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Federal oversight agency says child protections failing miserably in N.H.

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Moira O'Neill, Director of the Office of the Child Advocate (Courtesy photo)

CONCORD - The state DCYF failed all of its family outcome metrics in a recent review by a federal oversight agency, and the state advocate says she needs 175 more caseworkers to ensure child safety.

On Friday the Office of the Child Advocate reacted to the U.S. Administration for Children & Families 2018 Child and Family Services Review of the New Hampshire Division for Children, Youth and Families with mixed reviews.

The CFSR assesses compliance with federal requirements to ensure children's safety, permanency and wellbeing, but according to the report, New Hampshire is not doing well at all.

None of the seven child and family outcomes were found to be in substantial conformity. Only 2 of 7 systemic factors were.

"These are daunting findings," said Moira O'Neill, Director of the Office of the Child Advocate. "They confirm what our office is seeing, particularly with timeliness of risk assessments and children's permanency. But this is not new information. Our office exists because the state is already taking action."

The state's poor performance was directly associated with workload and limited services, O'Neill said.

She added that the good news is the two areas of DCYF's success are quality assurance and community engagement.

"Setting standards of practice, creating review processes for quality improvement, committing to identifying mistakes and learning from the community you serve, all represent a strong foundation for reform," stated O'Neill.

In a press release sent on Friday, O'Neill said she is further encouraged by the commitment made by the Governor, the Legislature, and DCYF Leadership to continue the necessary work of system assessment and reform. She warned that the 33 new DCYF positions funded in the last legislative session are a mere fraction of what is needed for the agency to be effective.

"We need upwards of 175 positions to do good casework," said O'Neill, who was appointed to the child advocate post by Gov. Chris Sununu in January. "We also need to restore prevention funding to help families long before DCYF is called upon."

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