Legislators evaluate DCYF in wake of two child deaths

CONCORD – State legislators continue working to reform the New Hampshire Division of Children, Youth and Families in the aftermath of two children being murdered, including Nashua’s Brielle Gage.

Sen. Sharon Carson, R-Londonderry, is a member of the Commission to Review Child Abuse Fatalities. She said state legislators approved making the commission permanent this year, four years after it started its work. The commission has been part of so many changes at DCYF, and more topics continue to come before it that need attention, she said.

“Every meeting, we’re doing something different,” Carson said.

Rep. Lucy Weber, D-Walpole, current chair of the committee, has served on on the commission since its started. While the commission was initially focused on reviewing the child abuse fatalities, Weber said member soon found themselves going through the inner workings of DCYF because no one else was doing that.

“We have gotten an incredible amount done over the four years,” Weber said.

The commission helped get more resources for the DCYF; has been part of linking DCYF staffers with police departments to open communications; has seen that DCYF maintains calling hours during evening hours and weekends; has pushed for the state keep DCYF records longer to help identify patterns; has pushed to add staff to the agency to better serve children in crisis; and has helped get more funding for foster families.

The changes are being noticed in the real world, said Borja Alvarez de Toledo, the president and CEO of Child and Family services, and a member of the commission.

“I hearing a renewed confidence in the work of DCYF,” he said.

The commission began after the separate murders of two toddlers, both of whom had cases with DCYF. Brielle Gage was age 3 when her mother, Katlyn Marin, brutally beat her to death in November 2014 in her Nashua apartment. Marin is serving 45 years to life in prison as she appeals her second-degree murder conviction. Marin was investigated 10 times by DCYF in the years before the murder.

In 2015, Sadie Willot, a Manchester toddler, was killed by her mother, Katlin Paquette. Paquette was also the subject of DCYF interventions. Paquette pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and is serving a 21-to-42-year prison term.

Damien Fisher can be reached at 594-1245 or dfisher@nashuatelegraph.com

or @Telegraph_DF.