Gov. Paul LePage on Friday signed into law four bills that change how child welfare is governed in Maine. The bills were passed in special session in August.
They will add $21 million to the child welfare system, including $8 million for a new computer system, and funds for new caseworkers, case aides and supervisors. The pay to foster families will also get a boost.
Besides the omnibus spending bill for the Department of Health and Human Services, other bills will require that the state make a “reasonable effort” to reunify families, rather than a “priority” as before. Other bills signed include one to let DHHS retain unsubstantiated child abuse allegations for three years, rather than 18 months, and another to let the state have certain private criminal information about anyone involved in the child welfare system.
Some of the legislation will not go into effect until 90 days after the session ended Sept. 1.
The bills were in response to last year’s deaths of Kendall Chick, 4, of Wiscasset, and Marissa Kennedy, 10, of Stockton Springs. both allegedly at the hands of their caregivers.