LATEST NEWS

Category

Currently showing posts tagged children in maine

  • Maine's New Licensing Rules for Child Care Providers Might Put Children at Risk

    Article and photos by Ramona du Houx

    Hymanson: “Regulations need to keep children safe and ensure quality.”

    A new set of licensing rules for in-home child care providers developed by the Department of Health and Human Services took effect Wednesday, September 27, 2017. The new rules potentially put Maine's children at risk.

    “Access to high-quality, affordable child care is critical to early development, and therefore critical to Maine’s future. Many people in our large, rural state have limited choices for their child care providers, so the regulations need to keep children safe and ensure quality by standards set by child-care experts. These, our next generation of citizens and their parents, deserve that,"said Health and Human Services Chair, Dr. Patty Hymanson.

    “Rolling back these regulations has been opposed by advocates, experts and legislators. Parents need to have access to every piece of information about every part of the day care center where they entrust care and education of their child. These rules will negatively impact the quality and standard of care and I will work within the legislative process to ensure the safety of our kids.”

    The new rules allow in-home child care providers to care for more children than the state previously allowed, without having to add staff. They will also lessen the amount of information to which parents receive about the facility and restrict the degree of access parents have to their children while they’re in care. 

    “High-quality, affordable child care is out of reach for too many families in our state. I regularly hear from people in my district who either cannot find care they can afford, cannot find suitable care or cannot find open spots for their children at all," said Sen. Ben Chipman of Portland, the lead Senate Democrat on the Health and Human Services Committee. "The department’s solution to this problem is to impose new rules on childcare providers that diminish the standards of care. But that’s not a solution that works for Maine families. I’m committed to doing what’s necessary to make sure state regulations expand access to safe, responsible and affordable child care.  Our families deserve nothing less.”

  • Maine Senate endorses Sen. Alfond’s bill to streamline anti-hunger program

     The Maine Senate on April 7, 2016 gave initial approval to a bill that would expand access to food for hungry children and seniors by improving and simplifying a federal program’s needlessly complex application and moving the application process online.

    The Senate passed the bill 29-6 in a preliminary vote.

    The bill, LD 1472, would improve administration in Maine of the federal Child and Adult Care Food Program, or CACFP,  which provides funding so that home daycares, adult day cares, child care centers, emergency shelters and at-risk afterschool programs can provide nutritious meals. It is one of several proven anti-hunger programs by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

    “We need to do everything we can to ensure Mainers have access to healthy, nutritious food,” said Sen. Alfond, D-Portland. “This bill will make it easier for qualified organizations to receive federal reimbursement for meals programs that feed hungry young people and our seniors. Fighting hunger is government work at its best, and I thank my colleagues for supporting this bill.”

    Navigating through the 40-page, multi-part application is unnecessarily complicated and confusing, especially for small providers such as daycares and after-school programs. More than $50 million in federal funding for anti-hunger programs through CACFP is sitting on the table because of low utilization by eligible providers in Maine.

    Roughly half of Maine’s K-12 students are “food insecure,” the federal term used to designate hunger. Maine ranks 12th in the nation and 1st in New England for food insecurity, and is one of the few states in the country where hunger is growing.

    The bill now goes to the House.

  • Maine Bill to increase access to child care earns initial House go ahead

    Article and photos by Ramona du Houx

    Measure to help parents work and children to succeed advances in party-line vote 

    Working families would have greater access to quality, affordable childcare under a bill that earned initial House approval Tuesday. The 82-65 vote fell largely along party lines.

    “At its core, this is an economic development issue. We can help more low-income parents work, strengthen Maine's economy and prepare the youngest Mainers to succeed throughout their lives,” said Rep. Scott Hamann, D-South Portland, a member of the Health and Human Services Committee. “We know that the investment in early childhood more than pays for itself, saving the state and taxpayers costs like special education down the line.”

    LD 1267 uses available federal funds to expand access to quality childcare. It does so by increasing the reimbursement rates to the 60th percentile of the market rate for providers who accept vouchers from working families. The federal government recommends that vouchers pay at the 75th percentile, which was where Maine was until a reduction a few years ago.

    Maine was on track to increase its rate from the 50th percentile to the 60th percentile. But the Department of Health and Human Services unexpectedly decided last month to retain the 50th percentile rate.

    The rate reduction shrank the number of providers accepting vouchers, limiting quality childcare options for low-income working families and their young children. Parents and childcare providers were caught by surprise. Some providers, include Head Start agencies, had built budgets for their businesses that assume the 60th percentile.  

    Path to a Better Future: The Fiscal Payoff of Investment in Early Childhood in Maine, by University of Maine economist Philip Trostel, found a 7.5 percent return on investment. It also found that high-quality preschool education for a low-income child saves taxpayers an average of $125,400 over the child’s lifetime – more than five times the initial investment.

    LD 1267 faces further action in the House and Senate.

  • Maine’s welfare policies, since LePage, have had dire consequences for kids

    Changes in public policy motivated by politics, not facts, have been disastrous for Maine children.

    Since Congress passed “welfare reform” 20 years ago, it has become increasingly clear that many of these so-called reforms have failed, leaving many parents and children in deeper poverty without sustainable employment.

    Many of these policies simply were not based in the realities of people’s lives and ignore the economic environment people are living in. They are unsupported by social science research or evidence and have left far too many families and children behind.

    Today, we see increasing levels of severe poverty — for example, the doubling of the number of people living on less than $2 per day — and thousands of single parents working in low-wage jobs with little hope for the future. They’re working, but they still can’t support their families and often must leave their children with inadequate care.

    For a while, Maine was able to buck this trend and be a national leader. Twenty years ago, with unanimous agreement on both sides of the aisle, policymakers increased opportunity for poor families through innovative programs such as Parents as Scholars, which sent thousands of low-income parents to college. 

    They increased stability for low-income working parents with important transitional services such as health care and child care.

    Today, we are crashing toward the bottom of states, as more children and their parents go without health insurance, a place to live or enough to eat.

    Five years ago, Maine changed direction. Our state took a highly politicized turn in its policy making around poverty and welfare. This change has had dire consequences for some of Maine’s most vulnerable children and families and, ultimately, for the whole state.

    While other parts of the country have shown improvement in fighting poverty and hunger, Maine has seen an increase in deep child poverty, growing numbers of uninsured children and parents, and more and more households facing food insecurity.

    Between 2010 and 2014, Maine had the sharpest increase (50 percent) of any state in the country in the number of children living in extreme poverty — or less than half the federal poverty line, about $10,000 for a family of three. Growing up in extreme poverty has life­long consequences for individuals and their communities, including poor school attendance, increased contact with the criminal justice system and a weaker connection to the labor market.

    Among families with children eligible for TANF, only half as many (31 percent) received the help they needed from that program as did those in 2010 (60 percent). A study we conducted on the consequences of families losing assistance because of the state’s strict five-year time limit revealed harsh consequences for families, including increased hunger and homelessness, often leading to family separation. Maine ranks in the worst third of all states in the country in terms of children living apart from their families.

    Since the 2010 Affordable Care Act, every state in the country except Maine has seen an increase in the percentage of people with health insurance. This is a direct result of Maine refusing federal dollars to expand Medicaid, something that was prescribed in the historic health reform law as a method for increasing health insurance coverage. Maine is the only state that has had a statistically significant increase in the number of children without health insurance between 2010 and 2014.

    Maine families also are experiencing increased hunger. While food insecurity has declined in the rest of the nation as a whole, the percentage of people in Maine who face food insecurity increased from 2009 to 2014. Maine has the third highest ranking in the United States for very low food security and the highest rate of child food insecurity in New England.

    These trends are dire and very troubling. They are a direct consequence of policy decisions based on ideologies that withhold opportunity instead of promoting it. They are creating untold hardships for the poorest children in our state; hardships that will result in lifelong consequences, and as such do not bode well for their or our futures.

    It is imperative that we turn these frightening trends around so we do not ruin the lives of a large segment of the next generation of Mainers.

    If we don’t change course, the damage will seep into every part of our state, undermining our workforce, our schools and our communities.

    Sandy Butler is professor of social work and is the graduate program coordinator in the School of Social Work at the University of Maine. Luisa S. Deprez is professor emerita of sociology and women and gender studies at the University of Southern Maine. First appeared in the BDN

  • Expanding MaineCare is an immediate way to help young people out of poverty

     Editorial by Karen Heck, a longtime resident and former mayor of Waterville, Maine

    Call me a bleeding heart, but the fact that there are 15,000 children in Maine without health insurance, 1 in 4 children in Maine who are hungry, and 2 in 3 who can’t read at grade level makes me ashamed of my adopted state. Those figures pose a risk to kids’ well-being and to our state’s future economic prosperity.

    A decidedly non-bleeding heart organization, the non-partisan Maine Economic Growth Council, issues a report on 23 Measures of Growth indicating progress toward long-term, sustainable economic growth and a high quality of life for all Maine people future.

    One Measure of Growth the group tracks is the rate of poverty, because “bringing our poverty rates down is critical to helping create a solid foundation for Mainers so we can improve other outcomes like educational attainment, food insecurity, health status, and employment levels.”

    Another measure tracks Maine students’ level of reading proficiency at fourth grade “because fourth grade is the point at which reading should be established as a skill and students transition from “learning to read” to “reading to learn.”

    The Economic Growth Council supports programs like Head Start and quality childcare as critical components in achieving higher levels of reading skills.

    A third measure tracks the rate of health insurance coverage because “health insurance helps people establish a relationship with a provider and access preventive care that can help avoid more costly and disruptive procedures down the road, helping people live healthier, more productive lives.”

    A fourth measure looks at food insecurity, otherwise known as hunger, because “the total annual direct and indirect cost of food insecurity (including poor health, lowered educational outcomes, reduced earnings, and the value of charitable contributions to address hunger) has been estimated at $787 million for Maine.”

    The 2015 Measures of Growth indicate Maine’s poverty rate has risen to 14.2 percent. In addition, 64 percent of Maine children are not proficient at reading by fourth grade — yes, that’s 64 percent — and the rate of Medicaid coverage declined from 23 to 20 percent, leaving 11,000 more children than three years ago without healthcare. Lastly, 24 percent of Maine children are hungry.

    Despite critics’ attempts to deny it, the data is clear about what works in creating a path out of intergenerational poverty. The lives of millions have been improved with an array of services that include Medicaid, Medicare, Head Start, education and job training, and food stamps.

    Some of the people needing those services spent Christmas at the Mid Maine Homeless Shelter. Among them were 14 young children, two 18-year-old high school students working and finishing high school, and two students, ages 20 and 21, enrolled in adult education and working. Their wages at 25 hours a week are so low they can’t afford even a tiny efficiency apartment.

    Many policy decisions that would make a difference in helping these and others move out of poverty will not be debated in this short session of the Legislature. However, the expansion of Medicaid will be.

    Two Republican senators, Roger Katz and Tom Saviello, have reintroduced a bill to expand Medicaid to help the state address the current drug epidemic using federal rather than state dollars. The governor and the majority of Republicans are, again, dead set against this bill becoming law.

    Those who understand that the road out of poverty is one the government can make easier by taking a comprehensive approach that works, not by kicking people off programs, which doesn’t work, can stand up now.

    That means engaging in the political process, something many are loathe to do.

    However, government policies need to be in place to support those who are struggling with little or no work, mental illness, drug addiction and over burdening the criminal justice system, and our voices help create those policies.

    We have the opportunity in this Legislative session to make a difference in this one policy decision that will affect our children’s lives. Expanding Medicaid is something that nine Republican governors have joined two independents and 19 Democratic governors in doing because they know it makes economic sense for their states.

    Really, what other species abandons its young? How did we get to a point where we think it’s OK to have children living at the homeless shelter, while their parents work, try to go to school, look for jobs or deal with mental illness?

    While the animal kingdom relies on instinct to care for their young, we actually have research on the kinds of policies that make a difference in people’s lives.

    Our job is to overcome the voices of those who think the answer is punishing people for their situation. It’s in your own self interest to overcome your reluctance to write letters, talk with candidates and legislators, call the governor, and speak out.

    I hope you will join me.

    This piece first appeared in the Morning Sentinal 

  • Eight things to look for in a great child care program

    Children playing in Maine, photo by Ramona du Houx

    by Ramona du Houx


    When parents choose child care for their infant or toddler, they are making a decision that goes far beyond choosing a “babysitter” while they go to work. The quality of infant care affects youngsters’ mental and emotional development for the rest of their lives.

    According to the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University, infant experiences shape the development of brain architecture, “which provides the foundation for all future learning, behavior and health.”

    Brain development research shows that growth begins with the creation of a series of paths among the brain’s billions of neurons. These early connections and paths are the foundation of all learning in the future.

    Even though genetics provide the basic blueprint for a child’s brain, Harvard’s research shows that the most important factors in developing healthy neural pathways are positive interactions with parents and other caregivers. This is a process called “serve and return,” in which infants learn by how adults respond to them. When adults don’t respond, or when they respond inappropriately, it affects a child’s long-term development.

    Reading to children need parents and/or care givers to read to them and to help develop strong language skills.

    Languages help build congnative development at earily ages. Learning ABC's are simple ways that help.

    This research points to the critical importance of finding high quality infant and toddler care when parents need to work outside the home. Parents seeking childcare should look for these elements:

     

    • Basic health and safety- Does the provider take steps to ensure health and minimize the risk of injury?
    • Staff education level- Infant and toddler care providers should understand the learning abilities of newborns to 3-year-olds and be able to plan appropriate activities. They should know how to interact with infants and toddlers and respond to them.
    • An age-appropriate environment- Young children need appropriate space for both active and quiet time, along with proper equipment, toys and books.
    • Ratio of staff to children- Infants need one-on-one time and individualized care.
    • A primary caregiver- Each child should be assigned a primary caregiver who can respond to his/her unique needs and temperament. This kind of stability is important for healthy development.
    • Responsive caregiving- Caregivers should be aware of each child’s developmental pace and be prepared to teach or intervene, depending on circumstances.
    • Observation and individualized learning- Caregivers must be aware of each child’s needs, and should prepare individual activities and document progress.
    • Language and literacy- Infants and toddlers should be immersed in story- telling, reading, singing, and conversations so they develop strong language skills.


    More information is available from the Maine Children’s Growth Council.

  • Maine's new law to ban “rehoming” of adopted children goes into effect Oct. 15, 2015

    Sen. Angus King presents Rep. Craig Hickman, with a 2015 Angels in Adoption award for his outstanding advocacy on adoption issues. Hickman was recognized by the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute at an awards ceremony in Washington D.C. Courtesy photo.

    By Ramona du Houx

    A measure sponsored by Rep. Craig Hickman to prohibit the unauthorized “rehoming” of adopted children goes into effect Oct. 15. "Rehoming" is a form of buying and selling children once they have been legally adopted. It's slavery and the USA lacks laws protecting these children.

    The Maine law prohibits the transfer of the long-term care and custody of a child without a court order. Hickman, adopted when he was a baby, has been involved in adoptee rights issues for the past 20 years.

    “Imagine being shipped across oceans to a new culture with a new language to become part of a new family, only to have that family decide that they don’t want you. And since it is not against the law, that family advertises you on Facebook or Craigslist or some other social media platform and within days you are dropped off to another stranger in a parking lot behind some Walmart somewhere,” said Hickman, D-Winthrop. “Yes, this actually happens.”

    Sen. Angus King honored Hickman with a 2015 Angels in Adoption award for his outstanding advocacy of adoption issues. The Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute, which orchestrates the Angels in Adoption Program, honored Hickman this week.

    The Angels in Adoption Program honors individuals, couples and organizations that have made extraordinary contributions on behalf of children in need of families.

    The Judiciary Committee passed the bill unanimously with an amendment to make rehoming a crime subject to the current penalties for abandonment. It includes an affirmative defense clause to ensure people acting in good faith are not penalized.

    “This law will protect children and families from the outrageous indignity called rehoming and send a clear message to adoptees here and all over the nation that Maine people care about the safety and welfare of all our children,” Hickman said. 

    According to the Washington Times, Colorado, Florida, Louisiana, Ohio and Wisconsin also have adopted laws against rehoming. 

    “When I saw the votes in favor of this bill, I was moved to tears,” said Hickman. “This is the most important bill I’ve introduced so far. As an adopted person, it goes to the core of who I am. It feels like the culmination of two decades of work. I am so grateful to my colleagues for their support.”

    Hickman is serving his second term in the Maine House and represents Readfield, Winthrop and part of Monmouth.

     

     

  • Help children have meals in Maine schools

    By Maine State Senator Justin Alfond

    Maine has the tools, grit to eliminate state’s quiet crisis of child hunger

    But the hurdles of filling out applications and the stigma that some feel need to be surmounted.

    It’s fall, and schools across our state have welcomed students back to the classroom. The start of the school year is an exciting time for every community, a time many of us look upon fondly. But while most students are ready to learn and do their best, some are facing a monumental challenge: hunger.

     The Maine Department of Education reported that 86,473 of all K-12 public school students in our state – roughly 47 percent – were food insecure, meaning that the child goes without one meal every day. These children are eligible to receive free or reduced-priced meals at school.

    Food insecurity is disastrous for children. Learning, concentration and discipline all suffer when a student hasn’t had enough to eat. Research has shown that children who experience hunger are more likely to struggle in school.

    Childhood hunger is a quiet crisis that’s affecting all of Maine, but there are simple things we all can do to address it.

    Last year, I co-chaired the bipartisan Task Force to End Student Hunger. We created a five-year blueprint to end student hunger in Maine. The first step is to enroll every eligible child in the USDA school meals program. Registration is critical for these students, and enrollment is happening right now at every school through Oct. 15.

    Here’s how it works:

    One of the many forms a parent gets at the beginning of a school year is a Meal Benefit Application, which determines a child’s eligibility for free and reduced-price food, which is provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Eligible students can receive school breakfast, lunch and after-school snacks every day school is in session, if they need them.

    But this year in Maine, many students won’t even apply. 

    Educators I’ve spoken with know that students in their classrooms qualify for help, which would ensure proper nutrition that may otherwise be unavailable. But year after year, they see these kids go without because they didn’t fill out the Meal Benefit Application.

    Some of the reasons for that missed opportunity are simple. The form can get lost in the shuffle of all the paperwork sent home during the first weeks of school, or could be filled out incorrectly. But the real obstacle is the stigma associated with receiving free or reduced-price meals.

    I know that Mainers are proud and independent people. Asking for help is not easy, and it’s never our first instinct. Plus, filling out this paperwork is deeply personal. Often, the completed form is delivered to a school leader the parents know personally.

    But registration is the make-or-break moment for a child in need of food at school. When a child isn’t signed up, not only does it mean they will be one of those hungry students that most likely will struggle in school, but it also means Maine forgoes $50 million in federal funding set aside to feed our children.

    So what can we all do?

    • First, learn about hunger in your community. In 2014, here in Cumberland County, more than one-third of students qualified for free or reduced-price school lunch, according to data from the Maine Children’s Alliance. In nine Maine counties, more than half the students qualify. Childhood hunger affects every single community in Maine and cuts across the political spectrum.

    • Next, call your local parent-teacher organization and see if child hunger is something they are working on, and volunteer to help if you can.

    • Finally, let’s come together and help break the stigma of accepting free and reduced-price meals. There is no shame in accepting help if you need it.

    I’m also excited to announce that Full Plates Full Potential, a statewide nonprofit targeting student hunger, will be focusing on increasing registration by testing best practices from around the country in a few Maine schools this fall.

    I urge everyone to get involved in ending childhood hunger in the community. Let’s make sure we get every eligible child registered this fall.

    No child should go hungry. Fortunately, Maine has all the tools and grit needed to solve this crisis.

    First appeared in the Portland Press Herald

     

     

  • Alfond: “If we are truly going to solve this childhood hunger epidemic then we have to stop the blame game”

    By Senate Democratic Leader Justin Alfond of Portland

    45,000 children in Maine are living in poverty. That’s more than the entire population of Bangor, Hermon, and Hampden. In fact,  according to the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s annual Kids Count report, the child poverty rate is higher today, in 2015, than it was before the recession.

    Just days ago, the National Commission on Hunger was here in Maine as part of their nationwide tour to learn more about hunger and poverty among our children. This 10-member Commission--appointed by the U.S. Congress--is charged with reducing food insecurity by developing innovative reforms in both public and private food assistance programs.

    When it comes to addressing childhood hunger, Maine has a story to tell.

    Astonishingly, in Maine, there are more than 86,000 children who are food insecure--that’s one in four children living in our state without access to enough food. Finding ways for our state to address our childhood hunger epidemic is imperative.

    It’s easy to overlook the signs of hunger.

    I often tell the story about when I was growing up in Dexter. When I was nine-years old, I had a friend in my class named Tom. Back then, everyone knew Tom as “that kid” who got called down to the principal’s office. He was “that kid” who stayed in during recess. He was also “that kid” who missed a lot of school. Later, what I realized as an adult, is that Tom was “that kid” whose family–although they worked hard–didn’t have enough money to make sure Tom got enough food. He was hungry. 
    I tell this story because it underscores how easy it can be to miss the signs. Childhood hunger is one of most hidden challenges facing our state. Yet, it’s all around us.

    Nearly 50 percent of all school-aged children in Maine are hungry. In fact, Maine ranks second in New England for food insecurity.

    Why does this matter? Well, hunger is a roadblock to learning--and success. And it makes sense. Try skipping breakfast, or going an entire work day and not eating enough and still being expected to do your best work. Do you think you could?

    One thing I’ve learned is that there’s a strong corollary between underperforming students and schools with high percentages of students who are eligible for free and reduced lunch.

    Hunger makes a student’s journey through school--and life--incredibly challenging. Children without enough food not only underperform in school--and have behavioral challenges--they are also less likely to graduate from high school or go on to further their education. Lower educational attainment means lower annual incomes--increasing the likelihood they will stay in poverty. By not feeding hungry children now, we make it more likely they will end up in poverty later in life.

    In Maine, we are taking action--albeit slowly. Thanks to legislation, we have an expanding summer foods program--because we know that just because school’s out for the summer, hunger doesn’t go away. We also have a network of churches, nonprofits, and businesses all working together on solving food insecurity. Lastly, we are a state rich in agriculture. We can grow food to help solve this hunger crisis.

    So what’s the problem?

    I would say our biggest problem is the lack of leadership and political will in state government. Some in the legislature on both sides of the aisle are leading on food issues, but there are nowhere near enough lawmakers rallying for this cause. Sadly, it is far too easy for some politicians to talk a good game when it comes to feeding children, but still vote against those interests at every turn.

    And perhaps most insidiously, is this administration’s coordinated effort of shaming the poor--embarrassing and stigmatizing the very people who are trying to get back on their feet. There seems to be a belief from this administration that public shame is the missing motivator of moving people out of poverty to self-sufficiency. 

    If we are truly going to solve this epidemic of 86,000 hungry children in our state then we have to stop the blame game--and realize that this is not  just a school problem, and it’s not just a family problem. This is a community problem. It’s your problem, it’s my problem--it’s our problem. And, we have a responsibility to help those in need among us.

    It’s going take each of us working together and in partnership with the State of Maine and the federal government to ensure no child goes hungry in Maine. 

  • Maine Legislation to help children with dyslexia becomes law

     A bill to make sure that schoolchildren with dyslexia get the assistance they need to succeed became law on Sunday.

    “When students with dyslexia are identified early and get the help they need, the results are incredible,” said Rep. Terry Morrison, D- South Portland, the lead sponsor of the measure. “We need to get these kids the proper support as soon as possible.”

    Dyslexia is a learning disability characterized by trouble reading despite a normal intelligence. Problems may include sounding out words, spelling words, reading quickly, writing words, pronouncing words when reading aloud and understanding what was read.

    “Dyslexia is serious, but it can be overcome with the right assistance at the right time,” said Rep. Denise Harlow, D-Portland, a co-sponsor. “This new law will help make sure that happens.”

    With proper assistance and personalized support, dyslexics can learn to read.  The earlier a dyslexic child is identified, the more successful the intervention.

    “This law will put the right tools in the hands of educators to identify and help students with dyslexia,” said Rep. Kim Monaghan, D-Cape Elizabeth, another co-sponsor.  “It will make a real difference.” 

    Some famous people who were diagnosed with dyslexia include Jay Leno, Steve Jobs and Pablo Picasso.

    “The costs, both emotional and financial, of not helping a student with dyslexia are very great,” said Rep. Richard Farnsworth, D-Portland, who also co-sponsored the measure.

    LD 231, which the Legislature passed on June 30, was among the measures that became law without the governor’s signature. The governor has 10 days, not including Sundays, to sign or veto a bill. If he does not take either of those actions, the bill becomes law if the Legislature has not finally adjournent. 

    The bill goes into effect 90 days after the Legislature finally adjourns. The Legislature will be in session on July 16 to address any vetoes issued by the governor as prescribed by the Maine Constitution.

  • Lawmakers pass bill reducing barriers for reporting suspected child abuse

    By Ramona du Houx

    A law that would reduce barriers to reporting suspected child abuse was enacted in the Maine State Senate on May 27, 2015.

    The measure, LD 199, “An Act to Improve the Reporting of Child Abuse,” amends the state’s current law for mandated reporters who are required to report cases of suspected child abuse and neglect. There are more than 32 categories of mandatory reporters including clergy, bus drivers, school officials, doctors, camp counselors, and law enforcement.

    “Child abuse has serious short- and long-term consequences. The sooner we intervene in child abuse cases, the more likely a child will experience less long-term consequences,” said Democratic State Senator Bill Diamond of Windham, the bill’s sponsor.

    In 2013, over 19,000 reports of suspected child abuse were made to Maine’s Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Child and Family Services.

    Current law states that a mandated reporter may “cause someone else” such as a supervisor to make the report. The bill, amended in committee, requires a mandated reporter working in an institution, facility or agency to acknowledge in writing that s/he has received confirmation that the report has been made by the institution, facility or agency to the department. If the mandated reporter does not receive that confirmation within 24 hours of notifying the institution, facility or agency, then the mandated reporter is required to report directly to the Department of Health and Human Services.  Additionally, the amendment prohibits an employer from taking any action to prevent or discourage an employee from making a report.

    “We know that these reports of abuse are merely the tip of the iceberg when it comes to child abuse.  And, we need to decrease barriers to the intervention of child abuse,” added Sen. Diamond. “We know from the Penn State-Jerry Sandusky case that too often reports of abuse get lost up the chain. We can make no more excuses for reports of abuse that go unreported or investigated.”

    To date, the measure has received bipartisan support garnering a unanimous report from the state’s Judiciary Committee and unanimous passage “under the hammer” in both the House and Senate.

    The law now goes to Governor Paul LePage for his signature.

  • Education committee unanimously backs bill to end childhood hunger in Maine

    A bill aimed at ending childhood hunger was unanimously supported by the state’s Education and Cultural Affairs Committee May 14, 2015.

    “When a child is hungry, they cannot reach their full potential. Their school performance, overall health, and attendance suffer,” said State Senate Democratic Leader Justin Alfond of Portland, the sponsor of the measure.  “Now that we have a blueprint to end student hunger and now we must start doing.

    This is an ambitious bill, but it is one that meets the scope of our challenge,” said State Senate Democratic Leader Justin Alfond of Portland, the sponsor of the measure. “When parents and communities understand the full scope of hunger in their school, they want action.

    In Maine, one out of four children, or more than 86,000, are food insecure. These numbers make Maine the most food insecure state in New England. To address this, the 126th Legislature created the Task Force to End Student Hunger.

    Last year, the Task Force to End Student Hunger met to develop a five-year plan. This measure contains the legislative recommendations developed by the Task Force to End Student Hunger  including establishing a permanent Commission To End Student Hunger. The bill was amended by the committee to reduce the number of members on the Task Force from 17 to 11.

    The bill also directs the Department of Education and the Department of Health and Human Services to collaborate on child hunger and nutrition programs in various ways.

    The measure, LD 933, "An Act To Implement the Recommendations of the Task Force To End Student Hunger in Maine," will now go to the Senate for consideration.