Committee subpoena seek child death investigation documents

September 22, 2022 GMT

AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) — The Maine Legislature’s Government Oversight Committee voted to obtain a subpoena to force the state’s child welfare agency to turn over documents related to the deaths of four children last year.

The Maine Department of Health and Human Services contends it will comply by providing the full child protection case files to the Office of Program Evaluation and Government Accountability, just as it has provided other materials that were requested in the past.

State law allows those documents to be shared with OPEGA, which works for the committee, but not with lawmakers, a spokesperson said.

The death of 3-year-old Maddox Williams in Stockton Springs and three other children in the summer of 2021 drew statewide attention — and reform efforts by state lawmakers and Democratic Gov. Janet Mills — after parents were charged in their deaths.

Sen. Lisa Keim, R-Oxford, who sits on the oversight committee, said lawmakers need to make a deeper dive into the deaths. In all, 29 children died last year and at least 27 had some sort of child protective history before or during their lives, according to state data, which is not a comprehensive list of all child deaths.

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“It’s time for us to push harder against the system and create greater accountability for DHHS,” Keim said.

A former committee member, Sen. Bill Diamond, D-Windham, praised the decision to seek a subpoena. “It’s vital that committee members have first-hand, confidential access to these files; it’s the only way the committee will be able to make recommendations for true and lasting change to the system,” he said.

This story has been corrected to show state data indicates there were 29 child deaths, not 34, last year.