Great news from Maine

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Maine Child Welfare Reforms Recognized By National Advocacy Organization 

ALEXANDRIA, Va., Jan. 31 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Maine's dramatic reform of child welfare over the past several years has earned it a place on a national child advocacy group's list of best practices.

Maine's approach to child welfare is now the eleventh "way to do child welfare right" according to the National Coalition for Child Protection Reform. And it is the first system to make the list after previously being the subject of harsh criticism from NCCPR. The complete list of best practices and reformed systems is available at http://www.nccpr.org.

NCCPR made the announcement on the sixth anniversary of the death of Logan Marr. "Logan was taken needlessly from a loving birth mother only to be killed by her foster mother," said NCCPR Executive Director Richard Wexler. "At that time, the operating philosophy at what was then the Department of Human Services could be boiled down to 'take-the-child-and-run.'

"But Logan Marr did not die in vain. Her death prompted the state to reexamine its entire approach to child welfare, efforts which accelerated dramatically after Gov. Baldacci took office in 2003.

"Today, Maine takes away far fewer children from their parents. And when children must be taken, extended families are viewed as resources instead of suspects. As a result, the chances that another child like Logan will be taken needlessly from a mother who is overwhelmed, but deeply loves her child, have been significantly reduced. And in the process, all of Maine's children have gotten safer.

Maine's independent ombudsman for child welfare, Dean Crocker, says he's seen no indication that the reforms have compromised child safety. The Ombudsman office was created in the wake of the death of Logan Marr. It is run by the Maine Children's Alliance, where Crocker is Vice President for Programs.

Crocker says he still gets complaints about what is now the Department of Health and Human Services acting too quickly to remove children or refusing to consider relative care. But, he said, "the reform does appear to be producing creative solutions to keep children safely at home and in their community, often recognizing that poverty is a root cause in child abuse or neglect. Children and youth are having a much larger voice, too. The First Lady has taken the cause of older youth in care under her wing and she is a powerful advocate."

Foster and adoptive parent Mary Callahan became a key figure in the reform effort. After writing a book about her experiences, Memoirs of a Babystealer, she worked with another champion of reform, former State Rep. Ed Dugay, to organize the Maine Alliance for DHS Accountability and reform.

"Our group was huge at the beginning, especially when you realize how much guts it takes to go public with the fact that your children have been removed," Callahan said. "But it has shrunk considerably as the reforms took effect, and birth parents started being treated with respect, worked with instead of against, and yes, getting their kids back."

Wexler noted that "better does not mean best and good is not good enough. The Maine system still as a long way to go, as does every system in the country. But in a remarkably short period of time, Maine has gone from a follower to a national leader.

"I know that for some people, our issuing a statement like this will be very painful -- like rubbing salt in a wound," Wexler said. "These are the people who lost their children in the years before reform, and no doubt some whose children still are wrongfully taken today, since every system in the country makes such mistakes. I am very sorry for any additional pain this may cause them, but when a system makes real progress, when it harms far fewer children and helps far more, it is urgent that the progress be recognized and encouraged.

"When my organization first criticized child welfare in Maine, the old leadership replied that Maine is a leader in human services. That's true. Maine always has been in the forefront of helping its most vulnerable citizens, often setting an example for the nation. At the time, child welfare was a glaring exception.

"But now, thanks to the concerted efforts of state leaders, and the people of Maine, the state has a child welfare agency that is worthy of the state it serves." SOURCE National Coalition for Child Protection Reform


Thanks to Jo Anne Swanson for sharing this item.


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Related links: http://www.nccpr.org  

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