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Outside Review: DCYF Had Backlog of More Than 2,000 Cases

Department of Human Health and Services

An outside review firm says New Hampshire needs to prioritize its backlog of more than 2,200 overdue assessments that remained open as of November. 

The Florida-based firm, Eckerd Connects, was initially hired to analyze the state’s handling of several hundred child abuse and neglect cases that were abruptly closed in 2016. Of the 100 cases it analyzed, Eckerd found two that didn’t meet the criteria for being closed — but the firm said it didn’t find any evidence of ongoing safety concerns in either case, according to a review released Thursday.

In one of those cases, the firm said “it has been determined there are no current safety concerns for the children and the assessment was closed as unfounded.” In the other, the firm said “the reviewer found a subsequent assessment was accepted and the family had moved, thus alleviating the safety concern for the children as it was related to hazardous conditions in the previous residence.”

The governor’s office and the Department of Health and Human Services released a report summarizing Eckerd's review Thursday. It comes one year after a separate review also highlighted systemic issues in the staffing levels and thoroughness of the reviews being done at the state’s child protection agency.

Eckerd, in its review, echoed one of the main findings of the review from last year: “While the immediate safety of children was generally prioritized, assessed and acted upon, the risk of future harm was often not adequately assessed, often leading to a pattern of repeat reports involving the same unresolved risk factors, for example, parental drug abuse or underlying mental health issues.” 

Casey McDermott is an editor and reporter at New Hampshire Public Radio, where she works with colleagues across the newsroom to deepen the station’s accountability coverage, data journalism and audience engagement across platforms.

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