The recent lawsuit filed against Maine DHHS alleging the overuse and misuse of psychotropic medications for children in state custody underscores the need for continued vigilance to ensure Maine’s most vulnerable kids are getting the care they need.

Children who have experienced abuse or neglect at home and need to be removed for their safety often have behavioral or mental health issues related to the trauma they experienced. Unfortunately, in recent years behavioral health services have been difficult to obtain due to significant wait lists or services that are limited to medical interventions at the expense of other needed therapies. In addition, a shortage of foster parents, high caseworker turnover due to stressful work conditions, and an aged information system have contributed to insufficient monitoring of children in state care.

After years of being underfunded and understaffed, and following the high-profile deaths of two young girls, the Mills administration took office amidst calls for child welfare reform. Since 2019, DHHS has made significant progress in implementing needed changes, including investing in more caseworkers, strengthening worker training and supervision, replacing the information system, and increasing support for foster families.

The case reminds us how important it is to provide public investment in strengthening families and in bolstering the child welfare system, which are both critical to ensuring the safety and well-being of all Maine children.

Stephanie J. Eglinton
executive director, Maine Children’s Alliance

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