Maine Department of Health and Human Services Commissioner Jeanne Lambrew. Credit: Troy R. Bennett / BDN

If you are concerned about a child being neglected or abused, call Maine’s 24-hour hotline at 800-452-1999 or 711 to speak with a child protective specialist. Calls may be made anonymously. For more information, visit maine.gov/dhhs/ocfs/cw/reporting_abuse.

The federal government approved a plan that will grant Maine $2.4 million annually for child abuse prevention programs. The approval comes as the state child welfare system has been under renewed scrutiny since four Maine children have allegedly been killed by parents since the start of June.

The Maine Department of Health and Human Services said Monday that the federal Children’s Bureau had approved its plan for programs to fund under the Family First Prevention Services Act.

The law, which former President Donald Trump enacted in 2018, overhauls federal child welfare spending by allowing states to allocate money for prevention strategies.

The Maine DHHS’ Office of Children and Family Services submitted its plan for spending money the law makes available to the federal government in February.

“Under this plan, we will further improve our programs and expand prevention services with the goal of safe, stable, happy, and healthy children and families in Maine,” said Todd Landry, director of the Office of Children and Family Services.

The state plans to use its federal funding to expand the reach of a range of family therapy programs, as well as investing in a statewide program that sends trained workers into the homes of new parents to provide parenting education. It also plans to start funding a new program aimed at families whose children are at risk of being sent to foster care or inpatient psychiatric treatment, or are just returning home from those circumstances.

The Family First Prevention Services Act limits state spending to programs considered evidence-based, meaning that research has demonstrated their effectiveness. Those programs, however, can often be costly and  limited in their efficacy because they require specialized people to run them, one child welfare expert told the Bangor Daily News in July. 

Maine DHHS contracted with Casey Family Programs to audit its child safety programs in June following the four child deaths that occurred that month.

Lia Russell

Lia Russell is a reporter on the city desk for the Bangor Daily News. Send tips to LRussell@bangordailynews.com.