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Sununu puts head of child protective services on administrative leave

  • Gov. Chris Sununu addresses his budget priorities for the Greater Concord Chamber of Commerce.



Monitor staff
Monday, March 13, 2017

Republican Gov. Chris Sununu put the head of the state’s child protective services on administrative leave Monday, following aMonitor story that revealed the agency suspended normal procedures to close more than 1,500 abuse and neglect investigations over two days.

Sununu and Health and Human Services Commissioner Jeff Meyers announced the decision late Monday afternoon. Lorraine Bartlett has led the Division for Children, Youth and Families for the last three years but was already set to retire April 1.

Sununu is evaluating the possibility of using outside counsel to determine “where the system broke down” and whether any of the 1,520 closed investigations should be reopened, he said in a statement.

Meyers said DCYF never discussed the closures with him before or after he became head of the department in January 2016.

“The closure of these cases was not undertaken consistent with best practices or in accordance with established DCYF policies and procedures,” he said in a statement.

Over two days in February 2016, DCYF closed more than 1,500 open investigations to help cut down on a large backlog. Many cases had gone untouched for months and were closed without a fresh check on the children, according to interviews and records. Bartlett said workers had already determined the children were not in immediate danger. The days were used to finish paperwork that staff hadn’t had time to complete, she said.

DHHS Division Director Maureen Ryan will lead DCYF while the state recruits a permanent director. A national search is underway.

“DCYF needs new leadership,” Sununu said in a statement. “We are committed to making necessary changes within the department and within the division to ensure the use of best practices in all programs and services.”

DCYF has come under scrutiny at the State House after two toddlers under agency watch were killed within a year of each other. A recent outside review of DCYF found the agency doesn’t have enough staff to keep up with incoming reports of child abuse and neglect.

The Monitor obtained instructions for the February 2016 administrative closing days through a right-to-know request. The guidelines told supervisors to forgo usual procedures, such as using a safety tool to evaluate a child’s risk, documenting all interviews in the statewide database and sending letters to parents alerting them the investigation had been closed.

The original story can be read online at concordmonitor.com.

(Allie Morris can be reached at 369-3307 or amorris@cmonitor.com.)