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DHHS Commissioner Welcomes Review of Handling of Child Abuse Cases

The Maine Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) Commissioner Ricker Hamilton says he welcomes an outside review of the way the agency handles child abuse complaints.

Hamilton says the agency is already taking steps to rectify problems identified by the children’s welfare ombudsman, who has determined that the department’s assessment process has too often failed to move swiftly enough to protect children.

“And that is part of the systemic review that we need to take a look at,” Hamilton says. “I am not sure anyone is prepared to go into some of the cases we send our young men and women into.”

Hamilton says training has always been an issue for the agency, and he hopes it can be improved. He tells Maine Public Radio that most of the time, though, workers make the right call, and the public should not jump to conclusions about the tragic death of Marissa Kennedy until the investigation is complete.

“At the same time we are taking this critical in depth review and looking at us and welcome other objective, outside interventions and reviews as well, we have to keep in mind the job that these individuals are doing and making sure we support them and doing that and not begin to point fingers of blame until all the facts are in,” he says.

Journalist Mal Leary spearheads Maine Public's news coverage of politics and government and is based at the State House.