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DCYF shakeup approved by Senate

State House Bureau

March 16. 2017 8:39PM

CONCORD — A bill to reorganize the state’s child protective services cleared the state Senate on Thursday on a voice vote.

Senate Bill 239 will create a new associate commissioner position in the Division of Children, Youth and Families (DCYF) appointed by the governor; establish the Office of Child Advocate; and designate an Oversight Commission for Children’s Services and Juvenile Justice.

As originally introduced by state Sen. Sharon Carson, R-Londonderry, the bill called for the DCYF to be removed from the Department of Health and Human Services to stand alone as the Department of Children’s Services and Juvenile Justice.

That approach was scaled back to a reorganization within DHHS because of the costs associated with creating another state agency with its own commissioner.

State Sen. John Reagan, R-Deerfield, urged his colleagues to hold off on any reorganization to give Commissioner of Health and Human Services Jeffrey Meyers a chance to continue with many of the reforms he already has under way.

“I believe that the proper management of this problem is best handled by the department through its current makeup,” he said. “I believe the department is headed in the right direction without creating another layer of bureaucracy to oversee what’s already a demoralized division.”

House Majority Leader Jeb Bradley, R-Wolfeboro, said he has worked with Meyers, who supports the reorganization.

Carson, who co-chairs the Commission on Child Abuse Fatalities, reminded the senate of the two children under DCYF supervision who died of child abuse, the recommendations of an outside evaluation and the many other controversies that have beset the division in the past two years.

“We cannot forget about what’s going on,” she said. “I agree it’s a demoralized division, but we have to get to the bottom of what’s going on here in order to fix it.”

The big change is the creation of the Office of Child Advocate, said Bradley.

“It will be a watchdog over DCYF,” he said, “which I think is important given the problems we’ve encountered.”

The Senate killed SB 223, which would have funded additional social worker positions in the Division for Children, Youth and Families, as recommended by an outside review of the agency.

Bradley argued that Gov. Chris Sununu has submitted funding for those positions in his budget. “We will get the opportunity to look at that budget when the House sends it to us,” he said.

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