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DCYF reform: Agency needs more than money

New Hampshire’s Division of Children, Youth and Families needs help. Social workers have been overwhelmed by a flood of cases related to the state’s ongoing opioid crisis.

But lawmakers need to do more than throw money at the problem.

Relatives of children who died after DCYF placed the children back into homes under investigation wanted a full review of those cases. Gov. Maggie Hassan repeatedly promised an “independent review” but failed to conduct one. She not only shielded DCYF Director Lorraine Bartlett from scrutiny, but let Bartlett handpick the team conducting the audit.

The interim audit report failed to address the specifics of any of the cases supposedly under review, but called for more funding.

It’s going to take more than money to fix DCYF. Hiring more caseworkers under a broken system isn’t enough.

Gov. Chris Sununu placed Bartlett on administrative leave last month after it came out that she had closed 1,520 open abuse and neglect investigations without proper follow-up. New leadership will help.

The state Senate proposes creating the Office of Child Advocate to ensure an independent voice within the division for victims of abuse. SB 239 has already won Senate approval, but was tabled so that it can be rolled into the budget now being crafted by the Senate Finance Committee.

Reforming DCYF and funding it need to be considered together. Lawmakers need to create a culture of accountability at the agency tasked with protecting New Hampshire children.

Eric Church
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