Maine releases report on child deaths dating to 2007
AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) — The Maine Department of Health and Human Services has released details about 143 child deaths that came to the agency’s attention.
Child welfare agents had repeated visits with families leading up to some of the deaths while there was no contact before others, according to the report.
All told, 30 children died from homicides, 26 died in accidents and 35 died while co-sleeping with adults since 2007, the report said.
The report released on Wednesday provided an update to data released in 2019 by the Maine DHHS in response to a records request from the Portland Press Herald, the newspaper reported.
DHHS stated in a blog post about the data Wednesday that the report is part of an effort to increase transparency, and it came against a backdrop of renewed attention following a series of deaths of children.
The death of 3-year-old Maddox Williams in Stockton Springs drew statewide attention after his mother was charged in his beating. The boy was one of four children who died in June.
The deaths are continuing. A father was charged with murder in the death of his infant son last weekend in Milo.
Todd Landry from the Office of Child and Family Services told the Legislature’s Health and Human Services Committee on Wednesday that Maine’s child fatality rate is lower than the national average. He also acknowledged that abuse cases represent challenges with no clear-cut answers about whether parents should lose custody of children.
As part of the transparency efforts, the DHHS said it’s begun informing Maine’s Child Welfare Services ombudsman of deaths of children.
Two members of the child welfare ombudsman’s board resigned this summer, suggesting the DHHS wasn’t receptive to oversight.
The ombudsman is investigating the children’s deaths in June along with Casey Family Programs, a national organization focused on children’s safety and reducing the need for foster care.
The Legislature’s independent watchdog agency, the Office of Program Evaluation and Governmental Accountability, is also investigating.