Lawmakers mull options for DCYF abuse, neglect reports

  • Speaker of the House Shawn Jasper listens as he is endorsed after announcing his plans to seek re-election to Speaker at a news conference Tuesday, Sept. 20, 2016, in Concord, N.H. (AP Photo/Jim Cole) Jim Cole

Monitor staff
Friday, March 24, 2017

Lawmakers are considering giving more options to child protection workers when they respond to reports of abuse and neglect. The change would let the state set up an option for abuses that don’t meet the threshold to take to court, but are still worrisome.

Under the change, the Division for Children, Youth and Families would be able to send a “letter of concern” to parents that could be used as evidence in future court proceedings.

The modification would solve a problem identified in the recent independent review of DCYF, which found workers labeled reports unfounded even when parents admitted to abuse or neglect or evidence existed.

The Special Joint Committee on DCYF was formed by House Speaker Shawn Jasper to respond to the report which came out last December. But it met for its first substantial discussion Friday, three months into the year’s legislation session, leaving questions about how much it can get done before June deadlines. The legislative committee hasn’t yet made any policy recommendations or submitted any bills.

Members talked about a plan Friday to change state child protection statutes, though called it a “starting point.” Another option under consideration is splitting up the state’s existing child protection act, by clearly identifying child protection as the primary purpose. Maintaining children in their own homes would be a secondary goal.

DCYF has faced calls for reform after two toddlers under agency watch were killed by their mothers. Lawmakers are considering bills to create an office of the child advocate, to provide independent oversight of DCYF.

The state budget plan offers money to hire more workers. The independent review found the agency was too understaffed to keep up with incoming reports of abuse and neglect, which have risen amid the state’s ongoing opioid crisis. 

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