Mills signs legislation to strengthen Office of Child Welfare Ombudsman

Tue, 04/05/2022 - 1:00pm

    AUGUSTA — Governor Janet Mills announced Tuesday she has signed bipartisan legislation to strengthen the Office of the Child Welfare Ombudsman.

    According to a news release, the bipartisan, bicameral bill, which was proposed by the Governor, solidifies the Ombudsman’s authority to hire additional staff at their discretion, increases the length of the Ombudsman’s term from one to five years, ensures the Department of Health and Human Services continues its practice of informing the Ombudsman of any statewide policy changes before they take effect, and codifies into law the Department’s existing practice of notifying the Ombudsman of any child fatality with child welfare involvement.

    “The Office of the Child Welfare Ombudsman is an important partner in the State’s effort to protect children,” said Governor Janet Mills. “I am grateful for the support of both the Child Welfare Ombudsman and the Legislature in passing this legislation, which builds on our ongoing work to improve child safety and strengthen the child welfare system – a goal shared by all.”

    The Governor has also proposed measures in her supplemental budget for the Office of the Child Welfare Ombudsman to hire additional staff, provide health coverage for staff, and allow for additional office space.

    “The office of the Child Welfare Ombudsman is grateful to the Governor and to sponsoring legislators for the proposed legislation and budget initiative to strengthen our office and provide much needed additional resources,” said Christine Alberi, Maine’s Child Welfare Ombudsman. “This law will enhance the independence and productiveness of our office in order to more effectively do our part in the statewide efforts to enhance the protection of Maine’s most vulnerable children.”

    “Our neighbors, our families and our social workers who are on the front lines are counting on us to create real reform. This new law is a critical step forward in protecting Maine’s most vulnerable children,” said Senator Chip Curry (D-Belfast). “I’m grateful to Governor Mills for putting this bill forward, to Senator Claxton for sponsoring it, and to my other colleagues in the Legislature for supporting it.”

    Anyone concerned about child abuse or neglect should call the Department’s 24-hour hotline at 1-800-452-1999. Calls may be made anonymously.