State employees who investigate allegations of child abuse could have access to confidential peer support groups if a new bill passes the state legislature.
Supporters of the measure say case workers with the Division for Children, Youth and Families experience secondary traumas on a regular basis and a need a protected setting to debrief.
The bill had its initial public hearing on Wednesday before the Senate Executive Departments and Administration committee.
Among those who came to testify in favor of the proposal was Shauna Smith, a former child protective service worker who was in the job for 12 years. She said the emotional and psychological impacts of the job are similar to that of first responders.
“Just yesterday I had a CPSW approach me holding back tears saying that she wasn't able to have lunch with me because she needed to go sit in her car and be alone,” said Smith, adding “Boy, could I have used a program like this.”
The bill would protect the confidentiality of the peer support conversations with exceptions for information that indicates a danger to caseworkers or children.
The bipartisan proposal is sponsored by Democratic Senator Jon Morgan and comes at the request of DCYF, which has struggled to attract and retain employees.
Representatives from the New Hampshire chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness also testified in favor of the bill.