A legislative committee in Maine voted last week to sue the Department of Health and Human Services to gain full access to records related to four children who allegedly died at the hands of a parent last year, News Center Maine reported.
Legislators on the Government Oversight Committee argued that they should review the case files to investigate potential systemic failures, issuing a subpoena for the case files in September.
“We have definitely come to a place where we have to take a more hands-on approach to what’s happening in Office of Child & Family Services,” Republican Senate Ranking Member Lisa Keim told News Center Main after the vote. “Things are not going well. Children are not safe in the state of Maine, and it’s up to us to dig deep and find the answers.”
The Attorney General’s Office advised the Department of Health and Human Services that it is not legally allowed to release the confidential information to lawmakers, Spectrum News reported.
Instead, the department shared the files with the Office of Program Evaluation and Government Accountability, the independent investigatory arm of the Legislature, to “fulfill the Committee’s directive while ensuring confidentiality of the records as required by state and federal laws.”
Assistant Attorney General Christopher Taub told Spectrum News that at the heart of the issue is an interpretation of language in the state law about whether lawmakers are “appropriate legislative officials with responsibility for child protection services,”
“We look forward to OPEGA’s review and the Court’s resolution of this issue so we can advance our vital work to protect Maine children,” DHHS spokesperson Jackie Farwell said in a statement.