Why Are Maine Children Dying At An Alarming Rate?
More child deaths took place in Maine last year, then anytime since the Office of Child & Family Services started tracking them in 2007 according to a report released by the Department of Health and Human Services last week.
The deaths have run the gamut from abuse to neglect, to something as simple as co-sleeping with a child. The Department of Health and Human Services reported that 25 deaths of children had taken place in 2021. That number is even higher when you consider the other homicide cases that were not included in the report due to them still being in the court system.
Reviewing the data the State of Maine released, the 25 deaths is more than double the yearly average of 11. Almost half of the deaths were ruled accidental which would include such things as ingestion of illegal drugs.
There is no question that the high number of child deaths in Maine is cause for alarm. What changed from the year before? It's hard to not ask the question, what happened to Maine's child protection system? There is currently an ongoing review by the Legislature’s Office of Program Evaluation and Government Accountability to come up with the answer.
There have been many reforms at DHHS ever since a few high profile cases like that of Marisa Kennedy came to light a few years ago, but is it enough? And what can we expect with understaffing, unmanageable caseloads, and overtime that are driving many case workers away from that field of work?
What would you do to improve the current system?