DHHS Announces Redesign of Office of Child and Family Services

May 28, 2024

Reorganization strengthens child welfare operations and completes transition of Children’s Behavioral Health Services

The Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) announced today a redesign of the Child Welfare division in the Office of Child and Family Services (OCFS), adopting recommendations from an independent management review conducted earlier this year. These changes, which can be achieved within existing authority, will streamline and clarify roles, provide greater support for professional development, and improve connections between the Central and District Offices, positioning staff to better serve Maine children and families.

This reorganization, led by OCFS Director Bobbi Johnson, includes a redesigned job description for the Associate Director for Child Welfare, which will be filled effective today, and the successful movement of the Children’s Behavioral Health Services team (CHBS) from OCFS to the Office of Behavioral Health (OBH) within the Department, aligning children services with the broader continuum of the behavioral health system of care across lifespan while maintaining a close connection with other OCFS programs.

“This is a significant step forward for children’s services in Maine that will better promote the safety of children and the dedicated staff who care for them,” said DHHS Commissioner Jeanne Lambrew. “It reflects the Mills Administration’s broad commitment to child safety and family well-being and promotes a state management structure that works toward that goal.”

“This reorganization comes as the result of careful consideration after review of the recent management audit and was heavily informed by feedback we’ve received from staff at all levels within OCFS,” said OCFS Director Bobbi Johnson. “This structure will strengthen our efforts to improve culture and communication, balance workloads, build consistency, and clarify roles and responsibilities – all of which will strengthen OCFS and benefit the children and families we serve.”

On March 29, 2024, Public Consulting Group (“PCG”) completed its Child Welfare Organizational Structure and Support Assessment of the Office of Child and Family Services (PDF). In the report, PCG made a series of recommendations for improvement in four key areas: management structure; professional development; communication; and retention, engagement, and culture. PCG concluded that redesigning the organizational structure of OCFS was a high priority.

Following the receipt of this report, OCFS began reviewing and redesigning the organizational and management structure in light of the report’s recommendations. Additionally, PCG provided OCFS with further technical assistance and guidance to incorporate in the organizational redesign and will continue to do so for the rest of the year during implementation. The organizational redesign:

  • Enables focused District Office oversight to advance consistency and cultural improvements in and across districts.
  • Consolidates and more closely aligns strategy, training, and policy implementation to improve workflow and to balance workload across new manager positions.
  • Creates a child welfare senior management team that can collaborate effectively, with clearly defined roles and responsibilities, and have a strong leadership pipeline from the districts up to the Director.
  • Appropriately sections programmatic oversight from business operations and creates conditions for clear governance and decision-making for distinctly different functions.
  • Allows for supervision practices to align with best practices at every level of Central Office and creates conditions for the level of coaching and management required to strengthen consistency and culture.

Operationally, this plan:

  • Consolidates the Regional Associate Director positions into three managers by reclassifying existing positions to focus on field operations, statewide programs, and strategy and policy implementation.
  • Embeds Family First Prevention Services Act (FFPSA) within Child Welfare Strategy & Policy Implementation to ensure alignment of child maltreatment prevention efforts with other initiatives.
  • Proposes to create a new Deputy Director of OCFS in the coming months to better support the Director in management and coordination of child welfare, child care, and related services as well as other reassignment of cross-OCFS staff to streamline accountability and communication.

This follows an immediate step that Director Johnson took upon receiving the management review at the end of March to change the job title and description for the Associate Director for Child Welfare Services position. Today, Director Johnson announced that she has hired Jean Haynes as the new Associate Director for Child Welfare Strategies and Services. Haynes brings to the position a deep knowledge of child welfare, management, and Maine, with a recent focus on policy, training, and quality improvement.

The Department also announced in January its intent to move children’s behavioral health services to the Office of Behavioral Health by June. That has been accomplished early, with no-cost budget initiatives to align accounts and reporting to be submitted by DHHS in the next biennium as needed. Under the leadership of OBH Director Sarah Squirrell, the CBHS team of about 40 staff has been integrated in the OBH workflow, better coordinating services across the lifespan and aligning efforts to expand workforce and capacity.

Today’s changes are part of an ongoing commitment to address challenges in child welfare, support the workforce, and improve outcomes for Maine children and families. The Mills Administration and Legislature have taken significant actions toward these goals during the 131st legislative session. The annual Child Welfare Report (PDF) provides details on these efforts. Since January, the number of child welfare caseworker vacant positions has dropped from 84 to 46 (45%), and the number of case aide vacant positions has dropped from 13 to 7 (46%) as of May 24, 2024.