AUGUSTA, Maine — On Wednesday, the Maine Government Oversight Committee voted 10-1 to subpoena the Maine Department of Health and Human Services to obtain the child protection records of four children who died last year.
According to a news release issued by the Senate Majority Office, the committee formally requested DHHS to share the child protection case files of 6-week-old Jaden Harding, 3-year-old Hailey Goding, 3-year-old Maddox Williams, and 1-month-old Sylus Melvin.
In all four cases, a parent has either been charged with murder or manslaughter in connection with the child's death.
Under advisement by the Maine Attorney General's Office, the DHHS has offered the files to the Office of Program Evaluation and Government Accountability (OPEGA), which works for the Government Oversight Committee, according to the release.
DHHS reportedly refused to give the records directly to committee members.
Maine DHHS issued a statement on Wednesday following the Government Oversight Committee subpoena.
"The Department has always offered to share these records with OPEGA because, according to the Attorney General's Office, Maine law authorizes the Department to do so. The Government Oversight Committee did not direct OPEGA to request them until today. Following today's vote by the Government Oversight Committee, the Department will share the requested documents with OPEGA as soon as possible. When the Department receives a subpoena from the Government Oversight Committee for these confidential records, the Department will work with the Attorney General’s Office to review it and respond appropriately. In the meantime, the Department will continue to advance the important work of improving the child welfare system to support Maine children and families."
In early September, former Government Oversight Committee member Sen. Bill Diamond, D-Cumberland, sent a letter to the committee, requesting DHHS to release the case files of four children who were killed last year.
In response to the committee vote, Diamond released a statement noting system transparency.
"I’m so thankful to the Committee for the great work they’ve done over the past year, and for their decision today to subpoena the Department of Health and Human Services for these critical records,” Diamond said. “As a former member of the Government Oversight Committee myself, I believe it’s vital that committee members have first-hand, confidential access to these files; it’s the only way the Committee will be able to make recommendations for true and lasting change to the system."
Senate Republican Lead for the Government Oversight Committee Sen. Lisa Keim, R-Oxford, also commented on the committee vote in a news release made on Wednesday by the Senate Republican Office.
“It’s time for us to push harder against the system and create greater accountability for DHHS. Business as usual cannot continue,” Keim said. “The vote to subpoena records is an extraordinary step, but it’s only a small measure in addressing the enormity of the problems surrounding DHHS.”
The next Government Oversight Committee meeting is scheduled to take place on Oct. 19.