Timberlake, Diamond Highlight Child Welfare Reform Proposals on GHRT [LISTEN]

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Sen. Jeff Timberlake (R-Androscoggin) and former Sen. Bill Diamond are once again calling for significant reforms to the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) following a shocking report from an independent government watchdog.

The Child Welfare Ombudsman’s report examines on an annual basis how the Office of Family and Child Services (OFCS) handles state interventions in child abuse cases and family reunifications, and this year’s report was a devastating indictment of the agency.

The report found that state workers with the agency have struggled to assess when children were in danger, and it flagged several deficiencies with the agency’s investigative techniques.

“It just gets worse every year,” said Diamond. “It makes me sick. We’re really not getting anywhere.”

“This is gotta be the mother of all reports about how bad the situation is,” he said.

Gov. Janet Mills signed legislation last year strengthening the office of the Child Welfare Ombudsman, but she has yet to comment publicly on the report.

[RELATED: Maine Media, Mills MIA on Devastating Child Welfare Report…]

The Republican caucuses in the State House have also not issued statements on the report, but Timberlake has been vocal, including his interview on GHRT this week.

In the last legislative session, Timberlake and Diamond backed a bill that would have created a system designed to monitor the Office of Family and Child Services (OFCS) on an ongoing basis in order to ensure the agency was effectively protecting children in state care. The died last March.

“When you read this whole report, and I’ve read it a couple times now, it’ll make your blood boil,” said Timberlake.

“They still don’t, at the end of the report, tell you where the problem is, except that there’s a problem, and that’s what’s bothered me the last two years,” he said.

[RELATED: Maine Child Welfare Agency Reports Systemic, Deadly Failures in 2022…]

He said his question beginning several years ago was why people haven’t been fired over the conclusions in the report. He said the problem wasn’t with ground level case workers, but with higher level DHHS employees.

“The Department admitted within their report, there’s a problem,” he said. “They didn’t tell us what the problem was, or how they’re going to fix it.”

Timberlake said one of the first bill’s he submitted this year pertains to the child welfare agency. Although the full text of the proposal hasn’t been posted online yet, Timberlake told George Hale and Ric Tyler that the proposal would seek major structural changes at DHHS.

“We’re going to continue, and I’m going to be part of that fight,” he said.

Listen to Sen. Jeff Timberlake on GHRT:

Listen to former Sen. Bill Diamond on GHRT:

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