Jeff Fleischer, retired nonprofit director, tapped to lead NH DCYF

By MICHAELA TOWFIGHI

Monitor staff

Published: 07-05-2023 12:37 PM

The former CEO of a national youth diversion program will lead New Hampshire’s Division for Children, Youth and Families beginning Aug. 1.

Jeff Fleischer is known for decades of work with the Youth Advocate Program, a nonprofit based out of Pennsylvania, that focuses on alternative solutions to incarceration for youth.

The organization works in 33 states and the District of Columbia to provide models on community-based solutions to help at-risk youth. In New Hampshire, a Youth Advocate Program is located in Merrimack County.

Fleischer served as the chief executive officer of the organization for 20 years, retiring in 2022. During his tenure at YAP, he oversaw 150 program sites in communities across the country that served nearly 20,000 youth.

As New Hampshire’s new DCYF director, Fleischer will oversee a wide array of services, including child protection and juvenile justice departments, programming and staffing for the division.

Fleischer inherits a child-welfare system in New Hampshire that has undergone drastic transformation in the last ten years, with a Children’s Behavioral Health department working in tandem with the Division of Children, Youth and Families to provide added support mental health and substance misuse.

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Across the division is a new priority for at-home care and community resources, through programs like FAST Forward and redefined probation rules for youth who have committed crimes.

Many of these changes came to fruition under the leadership of Joe Ribsam, who stepped down as director in June after five years with the state.

Ribsam first arrived in New Hampshire on the heels of the deaths of 3-year-old Brielle Gage and 21-month-old Sadee Willott – two young girls who were killed by their mothers, despite prior warning signs of abuse at home.

In 2017, the number of residents at the Sununu Youth Services Center, the state’s only youth detention center, hovered around 70. Now, there’s an average of 12 residents in the 144-bed facility.

The low residency and troubled history of the center – with 850 lawsuits filed alleging abuse at the hands of state staff – means the facility will close in 2024.

But a new facility, and its location, will now fall into Fleischer’s hands. The facility has an impending closure of March 2024, delayed by one year this legislative session. An outside study suggested Hampstead Hospital as the strongest contender for a new facility, but plans are not finalized.

Aside from the dozen residents at the Sununu Center, the Division of Children, Youth and Families serves 15,000 children and families annually.

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