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Report finds Maine child welfare system struggles to make accurate assessments about children's safety

The Maine child welfare system continues to struggle to make accurate assessments about children's safety, according to a report from the state's child welfare ombudsman. In a formal response issued by Maine's Department of Health and Human Services says it's making improvements in its handling of cases.

The state's child welfare system faced increased scrutiny last year after five child deaths in June. But the Child Welfare Ombudsman's latest report found substantial issues in more than 40 cases it reviewed. The most prominent issues occurred during two phases: initial safety investigations and assessments about whether it's safe for a child to return home.

The ombudsman says these have been problem areas for the past couple of years, and offered examples where the state failed to recognize potentially harmful situations for children. The report recommends that the state implement best practices to train supervisors and staff, bolster prevention services, and to collaborate with frontline staff on reforms.

In its response to the report, Maine's Department of Health and Human Services says efforts are underway to improve investigations and assessments. The Department also contracted with Casey Family Programs, a national organization that issued recommendations for the state's child welfare system last fall.