The Sunday editorial reminds me once again that the more things change the more they remain the same (“Our View: LePage has opportunity to lead on child welfare,” June 3). Those with an historical understanding of the child welfare system will recognize the issues suggested by OPEGA’s review and the governor’s statement as old news.

The failure of internal DHHS communication is not new. More than 15 years ago DHHS used the computer system as the excuse for ignoring multiple complaints on a child. DHHS said then that it was making changes in the system so that child protective intake workers would know about previous complaints.

Maybe they just ignored multiple complaints, or maybe the promised changes were never made, if the computer is really to blame?

The governor wants to increase penalties for not reporting abuse. A better response would convince mandated reporters to report more consistently. Way too many teachers and principals will tell you that lack of response from DHHS leaves them wondering why they should bother — they want to report but ruining their relationship with a family by reporting when nothing will happen makes little sense.

It is appalling to hear that the policy favoring relative placement may be in doubt. Research at the national level shows relative placement to be very effective when there is follow-up and support.

It is fair to say that many people wonder if DHHS has the expertise to understand what’s wrong and fix it. Confidence would be increased if DHHS made use of organizations such as Casey Family Programs and its free consulting service to states. Confidence among stakeholders would also be improved if DHHS acted like it believes child welfare must be a partnership with the community.

Dean Crocker

Manchester, Maine and Estero, Florida


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