Governor Mills signs bill to review child welfare caseloads

Thu, 05/23/2019 - 11:15am

Governor Janet Mills signed LD 821, a Resolve To Review Caseloads for Child Welfare Caseworkers, sponsored by Rep. Colleen Madigan, of Waterville, and passed unanimously by the Legislature, which requires the Department of Health and Human Services to review child welfare caseloads and develop standard caseload recommendations with input from caseworkers and the Public Consulting Group.

“Our dedicated caseworkers are a vital connection between state government and vulnerable families and children,” said Department of Health and Human Services Commissioner Jeanne Lambrew, in a news release. “We are committed to easing their caseloads to support them in making and sustaining those connections effectively, and we look forward to working with the Legislature on this effort.”

The bill requires DHHS to review child welfare caseloads and develop standard caseload recommendations with input from caseworkers and the Public Consulting Group, whose evaluations have guided the Department’s work to reform Maine’s child welfare system. The Department also must submit a report to the Legislature by October 1, 2019 with its findings and recommendations, as well as annual reports on child welfare staffing.

Since October 1, 2018, DHHS has hired more than 140 staff to fill existing vacancies and new positions in the child welfare system, including 91 caseworker positions, 19 caseworker supervisors, and 33 administrative and support staff. Under Governor Mills’ biennial budget change package announced last week, the Department would make an interim investment to hire an additional 62 new staff in the Office of Child and Family Services to improve caseloads, background checks, and the intake process for potential cases.

“Child welfare work is complex, fast-paced and demanding,” said Todd Landry, Director of the Department’s Office of Child and Family Services. “Thoughtful establishment of robust standard caseload recommendations is essential. We look forward to continuing our efforts with experts in the field to ensure a staffing level that allows caseworkers to focus on their critical interactions with children and families.”

"One of the best recommendations for how to address the problems in our child protective system was to lower the caseloads of caseworkers,” said Representative Madigan, D-Waterville. “This allows them to better investigate cases and help children and families. I am so glad so many have worked together to pass this bill. Thank you, Governor Mills.”

Upon Governor Mills’ signature, LD 821 will take effect 90 days after the adjournment of the Legislature.