Gov. Paul LePage signed four bills Friday aimed at improving the state’s child protection system, including legislation that would shift official policy away from family reunification and toward the best interests of the child.

The bills were proposed by LePage after the state’s Department of Health and Human Services weathered criticism in the wake of the deaths of Marissa Kennedy, 10, of Stockton Springs in February and Kendall Chick, 4, of Wiscasset in December. Both girls died as a result of abuse, law enforcement officials have said.

One bill specifically directs caseworkers to make “reasonable efforts” to reunify families that have had children taken from their custody. Previously the department’s regulations called for family reunification to be a “priority.”

Two other bills give caseworkers more access to information about cases, including confidential criminal histories and some Child and Family Services records of allegations that had not yet be substantiated.

The fourth signed bill provides funding, more than $21 million to add as many as 40 staff to help investigate child abuse.

The bills were approved by the Legislature on Aug. 30.


In announcing the bills being signed into law Friday, acting DHHS Commissioner Bethany Hamm issued a statement praising LePage for proposing the new laws, saying they would help to “affect real change within our child welfare system.”

“We still have more work ahead of us and we remain committed to that process as we work to ensure our system is effectively and efficiently protecting these vulnerable Maine children,” Hamm said in the statement.

Ray Routhier can be contacted at 791-6454 or at:

Twitter: @RayRouthier

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