Since 2017, there were a shocking number of child deaths in Maine where child protective services was involved. This brings further urgency for the state to strengthen its capacity to protect these vulnerable children.
Like the Child Welfare Ombudsman, we were alarmed that, of the 13 accidental death cases, eight involved co-sleeping. More must be done to educate new parents about the extreme risk of co-sleeping, which becomes even more dangerous when there is medication, alcohol or other substance use by a parent. Therefore, it is appropriate that the department’s response includes targeted efforts in public outreach and education around the dangers of co-sleeping. The proposed increase in home visiting through the Public Health Nursing Program and Maine Families will offer valuable parenting guidance, including safe sleep practices, and connect families to community-based supports.
Also deeply disconcerting is the number of instances where the department was extensively involved with the family, particularly where the child died with an open case before the department. But this isn’t surprising given that, according to data from the department, the most prevalent family risk factor identified during a child protective assessment is prior history with CPS, followed by mental health problems.
Since most of the children who died were known to the agency, it’s clear that there needs to be more support…