"Real liberty is neither found in despotism or the extremes of democracy, but in moderate governments.
Alexander Hamilton

Thursday, January 5, 2017

NH House Rejects GOP Leadership Plan to Elminate House Children and Family Law Committee

In a 196-172 vote, the NH House today rejected Speaker Jasper's plan to eliminate the Children and Family Law Committee. That committee  takes up bills around parental supervision, divorce and child services. The plan was to send the bills to other panels, such as criminal justice or health and human services. It was opposed by Democrats and a sufficient number of Republicans to overcome it.

NH Division of Youth and Family Services has been under fire with the deaths of two NH children involved with the agency. 
The Children and Family Law Committee is charged "... to consider matters relating to children and youth, their rights, obligations, and protection, including all matters covered by RSA 169-B, 169-C, and 169-D, divorce, custody and child support; the application of criminal laws and sentencing to children and such other matters as may be referred to it."
Much like the push in Washington to eliminate the House Ethics Committee, the push in Concord to eliminate the Children and Family Law Committee was not well timed. 

In March of 2016 a contract for a comprehensive independent review of DCYF was approved by Governor Hassan and the Executive Council. It was awarded to the Center for the Support of Families (CSF).  On December 19th,2016, the final report was released. Governor Hassan said in a statement " It is the fundamental responsibility of our society to protect our children and ensure that every child has the opportunity to live and grow in a safe environment. Any missed opportunity to save a child's life, or to save a child from harm, is a tragedy, which is why we undertook this independent review to help ensure that New Hampshire has the staff, policies and laws in place necessary to ensure the safety and well-being of our children."

It is a 100 plus page report, but the recommendations focused on the following:

  • A seriously overloaded assessment work force;
  • An assessment work force and legal staff that can benefit from additional training and
  • support in identifying, documenting, and defending concerns that place children at risk of
  • harm through neglect;
  • A restrictive child protection statute that sets a high bar for determining neglect and risk of harm;
  • A restrictive interpretation of the statute and a concern by DCYF that it is not able to take
  • needed action to protect children at risk;
  • The lack of options for social workers to take to protect children in unfounded assessments;
  • The lack of an effective service array even if there were legal options for compelling families to engage in services to protect their children.
NH House and Senate leadership will form a committee to review the report. Membership is due to be announced by next week.
It is 2017 and we are still feeling the effects of the 2010 draconian budget cuts of ex NH House Speaker Bill O'brien. They reduced mental health service payments by over $55 million, family support services for the disabled (enabling them to live at home) by $3.5 million, and other services to the developmentally disabled and brain injured by $33 million. They cut $16 million from payments for Medicaid medical services and eliminated the Children in Need of Services program that diverts children from the courts into treatment, counseling, and rehabilitation.
In a revenue crisis, instead of increasing taxes to stabilize state revenues, the House  cut them. It eliminated a surcharge on vehicle registrations adopted in 2009 that enabled the state to keep up the repair and maintenance of its bridges and roads. It reduced the cigarette tax, and made two adjustments to the calculation of the Business Profits Tax that will reduce it for some businesses.
It has taken NH years to recover and we are still paying the price for what took place in 2010.

This is an important issue and at its core is lack of staff and resources up and down the agency. Overworked, under appreciated and the first to be blamed when a crisis or tragedy occurs. Not far behind is a weak support system from other agencies in NH that also do not have adequate staff or resources. Concord can improve these outcomes and should not take months to figure out how. You can't keep cutting programs and budgets and expect better outcomes.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

"You can't keep cutting programs and budgets and expect better outcomes."
Actually, every time a program fails, the same lines as above are used over and over without applying principles of human action and economics. Government solutions have always been as follows: A program has failed after spending millions or whatever. lets throw more money at it, may be it will work this time. The vicious cycle continues and has been for more than a century, to say the least. Bush increased the deficit of our country by 100 percent when the deficit went from 5 trillion dollars to 10 trillion dollars. Obama nearly doubled that as well to about 20 trillion. Guess what the first order of action in 2017 by majority republicans is? to increase the deficit by 9.7 Trillion dollars in next 10 years and the president elect hasn't even taken the oath yet. he is just driving everything with his twitter feed.