- Associated Press - Friday, July 21, 2017

AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) - Some Maine lawmakers are voicing their concerns about the state’s proposed child care rules and the care of incarcerated young people with mental illness.

The Legislature’s health and human services committee on Thursday agreed to ask Republican Gov. Paul LePage’s administration for more details on proposed child care regulations, which the committee said are now being reworked.

Committee co-chair Democratic Rep. Patty Hymanson said she wants lawmakers to review the Maine Department of Health and Human Services’ proposal when the Legislature returns this fall.

Child advocacy groups said they are troubled by the department’s steps to relax ratio requirements and parental rights for child care facilities with little transparency.

“I’m looking forward to the legislative review that we requested,” said Tara Williams, executive director of the Maine Association for the Education of Young Children.

“We often think about child care as a way for women to have an opportunity to go to work and go to school,” said Kathy Kilrain del Rio, director of program and development at the Maine Women’s Lobby. “It’s hard to do that with piece of mind when some of the new rules would undermine parental rights.”

A DHHS spokeswoman did not immediately comment Thursday, but told the Bangor Daily News that decisions about a parent’s ability to visit a child should be “decided privately between parents and a provider, and not mandated in a state rule.”

Hymanson said she also is concerned about the placement and treatment of young people with mental illness at Long Creek Youth Development Center. A 16-year-old transgender boy killed himself at the facility last fall, and lawmakers and advocates for children at Long Creek have expressed concern about the rising numbers of children facing serious mental illness there.

Hymanson planned to reach out to the chairs of the Legislature’s criminal justice and public safety committee.

She said there needs to be more behavioral health options for children in the community.

“We don’t want a Riverview for kids,” Hymanson said, referring to a state psychiatric hospital that has received federal scrutiny for safety issues.

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