My wife and I are parents of four children, ages 9 to 19. We are blessed to have had three of our kids join our family through adoption. We can attest to the old African proverb: “It takes a village to raise a child.” That’s especially true when that child has had involvement with the child welfare system as a result of the circumstances and trauma that brought that child there.

As chair of the Maine Children’s Trust, I know that more than 4,200 Maine children were found to have experienced child abuse or neglect in 2021 alone. To heal from that trauma, these children need a particularly strong village in their local communities, with strong support services from the Maine Department of Health and Human Services, which not only administers the child protective services system but also key early care and education programs, which are vital support and prevention structures within each child’s “village.”

This is why child abuse and neglect prevention, family strengthening, and early care and education programs need to be improved and expanded throughout Maine.

One great example is the voluntary Maine Families Home Visiting Program. Family visitors and families develop strong relationships and trust through regular meetings that focus on addressing each family’s needs during the critical periods of pregnancy and birth to age 3. Family visitors help ensure safe home environments, promote healthy growth and development for infants and toddlers, and provide parents with key connections to needed services. The family visitors use a non-judgmental and compassionate approach that empowers parents with the skills, tools and confidence to nurture the healthy growth of their baby.

Maine Families remains one of the state’s most critical cost-saving investments to improve childhood health and learning outcomes, prevent child abuse and neglect, enhance future productivity and reduce future demand on tax-supported services.

In 2023, the Maine Families Home Visiting Program participated in more than 18,000 home visits with 1,602 families and 1,696 children. During that time, Maine Families served 113 families involved with CPS, 102 (90%) of whom had no further reports for child abuse or neglect during their participation with Maine Families. Clearly, Maine needs to do more to expand this program to reach more families in need.


In addition to reducing the family stressors that can lead to child abuse and neglect, family visitors play a vital role connecting parents to other people in our communities who can support them and their young children, like pediatricians, early care and education programs and other parents.

Maine’s early childhood education system is also a vital component of the village supporting children who have experienced abuse and neglect, as well as all children. DHHS can provide child care to parents involved in the CPS system as one intervention in an array of support services. Steady, reliable child care enables parents to work or attend training or education programs. Many quality child care programs also offer parents a network of other trained professionals to help support them and their children. Early education teachers can identify problems early and make referrals for any needed developmental evaluations, preventing further harm to children. Early childhood education programs also encourage parental involvement and support parents, taking a two-generation approach. They are all part of each child’s strong village.

Research has shown that CPS-involved children who are enrolled in early childhood education programs are less likely to be removed from their homes and have fewer subsequent reports of child maltreatment.

Recent historic state investments in child care are key to improving child welfare across our state. It is my hope that policymakers will support an early childhood education system proven to help children and families and invest in critical prevention services now. Maine Families Home Visiting and our many local child care programs are vital in securing our youngest Mainers’ well-being, growth and development.

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