The Annie E. Casey Foundation
Maine’s child welfare system, long hailed as one of the worst in the country, has made significant progress over the past five years, according to this new report by the Annie E. Casey Foundation. With the help of the Casey Strategic Consulting Group, Maine’s Office of Child and Family Services (OCFS) changed its approach from “When in doubt, pull them out” to “treatment, not placement” with positive results, according to the report.
It outlines the main complaints against OCFS over the years: too many children were being pulled out of their homes; the office was too bureaucratic when dealing with children; workers and officials were indifferent to the long- and short-term effects removal has on children and there was an unwillingness to place children with family members. These problems, coupled with the system’s overreliance on large residential facilities, created an environment in which only 40 percent of children in state care were reunited with their families in 2003.
The Casey Group introduced a more family- and child-centered case management approach that included better statistical analysis, central office restructuring, multi-level departmental case reviewsand stricter guidelines on the placement of children in large facilities. According to the report, the number of children in the Maine’s child welfare system fell from 3,200 in 2001 to fewer than 2,000 in 2008. From 2003 to 2008, the number of children housed in large facilities declined nearly 77 percent and the number of children placed with family members rose 28 percent.
The report notes that Maine now has one of the lowest percentages of children in institutional care in the United States.