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Sununu set to nominate state's first child advocate director

New Hampshire Union Leader

January 09. 2018 11:35PM

CONCORD — Gov. Chris Sununu said Tuesday he would nominate a former Connecticut state executive and current Maine college educator to become New Hampshire’s first director of the Office of Child Advocate.

Moira K. O’Neill was Sununu’s pick from three finalists that the Oversight Commission on Children’s Services and Juvenile Justice submitted for this position.

“I am incredibly proud to nominate Moira K. O’Neill to serve as the director of the Office of the Child Advocate,” Sununu said in a statement. “As an assistant child advocate for the State of Connecticut for 11 years, Moira has the experience, expertise, and passion necessary to advocate for New Hampshire’s most vulnerable children. I commend the Oversight Commission for their hard work in leading this search, and I am confident that Moira will serve our state with distinction.”

A resident of Surry, Maine, O’Neill was assistant child advocate in Connecticut from 2000-2011. She left state service to enter higher education in Maine, first as an assistant professor with the University of New England in Portland, then Husson University in Bangor and currently she works on nursing outreach at the University of Maine School of Nursing in Orono.

Her career included working as a clinical nurse at the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon.

The New Hampshire Legislature created this office in response to the recommendations of the Commission on Child Abuse Facilities.

The outside investigation was ordered two years ago by then-Gov. Maggie Hassan after the death of 3-year-old Brielle Gage of Nashua in 2014, and 21-month-old Sadie Willott of Manchester in 2015. Both died while their neglect and abuse cases were under review of the Division of Children, Youth and Families.

The advocate will work not under DCYF but for the state Department of Administrative Services to make it clear this office exists to give independent oversight of the child protection system.

Lawmakers made sure the office would have access to most DCYF agency records including all reports on child deaths.

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