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Capital beat: DCYF reform slow to develop

  • Speaker of the House Shawn Jasper pledged this week that the commission tasked with proposing fixes to the troubled Division for Children, Youth and Families agency will start meeting regularly this month. AP



Monitor staff
Saturday, March 04, 2017

Top lawmakers promised that reforming the child protection agency would be a top priority this legislative session. But so far, it’s taken a backseat to issues like right-to-work and concealed carry. 

A commission convened by House Speaker Shawn Jasper to propose fixes has met only one time, and that was to pick a chairman. 

“We would like to have seen things move along a bit more quickly,” said Jasper, a Hudson Republican. “But the reality is, this session has been going along at just an incredible pace, so there hasn’t been a lot of time for anybody.”

He pledges the commission will start meeting regularly in March. But the clock is ticking and the commission’s work is bound to be time consuming, and perhaps controversial. 

The group is supposed to review a recent 104-page independent report of the Division for Children, Youth and Families and help enact some of the document’s 20 policy recommendations.

Since the work was delegated to the commission, almost none of the report’s suggestions have been submitted yet as bills, meaning they haven’t gotten any hearings or votes. 

Jasper said he is confident there is ample time to deal with the proposals. 

“We can do almost anything in House Bill 2,” he said, referencing the state budget rider bill. 

While some of the report’s recommendations are straightforward, others, including strengthening the state’s neglect statute, could be complicated and time-consuming to craft. 

At least one policy has proven controversial and may require help from House GOP leadership to get passed. The Republican-led House defeated a bill last year to let DCYF keep reports of abuse and neglect on file for longer periods of time.

Currently, the division must purge unfounded reports after three years. The bill would have extended that time frame to 10 years, and officials said the change would help inform child protective workers about potential patterns of abuse. Critics said the increase was excessive.  

http://www.concordmonitor.com/House-kills-bill-to-keep-DCYF-records-longer-2077300

Most of the recommendations revolve around hiring more staff, which would be done through the state budget. Gov. Chris Sununu proposed additional dollars to hire more workers in the budget. The report showed turnover at the division is high as workers struggle with large numbers of caseloads. 

“There’s enough time in the session,” said Senate Majority Leader Jeb Bradley, a Wolfeboro Republican on the commission. “I think you are going to see the budget moving forward.”

Underrepresented 

The House has a representation problem. 

Almost 12 percent of people living in New Hampshire are in their 20s. But residents of that age make up less than five percent of representatives in the House. They hold just 19 of the chamber’s 400 seats, according to a list released by the House Clerk recently. The numbers reveal some startling trends. 

There are more 80-year-olds in the House than people in their 30s, who are one of the least represented age groups in the chamber with just 14 members. 

The average age of a House member is almost 61 years-old. The tally isn’t totally accurate because a handful of representatives declined to give their age. 

The House of Representatives often attracts retirees or people who are independently wealthy because it pays $100 a year and requires a significant time commitment. 

“I feel that young families that are in New Hampshire, they feel underrepresented. That is why we have this mass exodus of young people,” said Amelia Keane, a freshman Democratic representative who is 25-years-old. 

Moving on

Andrew Hosmer was voted out of the State House last year, but he hasn’t gone far. The former state senator joined Preti Strategies in Concord as the Senior Policy Advisor. Hosmer narrowly lost his seat representing Laconia and Franklin to Republican Harold French. 

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