Maine State Rep. Adam Goode’s bill to ensure the safety of Maine social workers by prohibiting the publication of their home addresses earned support at a public hearing before the Legislature’s Judiciary Committee Tuesday.
“The goal of this legislation is to minimize the likelihood of social workers being exposed to harassment from disgruntled former clients,” said Goode, D-Bangor. “Having home addresses of social workers accessible on the licensing board’s website makes them more vulnerable to harassment, intimidation, loss of privacy and assault from an individual who may be emotionally unstable.”
Goode submitted the legislation after a Vermont social worker was shot and killed by a woman who was upset about losing the custody of her child.
A similar incident occurred in Maine in 1988 when a disgruntled administrator of a home for people with mental illness obtained the names and addresses of state licensing officials. After he was fired, the individual shot and critically injured then-Department of Health and Human Services licensing administrator Louis Dorogi in the kitchen of his Topsham home.
Goode’s bill, LD 1499, seeks to improve the safety and privacy of social workers who hold a license from the Department of Professional and Financial Regulation. The change would ensure that the home address of a social worker is confidential and not open to the public.
April Tuner, a senior at the University of Maine studying social work, testified in favor of the legislation.
“For safety and privacy reasons, it is important that the home address of social workers not be made public,” said Turner. “As a mother, I am concerned that my family could be placed in danger because a client that I work with could obtain my home address. As a foster parent that concern grows even greater since I am expected to provide a safe home for a child that has already experienced trauma.”
The National Association of Social Workers and the National Alliance on Mental Illness also testified in support of the bill.
“It is unfortunate, but true, that social workers practice in settings that are increasingly unpredictable or unsafe,” Goode said. “This had led to some social workers becoming permanently injured or losing their lives.”
The committee will hold a work session on the bill in the coming weeks.
Goode is House chair of the Legislature’s Taxation Committee and a social worker. He is serving his fourth term in the Maine House and represents part of Bangor