Committee Unanimously approves Jackson bill to improve child abuse reporting

AUGUSTA – On Wednesday, the Legislature’s Health and Human Services Committee endorsed a bill from Senate President Troy Jackson, D-Allagash, to improve the reporting of child abuse and neglect in situations where multiple government agencies have jurisdiction. The vote was unanimous of members present.

“Every child deserves to grow up in a healthy and safe environment. However, gaps in our laws leave children that live in military installations with more opportunities to fall through the cracks,” said President Jackson. “By requiring the sharing of essential information between the Department of Health and Human Services and the appropriate military authorities, we can better protect the children of service members.”

LD 2095, “An Act to Require Reporting of Child Abuse and Neglect to Military Family Advocacy Programs” would require the Department of Health and Human Services to collect information on the military status of a child’s parent or guardian when an allegation of abuse or neglect is reported and share that allegation with the appropriate military authorities. The proposal also requires DHHS to enter into a memorandum of understanding with family advocacy programs at military installations. The goal is to ensure that allegations are properly investigated in situations where a family moves from state to state due to the nature of military work.

“An issue specifically relating to military families is the frequency at which military families move. The Family Advocacy Program may have information regarding incidents of allegations that occurred in other states where the service member was stationed that DHHS would not otherwise have access to during their investigation,” said Melissa Willette, New England Region Liaison for the United States Department of Defense-State Liaison Office. “Because military families move frequently across state lines, lack of information sharing could result in a military family falling through the cracks; and military connected children not receiving the protective services they deserve.”

Title 10 USC Section 1787 directs the U.S. Secretary of Defense to request each state provide the reporting of any known or suspected instance of child abuse and neglect in which the victim or suspect is a member of the armed forces (or spouse). However, Maine does not have an information-sharing procedure established that would allow for the cross-sharing of information between the Department of Defense (DoD) and Maine DHHS regarding the identification and reporting of child abuse or neglect. According to the DoD, 36 states have enacted similar policies to align with this directive and enhance child safety.

LD 2095 will go before the Senate and House in the coming weeks.



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