AUGUSTA — Maine Gov. Janet Mills has signed into law a bill that strengthens the Office of the Child Welfare Ombudsman following several highly publicized deaths of children in June.

The governor sponsored the bill that was one of several child welfare enhancements proposed after the deaths of four children.

The new law lengthens the ombudsman’s tenures from one to five years and gives the ombudsman power to hire more staff. It also requires the Department of Health and Human services to continue informing the ombudsman of changes in policy, and it codifies the practice of informing the ombudsman of child deaths.

“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,” said Christine Alberi, Maine’s current child welfare ombudsman.

In addition, the governor has taken steps to hire more child welfare workers to fill critical gaps as well as providing additional support staff.

The DHHS has been under intense scrutiny and saw many reforms put in place after the deaths of two girls in 2017 and 2018.

In June, the death of 3-year-old Maddox Williams in Stockton Springs drew statewide attention after his mother was charged in his beating. The boy was one of four children who died that month.

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