AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) Maine has enacted a proposal designed to improve child welfare services by providing resources to an ombudsman program.

The state established the Child Welfare Ombudsman Program in 2001. Democratic Sen. Shenna Bellows proposed increasing funding for staffing and office space for the program.

Those changes have been signed into law by Democratic Gov. Janet Mills. Senate Democrats say the proposal adds administrative support for the ombudsman program. Bellows says "it's clear more staffing is needed" in the office. The move appropriates $175,000 over two years.

Democrats say the volume of referrals, investigations and findings of abuse and neglect in child welfare cases has greatly increased since the ombudsman program's creation. The program saw over 26,000 referrals in 2018, up from 4,450 in 1999.