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The Maine Legislature’s Government Oversight Committee voted to obtain a subpoena to force the state’s child welfare agency to turn over documents related to the deaths of four children last year.
The Maine Department of Health and Human Services denied a previous request by lawmakers to turn over case files, citing concerns that doing so could jeopardize criminal investigations.
But the DHHS said Wednesday it has no concerns about providing the material to the Office of Program Evaluation and Government Accountability, as requested by the oversight committee.
DHHS “will share the requested documents with OPEGA as soon as possible,” said Jackie Farwell, agency spokesperson.
The death of 3-year-old Maddox Williams in Stockton Springs and three other children in the summer of 2021 drew statewide attention — and reform efforts by state lawmakers and Democratic Gov. Janet Mills — after parents were charged in their deaths.
Sen. Lisa Keim, R-Oxford, who sits on the the oversight committee, said lawmakers need to make a deeper dive into the deaths. In all, 34 children died last year and at least 27 had some sort of child protective history, according to state data.
“It’s time for us to push harder against the system and create greater accountability for DHHS,” Keim said.
A former committee member, Sen. Bill Diamond, D-Windham, praised the decision to seek a subpoena. “It’s vital that committee members have first-hand, confidential access to these files; it’s the only way the committee will be able to make recommendations for true and lasting change to the system,” he said.