Special Efforts Being Made in New Hampshire to Eliminate Child Abuse and Neglect Fatalities

In early 2016, New Hampshire commissioned the Center for the Support of Families to conduct a quality assurance review of DCYF. According to the report, which was completed in December 2016, the decision for an independent review stemmed, in part, from the recent deaths of two children known to DCYF.  Among other things, the report found that DCYF is seriously understaffed in the area of conducting assessments of alleged child maltreatment, and the quality of the work cannot be expected to improve until this is addressed.  Following the release of the report, lawmakers announced the establishment of a joint legislative committee to review a report calling for an overhaul of DCYF.  [Recommendations 5.1a, 7.1l, 7.3]

Created in 2015, New Hampshire’s Commission to Review Child Abuse Fatalities was directed to review state laws, rules, policies, and protocols governing child abuse and neglect investigations and child abuse fatalities; identify any gaps, deficiencies, or problems in the delivery of services to children who are victims of abuse or neglect; determine whether existing procedures adequately provide for a thorough and timely investigation of a child abuse fatality; recommend any changes to state law and practice the commission deems appropriate to protect children from abuse or neglect and reduce preventable child abuse deaths; and identify all potential sources of child abuse and neglect data and recommend a comprehensive system for coordinated reporting to a central source.  The Commission released an interim report in November 2015  and is expected to release its final report on or before June 30, 2018. [Recommendation 5.3]

In June 2016, the New Hampshire Legislature enacted SB 515, which authorizes a court to order alcohol or drug testing at any stage of the proceeding where substance abuse is an ongoing issue in the case, where alcohol or drug use is a disputed issue of fact, or where there is reason to believe that alcohol or drug use may be substantially interfering with a parent's ability to adhere to the case plan.  [Recommendation 7.2]

In 2016, the Legislature enacted SB 539, which establishes the procedure for law enforcement to obtain a court order compelling DHHS or a health care provider to disclose a child’s medical records for the purpose of an investigation of child abuse or neglect, a child fatality, or any other crime against a child.[Recommendations 6.1, 6.2]