DCYF

Department of Human Health and Services

Reports of child abuse and neglect reached a record high in New Hampshire during the last fiscal year.

That's according to data released last week by the Division for Children, Youth and Families, the state's child welfare system.

NHPR's Morning Edition Host Rick Ganley spoke with the DCYF director Joe Ribsam about what this data mean for measuring the agency's progress and how DCYF plans to do better.

(Editor's note: below is a partial transcript from the NHPR interview that's been lightly edited for clarity.)

DCYF

Reports of child abuse and neglect reached a record high in New Hampshire during the last fiscal year.

Last fiscal year, the Division for Children, Youth and Families received more than 30,000 calls reporting child abuse or neglect. Of those, more than 12,000 were investigated by child welfare workers.

The new data released by the state Friday highlights the increasing demands on the agency tasked with protecting the welfare of children.

The report also shows the average caseload for DCYF workers, about 45, remains well above the nationally recommend level of 12.

Sara Ernst / NHPR

The state agency tasked with investigating allegations of child abuse is issuing a sweeping request for public input on how it could better do its job.

The Division for Children, Youth, and Families has struggled for years through funding cuts, growing number of calls, and lawsuits that allege the agency failed to act to protect children.

Sara Ernst / NHPR

Child welfare advocates marched in front of the State House on Saturday to point out what they called flaws in New Hampshire’s Division for Children, Youth and Families. The event was hosted by New Road Project, a non-profit aiming to reform the state’s child protection system. 

Sarah Gibson for NHPR

 

The Office of the Child Advocate says New Hampshire is making progress in reforming the foster and juvenile justice systems, but some say the state isn't moving fast enough.

At a juvenile justice forum on Friday at the statehouse, advocates touted a group of child welfare bills signed this month by Governor Sununu.

Dan Tuohy / NHPR

 

Gov. Chris Sununu says he'll sign two bills aimed at helping New Hampshire children, putting aside his initial concerns about one of them.

Lawmakers recently passed a bill to add 77 caseworkers to the Division of Children, Youth and Families, which has faced increased scrutiny after several child deaths and struggled with high turnover and heavy workloads. Sununu's proposed budget funded only a fraction of that number, because he worried the state wouldn't be able to fill them quickly and money would lay dormant.

Allegra Boverman for NHPR

A bill to add dozens of new state employees at the agency tasked with investigating child abuse has now passed both chambers of the legislature.

Multiple outside reviews of the Division of Children, Youth and Families have identified a shortage of caseworkers as a problem. DCYF employees currently juggle a caseload that is nearly four times the nationally recommended average.

Department of Human Health and Services

The state Division of Children, Youth and Families, New Hampshire's child welfare system, has been a major focus for lawmakers during this legislative session.

But some reform advocates say new legislation is not enough to address DCYF's ongoing issues.

Anna Carrigan is the co-founder of The New Road Project, a recently launched nonprofit that aims to help families that are struggling under the current system.

Carrigan has a master’s in social work, and actually works for the state agency that oversees DCYF – though in another division. Morning Edition Host Rick Ganley sat down with her to chat about her advocacy work.

Dan Tuohy / NHPR

  

A bill to add 77 new positions at the Department for Children, Youth and Families received unanimous approval from a committee of House lawmakers Tuesday.

 

The vote comes a day after a legislative Advisory Board for DCYF put its support behind the bill.

 

Department of Human Health and Services

The New Hampshire Division for Children Youth and Families advisory board is putting its weight behind a proposal to add dozens of new positions at the agency.

High caseloads have long plagued the state agency that investigates allegations of child abuse and neglect. Right now the average caseworker at DCYF is juggling 45 cases at once, while the nationally recommended average is 12.

As state lawmakers and the governor debate the state budget, a handful of proposals have been put forward to address the staffing shortage.

Dan Tuohy / NHPR

 

Case workers from the New Hampshire Division for Children Youth and Families went before lawmakers Tuesday to ask for additional staff to keep up with a growing number of child abuse reports.

 

Caseworkers at DCYF, the state agency that investigates allegations of child abuse, currently juggle an average of around 45 cases each. The nationally recommended level is 12 cases.

Paige Sutherland for NHPR

The state Office of Child Advocate has announced it is currently reviewing how the Department for Children Youth and Families handles cases of infants born exposed to drugs.

The Office of the Child Advocate says it opened the review in December of last year after it received concerns about how DCYF was handling the cases. In two cases in 2018 infants, died after DCYF closed assessments for neglect as unfounded.

Statewide, the state Child Advocate says there were 466 children involved in DCYF cases where there were indications that the child was born exposed to drugs.

Commissioner Jeffrey Meyers On Top D.H.H.S. Issues

Mar 26, 2019
Dan Tuohy for NHPR

We sit down with Department of Health and Human Services Commissioner Jeffrey Meyers. The Department of Health and Human Services is the largest state agency and accounts for approximately forty percent of the state budget. We discuss the state's ten-year mental health plan, as well as recent challenges to medicaid work requirements.  And we get an update on the state's hub and spoke system for addiction treatment, and concerns about the Division of Children, Youth and Families. 

GUEST:

Jeffrey Meyers - Appointed in 2016, Meyers is Commissioner of the N.H. Department of Health and Human Services. 

NHPR Staff

The state senate yesterday unanimously passed two bills aimed at boosting mental health services and protecting vulnerable children.

The votes came on the same day Governor Chris Sununu was outlining his budget which looks to tackle some of the same issues.

One bill, passed Thursday, would add 77 positions to the Department for Children, Youth, and Families over the next two years. That's 15 more positions than Sununu called for in his speech.

Dan Tuohy / NHPR

When Gov. Chris Sununu outlined his budget proposal to lawmakers at the State House on Thursday, much of the speech centered on health care, including some proposed fixes to issues that have simmered for years.

Courtesy

New Hampshire’s Office of Child Advocate is endorsing a bill to create 77 positions to better protect children.

Moira O’Neill says 57 of those positions are for child protective service workers. The rest are for supervisors.

The Senate Finance Committee has a hearing on the legislation Tuesday. It would cost about $8.5 million over two years, with $2.5 million coming from federal funds.

Weekly N.H. News Roundup: January 18, 2019

Jan 17, 2019

The State's Office of the Child Advocate releases its first annual report on the state of DCYF. Director Moira O'Neill says lots more needs to be done to keep kids safe. Julian Castro comes to New Hampshire in his bid to win over Democrats in the 2020 presidential primary. And democrats have made legal marijuana a part of its platform, so why do some leading democrats seem reluctant to back legalization bills? 

via the OCA website - childadvocate.nh.gov

In its first annual report, the state's Office of the Child Advocate calls for a variety of legislative fixes to the problems facing children in the state. OCA director Moira O'Neill praised lawmakers for the work done so far, but she says more even more work is needed.

O'Neill joined NHPR's Peter Biello on All Things Considered to explain.

Listen to the interview:

Department of Human Health and Services

An attorney representing the families of two children in litigation against DCYF says a new report from the Office of the Child Advocate doesn't go far enough.

Rus Rilee represents the families of Brielle Gage and Sadee Willott, two toddlers who were killed by abusive mothers in separate incidents in 2014 and 2015. In both cases, abuse had been reported to the state's Division for Children Youth and Families.

Dan Tuohy / NHPR

The Office of Child Advocate is calling for additional caseworkers and additional training at the Division of Children, Youth and Families. That was one of many recommendations from the OCA in its first annual report released Monday.

The Office of Child Advocate was created about a year ago in the wake of the deaths of two children at the hands of abusive parents. The deaths occurred despite the fact that both cases had been reported to DCYF.

Sarah Gibson for NHPR

The New Hampshire Division of Children, Youth, and Families wants to hire 57 more child protection service workers over the next two years.

The budget request comes after a steady increase in the number of investigations the agency is handling, and the number of children it is placing in foster care.

In a presentation to the legislative Children’s Caucus on Wednesday, DCYF director Joe Ribsam said that in 2014 the agency handled around 9,000 investigations into potential child neglect and abuse; now it's handling over 12,000.

Transracial adoption, or adoption outside of one's own race or ethnic group, has continued to grow in the U.S. in the last fifity years. We talk with adoptees and a social worker about the adoptee experience, including living and growing up in a new culture, in a family of a different race, sometimes the other side of the world from their birthplace, and how families can engage in meaninful conversations about identity, culture, and race. 


New Hampshire has one of the country’s highest rates of foster care kids receiving drugs for emotional and psychiatric issues, and many of them don’t have a treatment plan.

That’s according to a report released this week from the Office of the Inspector General at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Department of Human Health and Services

Morning Edition is taking a look at how the opioid epidemic is affecting children - and the people and programs who support them -  in New Hampshire. It's part of NHPR's Crossroad series, examining the impacts of addiction in New Hampshire.

The federal government says its review of 65 cases pulled in April, found the Division of Children, Youth and Families -- or DCYF -- falls short in such key areas as protecting children from abuse and neglect, and ensuring they receive services to meet their educational, physical and mental health needs. 

The report says high caseload volumes remain a big problem. Joe Ribsam directs DCFY.   

Joe Gratz / Flickr Creative Commons

The juvenile justice system in New Hampshire is built around the idea of rehabilitation. Instead of going to jail, young people who commit crimes gain access to services like counseling and substance abuse treatment to address the underlying causes of their behavior.

But a blind spot in the state’s juvenile justice system can keep some kids from getting the help they need.

A new study from the UNH Carsey School of Public Policy finds that the number of children removed from parents has increased by 50 percent from 2012 to 2016.

Cases that included a substance use allegation doubled in that time period, from 30 percent to 60 percent.

Kristin Smith is the family demographer at the Carsey School. That removal from parental care can be stressful for children, and those whose parents use substances face challenges. 

DCYF

 

The state of New Hampshire has agreed to pay $6.75 million to settle a lawsuit filed on behalf of two young sisters who were sexually abused by their biological parents while in foster care.

The girls' grandparents sued the Division for Children, Youth and Families in 2016, alleging the parents were allowed to have unsupervised visits with the girls in 2013, even though police were investigating reports they had molested other children at a homeless shelter.

A proposal to strengthen New Hampshire's new office of the child advocate has the support of the division it monitors, though the governor is reserving judgment for now.

Lawmakers created the watchdog agency as part of larger effort to reform the Division of Children, Youth and Families, which has been under scrutiny since two toddlers were killed in 2014 and 2015.

The department of health and human services and DCYF support an amended bill to enhance the office, while a spokesman for Republican Gov. Chris Sununu says he is closely monitoring it.

Department of Human Health and Services

The New Hampshire Senate approved three bills last week that would provide more than $5 million dollars toward strengthening the state’s child protective system.

The funding would go toward support services for at-risk families and for reducing caseload burdens on the Division of Children, Youth and Families.

Morning Edition Host Rick Ganley spoke with the state’s Child Advocate Moira O’neill about the potential for this new funding and how it could affect the division.


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