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State to receive federal funds for programs to combat child abuse

  • U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Matthew Fons, an aircraft mechanic with the 62nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, pours battered eggs into a pan, during a cooking class at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., March 21, 2015. The class educated children and their parents on eating healthy whole foods and incorporating them into their daily meals. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Sinthia Rosario, 5th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment) Sgt. Sinthia Rosario

  • Health and Human Services Commissioner Jeffrey A. Meyers speaks to the Executive Council Wednesday, June 15, 2016, in Concord, N.H. in favor of a contract extension for psychiatrists at the state hospital. The council voted in favor of the extension. (AP Photo/Jim Cole) Jim Cole



Monitor staff
Monday, October 08, 2018

New Hampshire is set to receive funding for community programs to help at-risk families and children, officials announced Monday, opening a new front in the state’s effort to combat child abuse.

A grant from the federal Community Collaborations to Strengthen and Preserve Families – worth $2.75 million over five years – will allow the state’s Department of Health and Human Services to set up “community-based services” for families of children up to eight years old.

Those services, which include mental health and substance abuse treatment, educational programs and home visiting, are intended to “strengthen young families, including those at highest risk for child maltreatment,” according to the department.

The program will focus on Manchester and the Lakes Region, particularly Laconia, Belmont, Franklin and Tilton, according to officials. Those areas were chosen based on their socioeconomic status and risk for substance misuse and child maltreatment, the department said.

In its first year, the program will receive $550,000. That money will help the state set up “community implementation teams” to coordinate services and create a “continuum of care” for families and children, officials said.

In a statement, DHHS Commissioner Jeffrey Meyers praised the grant as an opportunity to address New Hampshire’s growing backlog of child abuse cases by adding community supports “to stop maltreatment before it starts.”

“Our goal is to ensure that our programs and services work together to secure better outcomes for our families,” he said. “Taking a public health approach – identifying risk factors and focusing on prevention efforts – aligns well with our ongoing work in transforming New Hampshire’s child welfare system.”

For New Hampshire, the grant represents the second wave of funding for family-based prevention services this year; earlier this year Senate Bill 592 devoted $500,000 to parental assistance programs designed to help parents build stronger relationships with their children, among other aims.

Advocates have hailed community programs as key tools to ward off problematic behavior and situations “upstream.”

On Monday, Moira O’Neill, the state’s Director of the Office of the Child Advocate, called the new funds “great news,” singling out the programs for praise.

“Home visiting is one of the most empirically proven interventions for prevention of child abuse and neglect there is,” she said. “As parents learn about child development and necessary problem solving, they become equipped to better recognize children’s needs, manage stress, use available resources, and parent effectively.”

But after a legislative session that saw Senate-approved spending for the Division for Children, Youth and Families reduced in the House, O’Neill reiterated the need for more investment.

“When funding is short, it makes sense to target the numbers,” she said, pointing to the new grant program’s limited geographical reach.

“But fair, equitable public policy should address the needs of all children, not just the few from a small region of the state,” O’Neill added. “The DHHS will not be able to fully serve all children until they are fully funded to do so. Children have to be protected and supported so they can grow and develop into a healthy workforce and good neighbors.”

(Ethan DeWitt can be reached at edewitt@cmonitor.com, at (603) 369-3307, or on Twitter at @edewittNH.)