck in the cycle where children die, reports get issued, but no meaningful change occurs.”

In a written statement, Maine's Commissioner of the Department of Health and Human Services, Jeanne Lambrew, says that the state is evaluating the recommendations. The Department is expected to release action steps next week.