NH DCYF information and Statistics:
NH Department of Health and Human Services Program Guide: The NH DCYF information is from pages 19 - 28
NH has a page that links to laws, rules, and policies that govern DCYF.
Included are links to RSA 169-C, the Child Protection Act, US Code regarding block grants to states from Social Security, grants to states for Medicaid Assistance Programs, Block Grants to states for Social Assistance Programs, and CAPTA, or Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment and Adoption Reform, Chapter 67 on this page.
In July of 2003, the Governor appointed
a "Commission on
Child Protection." He asked Brad Russ, recenlty retired
Portsmouth police chief to head the commission. Their job was to "conduct
a thorough assessment of this State's current child protection resources
and service delivery systems at both the State and local level. By the end
of this calendar year, the Commission will create a comprehensive report
of its findings and recommendations, for both legislation and executive action."
Portsmouth was the first location in the state to have a "Child Advocacy
Center" for the purposes of interviewing children who were the subject of
sex abuse investigations, both criminal and civil. The idea was to
have one comfortable place where a child would only have to be interviewed
once to get the best information availble for purposes of interviewing sex
offenders. Mr. Russ was instrumental in getting the Child Advocacy
The Commission submitted its report
to the governor in November of 2003. They appear to have
focused on Mr. Russ's area of expertise, and recommended that the concept
of Child Advocacy Centers be expanded thoughout the state. For any
other recommendations, they asked for a six month extension.
I've only had one experience with the Child Advocacy Center in Portsmouth.
DCYF participated in an interview of a child alleged to have been sexually
abused (but not penetrated), for whom I was hired as the attorney.
Neither parent was the named perpetrator. DCYF insisted the parents,
who had already spoken with the child, believed him/her, and had take steps
to protect him/her from the perpetrator, didn't want to do that. They
already believed him/her. They were told that they MUST bring
the child to the Rockingham County Child Advocacy Center, despite the fact
that felt this would be retraumatizing the child. I was brought
in to help, and we decided it was best if I represented the child's interests.
I wanted to tell them that the parents would not produce the child for
the interview, but they agreed to do so. I was told by the Rockingham
County prosecutor that I would not be permitted to sit with the child during
her interview, despite the fact that I was his/her attorney. I gave
the child my business card with words on the back of it to the effect of:
"My attorney told me that I have the right not to continue this interview
if I want. I choose to exercise that right now. Please call her."
I watched the interview, which I was not permitted to copy, later.
The child, toward the beginning of the interview, handed the interviewer the
card, and spoke to her. The interviewer read it, and told the child
he/she wasn't permitted to speak with his/her attorney. I was,
needless to say, outraged at the blatant violation of an innocent child's
rights. I wrote a letter to the Rockingham County attorney's
office telling them I would never again advise any parent to cooperate with
the Child Advocacy center, because they didn't respect children's rights.
Aside from the issue of the interviewer telling the child that s/he couldn't
speak to his/her attorney, he Rockingham County prosecutor and the police
were quite reasonable afterward. When we walked into the conference
following the interview that included all the parties, we could tell just
by the introductions DCYF wasn't through with the parents yet.
DCYF was part of the investigation, and already disagreed with the parent's
decision not to have the child formally evaluated for physical or emotional
trauma. DCYF wanted the parents to have the child be evaluated by a
psychologist to determine if s/he needed exended counseling. The parents
had already arranged for s/he to speak to his/her pastor about the incident.
As a result of the pastor's recommendation and their own conversations with
their child, they had already concluded that the child did not need further
counseling. DCYF disagreed with that decision, so, following the interview
in the "Child Advocacy Center," they hauled the parents into
court for disagreeing with their decision., calling it "neglect." I
seem to recall they managed to make it neglect for "allowing" the abuse to
take place in the first place.
The parents eventually caved to DCYF's demands just make them go away,
and had the kid evaluated by the psychologist of DCYF's choice. Just
for fun, even though the child's interview confirmed that no penetration
took place, DCYF also insisted on a full medical evaluation as well.
The parents did manage to keep the kid from a microscopic inspection of his/her
genitals by using their own family physician to get the kid a regular physical.
I wrote another page on the Seacoast Child Advocacy
Center's information sheet for parents. I annotated it based on
my experience there.
When the purpose of the Child Advocacy Center changes from prosecuting
perpetrators to forcing parents to make the same decisions DCYF would have
made, I disagree with its purpose. Mr. Russ apparently didn't consider
that issue. because he doesn't see what happens to parents as a result of
his advocacy center's work. Leave it to DCYF to take a good idea
and ruin it .
Yet another piece of legislation a couple of years ago required DCYF to
look into accreditation. DCYFhired the Child Welfare League of
America to do an audit of DCYF practices to find out if they were ready to
seek accreditation. Senate
Bill 86 of 2003 requires NH DCYF to seek accreditation from the Child
Welfare League of America. While accreditation seems like a good idea,
I doubt it. I've read through the report, and it requires DCYF to do
things on a time line, and in a manner that will continue to violate a lot
of parental rights. I've posted the Accreditation Report in chunks
on my web site. The various pieces of the accreditation report are
CWLA Cover Letter to DCYF - January 29, 2004
Readiness to Pursue Accreditation
Outcomes for NH Children and Families
Staffing Requirements, Projected Timetable, and Costs, Table of
Child Welfare League Standards
NH also has a link to House Bills
in the legislature in the current session. You unfortunately have
to search through the list to find what affects DCYF.
The NH Senate has a similar list. The link is not working as of the time of writing this page. It is off the NH Senate Homepage.
There was a "Statutory Study Committee on DCYF
Field Practices" pursuant to legislation enacted in 1999. You
have to get to it from the Senate Legislative
and Statutory Committee query page. (1) Click on the top box marked
"Statutory Committee" to UNCHECK it.
(2) Fill in "1999" in the "Year line. (3) Click on the circle
marked "Bill Number" to fill it in with the green dot. (4) Fill in
the blank line to the right of "Bill Number" with "SB65". Do
not put a space between the "B" and the "6". (4) Click on "Submit."
You should come up with a page that says, "FIELD ACTIVITIES BY DEPT OF H&HS FOR CHILDREN, YOUTH
& FAMILIES STUDY. [Note, this appears
to be a link in this page. It doesn't work, trust me.] (5) Click
on "GO" to see the names of the Committee members, the meeting dates, and
various other information. That Committee has completed its final report,
so it no longer exists. The SB 65 Report needs a little formatting
still, but it's here.
New Hampshire has a Legislative Oversight Committee for the Department of Health and Human Services enacted pursuant to RSA 126-A:13. You have to get to it from the Senate Legislative and Statutory Committee query page. The page opens up with two boxes CHECKED at the top. (1) UNCHECK the box marked "Chaptered Study Commitee, " at the top of the page. (2) CLICK on the circle for "RSA Chapter" to move the green dot there, and (3) type in "126-A:13 " in the blank following the green dot. You should come up with the Committee information. The next page will show the web link to the HHS Committee. (4) Click on "GO" to look at their historical meeting dates, members, etc. They don't seem to have spent a lot of time on DCYF issues recently.
The Office of Legislative Budget did a DCYF Foster
Care Family Audit in 2001. Their report is
a public document.
Secret Courts - Coming to an end?
NH Representative Tony Soltani, a fellow attorney,
made a statement during the impeachment hearings of Chief Justice Brock.
He said, "Secrecy, to some of us, means corruption." While I
didn't see all the hearings, and therefore didn't bother to form an opinion
on whether or not the verdict was correct, I agree with his statement wholeheartedly.
The downfalls of secret courts on other pages on our site,
but it's taken years to get the General Court (a/k/a the NH House) to look
at the possibility of opening child abuse and neglect hearings to the public.
Their report is due in November. I intend to
follow this committee carefully, as I believe it would be a good thing to
open the court hearings.
spent a week in Minneapolis in the fall of 2003 looking at their open
juvenile courts. I will be submitting a report to the committee on
my week in Minneapolis so they can take that experience into consideration
in deciding whether or not to open the courts state-wide.
The legislature finally passed a bill in 2002
for a pilot project in Grafton County to study the ramifications of opening
these proceedings to the public. The pilot project has been extended
a couple of times, and has recently been extended geographically into Sullivan
County. Not enough people have been asking them to be permitted access
to hearings in order for them to even make a decision about makng the hearings
public. You would think that would be a big fat hint that it won't
have a negative effect in general. Enough "pilot project" already -
make the hearings open!
You can get to information about the legislation
and the committee from the Senate Legislative
and Statutory Committee query page. (1) Click on the top box marked
"Statutory Committee" to UNCHECK it.
(2) Fill in "2002" in the "Year line. (3) Click on the circle
marked "Bill Number" to fill it in with the green dot. (4) Fill in
the blank line to the right of "Bill Number" with "SB124". Do
not put a space between the "B" and the "1". (4) Click on "Submit."
You should get a page that says, "GRAFTON COUNTY COURT PILOT PROJECT LEGISLATIVE OVERSIGHT
COMMITTEE" Click on "GO"
and you will find the details of the study committee.
NH has a DCYF Advisory
Board, pursuant to RSA
170-G:6. I've posted the minutes
for the board from January of 2002 to Feb of 2004 so far. DCYF's
first attempt at sending me the minutes was a dismal failure, as they redacted
them., which is to say, I got pages with lines or paragraphs blacked out
with magic marker, then copied so I couldn't see through the black-out.
I fortunately knew the Right-to-Know
law well enough to write back and get the unredacted minutes.
I highlighted the parts of the minutes that were originally redacted.
One of the most interesting things was that of $45 marriage license
fees, $38 was going directly to DCYF for their "Domestic Violence" programs.
It appears from the minutes of the Advisory Board that they stopped that
practice, but to force everyone in the state exercising their fundamental
right to marry to donate unknowingly to one of NH's most secretive
agencies before I found appalling.
Reports on NH DCYF
There are a number of nationally published reports
on NH DCYF available on the web. There are a variety of reports available
for various years.
The 1998 Child Welfare Outcomes for NH.
The 1999 Child Welfare Outcomes for NH.
In 2000, the Child Welfare Outcome Report was switched to the Children's Welfare Bureau.
I didn't find 2001 - 2002. But the NH 2003 Child Welfare Outcome Report is here. It is much more negative than the Foster Care Compliance Audit of 2003. Some of the reasons for that are explained below. One of the downfalls it mentions is the lack of effort to find Kinship care for children before placing them in foster homes. - i.e. placing children with relatives. There is a NationalReport on Kinship care elsewhere. It is a large document. It crashed my computer every time I try to browse it, however, to find the year it was written.
The New Hampshire Foster Care Audit - 2003
In December of 2003, NH DHHS issues a press release concerning what a great job they did on their foster care audit. The federal audit is limited in scope, however. The Audit requirements are as follows:
Title IV-E Foster Care Eligibility ReviewsThe reviews of the Federal title IV-E foster care program focus on whether a child meets statutory eligibility requirements for foster care maintenance payments. Just as in the child and family services reviews, each review team comprises Federal and State representatives who examine cases for federal eligibility requirements, such as the following:
A disallowance is taken for all cases that fail to meet Federal requirements.
If a State fails in more than a specific percentage of cases, it is considered
to be out of compliance with the Federal foster care program requirements.
States that do not achieve compliance will develop Program Improvement Plans;
a subsequent review will then be conducted within 1 year. After the secondary
review, if the State is still not in compliance, a larger disallowance is
assessed on the basis of the State’s total foster care population.
[end of materials from the foster care audit.]
The point is that the federal audit doesn't look closely at true compliance.
It is only looking for court orders and papers to back up the federal requirement.
Those are nearly always in the file. If the judge made a determination
in your case on an ex parte basis,
and doesn't revisit the issue in the preliminary hearing, you might want
to consider an emergency "Writ of Certiorari" to the Superior Court to ask
them to decide the issue. In it, you would have to verify under
oath that no inquiry was made at the preliminary or ex parte hearing, that
the judge left the kid in foster care, that the protocols envision that the
judge will reconsider foster care at the preliminary stage, that the child
is not in "immediate danger," and that you want the kid returned.
Other NH Reports from private sources
The Children's Alliance of NH
issues a report on the status of children yearly. It's called
"Kids Count." Their latest report is here.
Bruce Freidman, civil practice professor from Franklin Pierce Law Center, helped
found it. They spend time in the legislature lobbying against many
of the changes in the laws I propose. The Children's Alliance
is funded heavily by the Anna E. Casey Foundation. For those of you
that don't know, the Anna E. Casey Foundation
was started by the founder of UPS. So every time you ship a package
using the Big Brown Truck, you're contributing to an organization that provides
foster care funding, and research funding to lobby legislatures to keep the
laws concerning child abuse the way they are. Casey Family
Services is a foster care contractor in NH, with offices in Concord.
I've had two cases where children were in Casey Foster placement, and both
have been disasters. In one case the GAL complains a lot more than
I do about what Casey has done to ruin the child's relationship with her
mother. Child Abuse is a big business.
Child and Family Services is an organization
that provides services to kids via their contract with DCYF. They also
make money from the services they provide. They also lobby the legislature
to keep their income stream alive.
The Eric L. Lawsuit
There was a class lawsuit filed before I started law school on behalf of abused and neglected children. It is commonly referred to as the "Eric L. Lawsuit." Eric L. was one of the children being served by DCYF at the time the case was filed. It was described by my civil procedure teacher, Bruce Friedman, who was one of the attorneys on the lawsuit on behalf of the children, as a "friendly" lawsuit. I interpreted that to mean that DCYF wanted the lawsuit so it could increase its budget. It certainly has gone up since the early 90s. My recollection is that it was around $35,000,000 about the time I started law school. It's well over $122, 000,000 now, not including court costs for these cases. With just over 1200 kids in foster care now, you have to wonder if they just gave every family in the system $122,000 per year per kid in foster care if the kids wouldn't be better off. Well, OK, save some money for investigating abuse and neglect cases, and just give each kid with a founded case 1/2 that!
Bruce and I certainly had different ideas
on child protection. When I took Civil Practic Clinic, now renamed
the "Family and Housing
Law Clinic," I joked once that he feared I'd burn the clinic down.
By the end of the semester, I came to believe I had convinced him that some
of my ideas on parental rights were valid. He at least was convinced
that I'd use the law to change things, and not violence.
I probably was one of the last people to argue against him in court.
I took a client to the final Eric L hearing, and we argued against
some of the provisions of the settlement. Shortly after that
hearing, he left for China, and died
there after only about a month. I
went to his funeral, and was genuinely sorry to see such a brilliant and
caring person pass before his time. He certainly left me with
plenty of work to do on behalf of parents for my entire career.
As for the Eric L. lawsuit, Franklin Pierce Law
Center's Family and
Housling Law Clinic (formerly called the "Civil Practice Clinic,") pulled
out of the suit sometime around the time Bruce Friedman died. I don't
recall if it was before or after his death. Now the Disability Rights Center is one
of the organizations overseeing compliance with the agreement, which has
been extended from its original expiration date. Their Fourth
Year Report on Compliance with Eric L. talks about DCYF's progress
toward the goals of the settlement agreement. As of May of 2004, it
appears that the Disability Rights Center has taken DCYF back to court to
obtain compliance. See the DCYF Advisory
Board Minutes, June 19, 2002, January 15, 2003, March 19,
2003, May 21, 2003, and May 21, 2003. There is no further mention
of it, so I don't know if the case was resettled.
Protocols for the Processing of Abuse and Neglect Petitions
New Hampshire has Statutory Requirements And Guidelines For The Processing And Disposition Of Abuse And Neglect Cases In The District Courts. These rules were adopted by the NH Supreme Court under its rule making authority, and as such, had to have public hearings and a comment period before being enacted.
The Court Improvement Program was established in 1994 with federal legislation. I think the idea was to standardize child abuse handling across the United States. The American Bar Association keeps reports from each state on its progress toward court improvement. New Hampshire decided to use their federal dollars to write "Protocols for the Processing of Abuse and Neglect Petitions." They reported to the ABA on their great progress in standardizing court procedures.
The problem with the New Hampshire "Protocols" is that they have NOT been subjected to any rule making procedure that included a period of time where the public could comment on them. The Court Improvement Project was basically the Courts, DCYF, a few legislators, and other invited people who sat down and figured out how THEY wanted it done. Defense attorneys weren't really invited to help write the Protocols. They were formally adopted as a court rule years after they were implemented. The biggest problem I now have is that the old "Guidelines for the Processing of Abuse and Neglect Petitions made clear DCYF's duty to turn over the file to defense attorneys. The Protocols don't make it mandatory, so to get complete discovery, I have to file a motion with the court. It's a pain. It's entirely expected given that they didn't really consult with defense attorneys when they wrote them.
One of the main things to come out of the "Protocols" via the Court Improvement Project was the forms the courts use in making their ORDERS in abuse and neglect cases. These forms don't comply with the law! They were put into service in June of 2003, right before I took a four month leave of absence to bike across the country. I just recently found out about them. I've written the Administrative Office of the Courts and told them about the mistakes, but as of May of 2004, they haven't changed them. I did get a letter back from Gina Apicelli, who works in the AOC, saying that she would look into it "at her earliest opportunity." As of late 2005, they promise the new forms will be forthcoming.
The main area I've found where they differ from the law is that the statute doesn't permit legal custody to change from the parent to DCYF until the "Dispositional Phase" of the hearing. RSA 169-C:19 The new court forms have a box to check to change legal custody as soon as the "ex parte" hearing. Ex parte means "without the other party present." DCYF has used this change of custody to rip Section 8 housing, TANF benefits, and food stamps from my clients even before they have their first hearing! So, the parent going through this awful process has immediate financial consequences even before stepping into court for the first time! This violates fundamental principles of due process. Before critical government benefits are taken away, there has to be notice and an opportunity to be heard. Just for fun, they "forgot" to call up Grandma, who was taking care of the kids, to arrange for "kinship" foster care payment. Oh well, collect it from the feds, and forget to pay it out. It saves taxpayer money that way.
Information about DCYF and CPS available from the U.S. Government
A lot of reports are generated by the government about federal programs. Many of those reports use census information. The U.S. Bureau's page about NH has the 2002 figures. It might be estimates based on the 2000 census. I haven't looked that closely.
The United States Department of Health and Human Services Children's Bureau publishes a variety of information about all state's Child Protective Services. They have many links to useful information about all states' laws and Child Protection laws and statistics. Their index page to national Child Maltreatment from 1995 - 2002 reports is handy. Their report is for all 50 states.
The Children's Bureau report on Foster Care Entry and Exits from 1999 - 2002 is interesting. The report is a 50 state report.
The National Clearinghouse on Abuse and Neglect Information has a page where you can look up your state's laws on child protection.
The National Clearinghouse on Abuse and Neglect Information also has a page on legal issues, where you can look up what great progess the feds made in finalizing the Protocols in 2003. It has many useful links, including:
Federal Laws Related to Child Abuse and Neglect,
State Laws Related to Child Abuse and Neglect ,
Issues Related to Reporting Child Abuse and Neglect ,
Issues Related to Maintaining Child Abuse and Neglect Records,
Making Permanency Plans for Children in Care ,
Other Related Issues ,
Court Improvement Program ,
Children's Justice Act,
Child and Family Service Reviews ,
concurrent planning information.
Last Updated 2006 Mar 6.