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NH DCYF head to step down after less than a year

A brick sign for the N.H. Department of Health and Human Services outside their Concord Campus.
Courtesy
The New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services says Jeff Fleischer, the director of the state's child protection agency, is stepping down.

Less than a year into the job, the director of New Hampshire’s child welfare and juvenile justice agency is stepping down.

Jeff Fleischer took over as director of the Division for Children, Youth and Families in August, after decades with a Pennsylvania-based nonprofit.

A spokesperson for the Department of Health and Human Services – which includes DCYF – said Fleischer “is leaving to pursue other interests closer to family out of state.”

The spokesperson said Fleischer’s focus as director was reducing out-of-home placements for youth and expanding community-based alternatives, which helped the agency “strengthen its service array and think in new ways about supporting the families we serve.”

Shortly after taking the job, Fleischer told NHPR he hoped to build on recent reforms at the agency – including steps that reduced the use of incarceration for youth – and create more alternatives to out-of-home placements.

Fleischer took the reins at an important time for the agency. After years of debate and delay, the state is in the process of replacing its troubled youth detention center – which is the subject of more than a thousand lawsuits alleging physical, psychological and sexual abuse stretching back decades.

The new secure youth facility is intended to be smaller and feel more like a home than a prison. It’s expected to open in Hampstead in 2026.

DCYF has also faced questions about the number of youth placed in residential treatment facilities and its oversight of out-of-state programs that house New Hampshire youth.

Last summer, shortly before Fleischer’s tenure began, New Hampshire’s child advocate raised alarms about reported abuse and neglect at a Tennessee program where DCYF had sent two New Hampshire teenagers. State lawmakers are now considering legislation to tighten oversight of out-of-state facilities and prohibit placements outside New England.

Testifying to a Senate committee in January, Fleischer and other DHHS officials said they had taken steps to increase oversight of out-of-state facilities. They also said the state is reducing its reliance on institutional placements, thanks to juvenile justice reforms, increased mental health services and efforts to place children with relatives or other trusted adults, among other changes.

Fleischer did not immediately respond to a request for comment on his resignation.

Paul Cuno-Booth covers health and equity for NHPR. He previously worked as a reporter and editor for The Keene Sentinel, where he wrote about police accountability, local government and a range of other topics. He can be reached at pcuno-booth@nhpr.org.
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