AUGUSTA (WGME) – After the brutal murders of two young girls, Gov. Janet Mills said she is taking steps to protect the state’s most vulnerable.
Mills took time during her State of the State address to remember the lives of Marissa Kennedy and Kendall Chick — two children who died as a result of child abuse and neglect.
The governor said she wants to add more child welfare positions to protect children at risk.
“The deaths of these two children represented an awful failure of our society and our state’s safety net,” Mills said.
The Mills administration already has taken steps to improve the child welfare division of the Maine Department of Health and Human Services, adding 32 more social worker positions that have all been filled.
Now, Mills said, the state needs more.
“I will ask this legislature to fund another 20 positions to respond quickly and effectively to reports of abuse or neglect of our children,” she said.
Some Democratic legislators said this is a great idea.
“We want to get kids out of those difficult situations and into a safe environment. That’s first and foremost. So making sure that staffing levels are appropriate is critical,” said Rep. Justin Chenette, D-Saco.
Some Republicans said while they agree child safety is important, more planning is needed before adding positions.
“No. 1 is how are we going to fund it? Where are we going to find the money? The 32 that were hired, we had the funding for that and it was included in the biannual budget, and other vacancies and so forth,” said Rep. Marianne Moore, R-Calais.
But some Democrats, including Chenette, said the funding can come from the supplemental budget and they aren’t concerned about the cost.
“To me, we can’t put a price on children’s safety. That’s first and foremost, so when we’re talking about making sure we have adequate staffing to handle child abuse, that has to be a priority,” Chenette said.