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Child Protection System Has Opportunity in Crisis, Says Outgoing Director


The outgoing Director of the Division of Children, Youth and Families says public scrutiny of her agency’s shortcomings could provide opportunities to improve the state’s child safety network.

Lorraine Bartlett worked at DCYF for 28 years, with the last three as director. In those three years, Bartlett says the state's drug crisis upped the pressure on an already strained child protection system.

"It was practically unheard of when I was a worker in the field that you would get called in for a report of a five-year old sitting next to their dead parent because their parent overdosed," Bartlett told reporters at the State House on Friday. "And those adverse childhood effects are starting with children from birth throughout their life span."

A recent independent review of DCYF found the system starved for cash. The report found high caseloads were burning out social workers and current law is failing to protect children from abuse and neglect.

Bartlett declined to say Friday whether the Legislature had failed to fund her agency adequately, or if she could have done more to warn lawmakers about her agency's needs.

However, Bartlett did have some words of wisdom for her successor, and those came from an unlikely source: Jim Morrison of The Doors.

"Keep your eyes on the road and your hands upon the wheel. Which means, we have opportunities moving forward here with this report that came out," says Bartlett.

Gov. Chris Sununu and lawmakers on both sides of the aisle say fixing DCYF is a priority. The agency is expected to get a lot of attention as they craft the next two-year state budget. 

Before joining NHPR in August 2014, Jack was a freelance writer and radio reporter. His work aired on NPR, BBC, Marketplace and 99% Invisible, and he wrote for the Christian Science Monitor and Northern Woodlands.

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