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Legislative committee appointed to review child protective services

CONCORD — A joint legislative committee appointed to overhaul child protective services in New Hampshire began its work on Wednesday.

State Rep. Dick Hinch, R-Merrimack, was elected chairman of the newly appointed Special Joint Committee on the Division for Children, Youth and Families, while State Sen. Jeb Bradley, R-Wolfboro was named vice-chair.

Gov. Chris Sununu has a seat on the committee and will be represented by former State Rep. D.J. Bettencourt, now a Sununu policy adviser. Also on the committee is Department of Health and Human Services Commissioner Jeffrey Meyers.

The nine-member committee is charged with reviewing the recommendations of the Center for the Support of Families, which spent a year studying operations at DCYF. The study was ordered by Gov. Maggie Hassan in 2015 after two children whose cases were under DCYF review died of child abuse.

The outside review pointed to many problems at DCYF that the committee hopes to address. Meyers suggested the first step would be for the committee to hear from DCYF officials as to the recommendations that have already been implemented, or steps the division has already taken in response to the recommendations.

“There are a number of things that are already under way,” he said. “That doesn’t mean there aren’t other things we want to address.”

Meanwhile, the Commission to Review Child Abuse Fatalities, which has worked on this issue for more than a year, will continue its work at least throughout 2017, according to chair Lucy Weber, D-Walpole.

She handed over a stack of materials to joint committee members so that they could get up to speed on the work of the commission.

“We hope to avoid duplication,” she said. “It’s not as if we’re starting from a standing stop.”

Three members of the Commission to Review Child Abuse Fatalities have also been named to the Joint Committee on DCYF — Weber, State Sen. Sharon Carson, R-Londonderry, and State Rep. Skip Berrien, D-Exeter.

The remaining members of the new committee are State Rep. Peter Spanos, R-Winnisquam, and State Rep. Kimberly Rice, R-Hudson.

One of the first matters the committee will have to decide is its position on a bill proposed by Carson that would remove the DCYF from the Department of Health and Human Services and create a separate agency.

That bill, SB 239, is schedule for a hearing today at 1:20 p.m. in the State House.


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