Sunday, December 4, 2016
My Account  | Login
Nashua-BoireFieldAirport;29.0;http://forecast.weather.gov/images/wtf/small/skc.png;2016-12-04 19:24:16
Thursday, October 13, 2016

Review finds DCYF needs to double staffing

By DAMIEN FISHER
Staff Writer

The report on New Hampshire's Department of Children, Youth and Families, commissioned after the deaths of two children whose cases had previously been reported to the state agency, found prevalent staffing shortages within DCYF that may have contributed to the problems.

The Center for the Support of Families reviewed DCYF in the wake of the deaths of Brielle Gage, a Nashua toddler, and Sadie Willott, who was 21 months old when she was killed in Manchester. The report states that New Hampshire's DCYF needs to more than double its staff to bring the agency up to minimum best-
practice standards. ...

Sign up to continue

Print subscriber?    Sign up for Full Access!

Please sign up for as low as 36 cents per day to continue viewing our website.

Digital subscribers receive

  • Unlimited access to all stories from nashuatelegraph.com on your computer, tablet or smart phone.
  • Access nashuatelegraph.com, view our digital edition or use our Full Access apps.
  • Get more information at nashuatelegraph.com/fullaccess
Sign up or Login

The report on New Hampshire's Department of Children, Youth and Families, commissioned after the deaths of two children whose cases had previously been reported to the state agency, found prevalent staffing shortages within DCYF that may have contributed to the problems.

The Center for the Support of Families reviewed DCYF in the wake of the deaths of Brielle Gage, a Nashua toddler, and Sadie Willott, who was 21 months old when she was killed in Manchester. The report states that New Hampshire's DCYF needs to more than double its staff to bring the agency up to minimum best-
practice standards.

There are too few DCYF social workers for the incoming new reports of abuse or neglect, and too few supervisors for the workers who are in place, leaving the dispositions of the cases stretching past the agency's own policy to have them resolved within 60 days, according to the report.

"During our case review, it became readily apparent that social workers were generally responding to incoming reports of alleged maltreatment timely, but that the assessments were remaining open without a disposition well past the DCYF policy time frame," the center's report states.

Leaving these cases open without an assessment can have serious consequences if there are multiple reports coming from the same home, the report continues. If multiple abuse cases are reported for the same child, the agency steps up its intervention efforts.

But because of the understaffing, the review states, the assessments are open too long, meaning that there can be cases in which an abuse report comes in on a particular child who is under review in another previous case, but are treated as a first-time report because the first assessment is incomplete.

"If there is not a prior founded report the new incoming report may a lower priority rating for response," the center wrote.

The problem of getting the abuse assessments done in a timely manner, within the 60-day arc, goes back to at least 2006, according to the review. Rus Rilee - an attorney representing the estates of Brielle Gage, Sadie Willott and others - said the review highlights the problems he is trying to combat.

"It certainly highlights that they are not complying with their own rules and regulations," Rilee said.

The review recommends that the state increase the staffing to at least 120 social workers and 24 supervisors for DCYF. Right now, because of the staffing problems and a 33 percent turnover rate, DCYF has a little more than 50 social workers ready to take cases at any given time, the report states.

"There is no excuse for the lack of staffing and the lack of supervision," Rilee said.

Rilee has stated that DCYF mishandled the cases of Gage, Willott, and two girls from the Claremont region who were sexually abused by family members while the girls were supposed to be under the care of DCYF.

He recently won a New Hampshire Supreme Court case that will allow him to sue DCYF in open court. He said Wednesday that he expects to file those lawsuits in the coming weeks.

In a letter to state officials, including Gov. Maggie Hassan, Health and Human Services Commissioner Jeffrey Meyers stated that he wants to follow all of the recommendations in the review, hiring staff and making sure that assessments are completed within 60 days.

Hassan said Wednesday that it will be up to the next governor and Legislature to follow through on the report.

"It calls into question staffing levels, and it is something we have been focused on," Hassan said during a stop in Nashua.

Damien Fisher can be reached at 594-6531 or dfisher@nashuatelegraph.com.