There is no higher priority for our state, communities and families than keeping children safe. Improving Maine’s child welfare system to meet this responsibility continues to be critically important.

Too often, children and families first find potential sources of help when they are in crisis – long after the moment when needed supports could have or should have been provided.

This is why Gov. Mills called for a plan to keep children safe by keeping families strong, helping to meet their needs to prevent child abuse and neglect in the first place.

Working together, the Department of Health and Human Services and the Maine Child Welfare Action Network developed a plan, informed by listening to more than 250 individual Maine voices, and counting, through public engagement sessions.

The Child Safety and Family Well-Being Plan is a bold new framework to guide action by policymakers and community members. It aims to make Maine a place where all children, youth and families live in supportive communities where they can get the help they need, when they need it.

This can be accomplished by improving (1) supportive communities (2) economic security; (3) available services and resources; and (4) coordination. The plan proposes a set of concrete, short-run actions that can be taken this year in each of these strategies.


The first strategy is to create supportive communities where children, youth and families feel comfortable seeking help. To that end, the governor’s budget proposes $1 million to fund an education campaign to encourage parents to connect to resources and help them do so. It would also provide technical assistance to local organizations dedicated to strengthening community partnerships to support children, youth and caregivers.

Second, economic security creates the conditions necessary for parents to safely care for their children. Community partners can create flexible funds for families that can be used for basic needs. The governor’s budget invests in training and workforce development, such as extending free community college for high school graduates and expanding the Maine Apprenticeship Program.

Third, services and resources help parents and caregivers ensure the safety, health and nurturing care of their children. In addition to investing in children’s oral and behavioral health services, the governor’s budget expands rental assistance, funding for healthy food, child care tax credits and heating cost assistance.

The fourth strategy is to improve coordination of supports and services for children, youth and families. This includes modifying training for people required to report potential child abuse to include resources for families experiencing challenges. Also, budget initiatives establish a single point of access for children’s behavioral health services and expand wraparound services for care coordination.

The new plan includes many more actions that can be taken in the coming months by communities, organizations and state agencies using existing resources.

It also identifies bills and budget initiatives before the Maine Legislature that could make major strides toward achieving the plan’s goals. Budget initiatives and legislation supported by the administration, if enacted, would invest over $150 million toward keeping children safe by keeping families strong.

This is just the start. The plan is version 1.0. It will evolve with even more input and collaboration with families, communities and policymakers.

For Maine’s children and their families, it is time to intensify investments in upstream, coordinated and preventative efforts now. Everyone has a role to play in supporting Maine families to ensure children and youth have the opportunity to grow up safe, stable and healthy in communities across our state. We hope Maine people will join us in finding ways to support families in our communities.

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