Children in Maine Department of Health and Human Services care or custody

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Why This Indicator Matters

Why It Is Important
Children thrive when they have stable homes with their families of origin. When children experience frequent maltreatment at any point during their childhood, it can have lasting effects. That is why it is important to have a robust child welfare system to support children and families in crisis. The state takes custody of children when due to abuse or neglect, a family is not safely able to care for their children. Custody of the state is meant to be temporary until the parents are able to safely care for their children or until a permanency plan through guardianship or adoption can be made.

What The Data Shows
The number of children in the custody of the state of Maine was at a fifteen year low in December 2011 and since then has been rising until 2017. In 2017, there were 275 fewer children in the custody of the state of Maine than in 2016. The rate of youth in state custody is more than twice as high in some counties compared to others. Somerset and Kennebec have had rates around 12 per 1,000 children in the years 2013 -2016, while Sagadahoc and Lincoln Counties have had rates of around 4 per 1,000 children.


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Definitions: The number and rate of children ages 0-­17 in the care or custody of the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) in December of each calendar year. The denominator is the number of children ages 0 -17 per the 2016 population estimates from the Maine Office of Vital Statistics. The numerator is the number of children in state custody at a point in time during the last month of the calendar year. The county is where the child resides after placement into foster care. If a child is placed  out of state this is reflected in the total, but not in any county. The rate is per 1,000 children ages 0-­17. These children were ordered into DHHS custody as a result of a child protection hearing where the child is found to be in jeopardy, a juvenile hearing where it would be contrary to the child’s health and welfare to remain in the care or custody of the parents, or a divorce and/or custody hearing where neither parent has been found able to provide a home in the best interest of the child. 

Note: Maine total includes children in out of state placements and children where their county of origin is not recorded.

Data Source: Maine Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Child and Family Services, Division of Child Welfare Services.

Footnotes: The county is where the child resides after placement into foster care. If a child is placed  out of state this is reflected in the total, but not in any county. 

Uploaded October 2018.