New Jersey official tapped to lead New Hampshire DCYF

Monitor staff
Published: 9/19/2017 7:20:39 PM

The state Department of Health and Human Services announced a new director of its Division for Children, Youth and Families on Tuesday, six months after its previous leader departed amid scandal.

Joseph Ribsam, who currently serves as the deputy commissioner of New Jersey’s Department of Children and Families, was appointed by Commissioner Jeffrey Meyers after a nationwide search, according to the department. He’ll begin the role Oct. 27.

The appointment comes in the midst of an overhaul for the child protection services agency, which has come under harsh scrutiny following a pair of high-profile cases in which children were killed under the agency’s supervision – 3-year-old Brielle Gage and 21-month-old Sadee Willott – were killed by their mothers.

Ribsam – who currently helps lead a department of 6,700 employees – will be taking over a division struggling to staff itself adequately.

In December, an independent review found that the agency had too few staff members to respond to a growing number of child maltreatment reports and rarely substantiated reports of abuse. And a Monitor investigation in April revealed a litany of problems, including limited funding, high turnover, inconsistent investigative protocols and long response times.

Meanwhile, the division’s leadership has suffered its own turbulence. Ribsam will take over for Maureen Ryan, an interim director who stepped in after the dismissal of Lorraine Bartlett in March. Bartlett, who was already set to retire April 1, was put on administrative leave by Gov. Chris Sununu in March after a Monitor story revealed the agency suspended procedures to close more than 1,500 abuse and neglect investigations over two days.

Ribsam, who started out as a middle school English teacher, has a long history working with families, practicing as a family law attorney and then leading the child welfare, behavioral health and developmental disability efforts at the New Jersey Department of Children and Families.

At the New Hampshire DCYF, he’ll serve under Christine Tappan, who was appointed senior division director in DHHS in May and oversees the division.

In a statement, Tappan said she had “every confidence that (Ribsam) will support staff and further strengthen our capacity to successfully lead the Division through this period of change and opportunity.”

And Meyers praised Ribsam’s experience, calling him a “strong fit for this role.”

“Joe’s knowledge, skills and commitment to the vital mission of promoting a culture of child safety will be an asset to the Department and to our State,” he said.

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