AUGUSTA (NEWS CENTER Maine)--Questions are still being asked across Maine about the death of a 10-year old girl in Stockton Springs, the victim of child abuse, allegedly by her mother and stepfather. The Department of Health and Human Services still has not released any details of what happened, or whether department staff members had any prior contact with the family of Marissa Kennedy. Former neighbors have said they called the police and DHHS multiple times because of fights and abuse in that family’s home.
The legal counsel for DHHS said Thursday specific state law prevents the Department from disclosing the details of child abuse cases. He said there are some aspects that may be disclosed unless it would compromise a criminal investigation, and both those deaths are now being prosecuted by the Attorney General's office, which halos refused to discuss the cases.
The killing in Stockton Springs--along with an earlier child abuse death in Wiscasset in December-have raised questions about what happened if the Department had ongoing contact with the families and whether more could have been done to protect the children?
DHHS Commissioner Ricker Hamilton would not answer those questions Thursday but did respond to a question about his confidence in the Department's ability to handle child abuse cases.
"I’m very impressed by the staff," said the Commissioner. "They are constantly looking for continuous quality improvement. Can we do better? We’re always doing it. Its cases like this, all of us don’t sleep at night with cases like this happen and we hear these type of reports. But I’m very convinced our staff is dedicated. Can we improve? Yes. Will we improve? Yes, and if we find areas we need to change or improve we’re going to do that."
Meanwhile, there may be a move in the Legislature to dig into those cases. The Democratic chair of the Health and Human Services Committee said Democrats are talking about asking the Government Oversight Committee to do its own investigation, to find out what happened, and whether DHHS handled the cases properly.