AUGUSTA, Maine — After passing the Maine Senate by surprise last week, a veteran lawmaker’s effort to split the child welfare office from the Department of Health and Human Services was shot down by the House of Representatives on Monday.
The bill from Sen. Bill Diamond, D-Windham, looks destined to fail after the lower chamber dispatched it without a roll-call vote, though it faces further action. It would create a standalone department by transferring positions and adding 11 more in a bid to beef up a system that was the subject of reform efforts after the deaths of two young girls in 2017 and 2018.
Rep. Holly Stover, D-Boothbay, was the sole lawmaker to speak on the bill Monday. A member of the Legislature’s health committee, which recommended the bill be killed in a 12-1 vote, she said the proposal could endanger other programs in the department and would create a more cumbersome system.
“It really wouldn’t address the concerns that were put forth, which I think we all share, which is to at all costs ensure that children have safety and we reduce violence against children and child death,” Stover said.
Diamond had been skeptical the bill would even pass through his chamber last week, giving a floor speech in which he was resigned to the measure’s failure. It was strongly opposed by the Maine Department of Health and Human Services, which is pushing for more caseworkers this budget season as it proposes ending contracts with private groups working on lower-risk cases.