Senate sends Jackson bill to improve reporting of child abuse to the Governor’s Desk

AUGUSTA – On Thursday, Feb. 28, the Maine Senate unanimously voted to send legislation from Senate President Troy Jackson, D-Allagash, that would improve the reporting of child abuse and in situations where multiple government agencies have jurisdiction, to the Governor’s desk.

“This is a simple, commonsense bill that closes gaps in our laws to keep kids safe. It requires state and military authorities to share information to reduce the likelihood that children living in military installations fall through the child welfare cracks,” said President Jackson. “I’m grateful that the Legislature was able to act swiftly and in a bipartisan manner to get this proposal to the Governor’s desk.”

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. 

The Governor has ten days to sign the bill, veto it or allow it to become law without her signature.

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