The Director of Maine’s Office of Child and Family Services (OCFS) — Todd Landry — has resigned amidst scrutiny over the agency’s repeated failure to protect Maine’s most vulnerable children.
In an all-staff email to employees at the Department of Health and Human Services, Commissioner Jeanne Lambrew said Landry was making his exit for “personal reasons.”
Landry is the first official associated with the child welfare crisis to resign.
According to state payroll records, Landry’s total compensation for 2022 was worth $172,620.74.
For more than a decade, the number of child fatalities that have occurred on the Department of Health and Human Services’ (DHHS) watch has been increasing, and in 2022 alone, twenty-eight children died in situations where DHHS officials were involved.
The Associate Director of the agency — Bobbi Johnson — will temporarily serve as director while the department searches for a permanent replacement, according to Lambrew.
“As we recommence our work today following the Thanksgiving holiday and begin looking ahead to the new year, we are also preparing for a leadership transition at the Office of Child and Family Services,” Lambrew wrote to DHHS staffers.
“Todd Landry has resigned as Director of the Office of Child and Family Services, citing personal reasons,” she said. “Bobbi Johnson will be the Acting Director of OCFS, effective immediately, as we search for a permanent Director.”
In her email to state workers, Lambrew did not mention or address any of the controversies that have been swirling around the OCFS but instead chose to focus on what she described as the accomplishments that have been achieved during Landry’s time as Director.
“The team at OCFS has accomplished much over the last nearly five years during Director Landry’s tenure,” she wrote. “This includes supporting the child care system through the pandemic and strengthening access and quality, making great strides in implementing the Children’s Behavioral Health Plan, and diligently working to improve the child welfare system while focusing on prevention through the implementation of the Family First Preventive Services Act and the development of the Child Safety and Family Wellbeing Plan.”
According to the information presented in the 2022 Child Welfare Ombudsman Report, there has been a continued “downward trend in child welfare practice,” including “multiple instances where the Department did not recognize risk to children, both during investigations and reunification cases.”
The report identified two primary areas of concern for the Maine DHHS, namely the decision making surrounding both “investigations” and family “reunification.”
More specifically, the Ombudsman found that, among other things, “out of home parents [were] not contacted,” “police records, court orders, and other documents [were] not collected,” “parents [were] not asked to drug screen,” and that there was an “over-reliance on prior incomplete investigations.”
The Ombudsman also found that in 2022, “appropriate investigatory steps” were not always taken “to ensure that the correct decision [concerning reunification] is being made at the end of the case.”
Public records obtained earlier this year by the Maine Wire revealed that caseworkers are often overworked and overwhelmed, leading to poor job performance at the expense of children’s safety and wellbeing.
In response to a disciplinary complaint made against her, one caseworker shed some light on the internal situation at OCFS.
“I currently have 15 cases on my caseload and have expressed feeling overwhelmed and admitted to my superiors that I have been struggling to stay on top of tasks for the past several months,” she wrote. “Many of my cases were transferred to me in a severely neglected state (as well as having been opened already for a year) and as a new Caseworker, it has been very hard to get my cases on track given the unsustainable workload I have.”
Child fatality data from DHHS dates back as early as 2007.
That year, seven children died despite the involvement of child protective services. In 2022, that number rose to twenty-eight — meaning that four times more children died that year compared to 2007 despite DHHS interventions.
Of these twenty-eight, eleven children were determined to have died as a result of “accidents,” including “motor vehicle accidents, drowning, fire, etc.” Six died as a result of “unsafe sleep.” For three others, the cause of death was classified as “sudden unexpected infant death.” Two children died from unspecified causes. One child was murdered. Only five of these children were determined to have died of “natural causes.”
In 2021, four children who had been previously involved with DHHS died within weeks of each other, prompting renewed scrutiny of the Department. Since then, the parents of all four children have been charged with either murder or manslaughter in connection with the children’s deaths.
Landry had been in charge of the OCFS since 2019.