Home > Uncategorized > Local News Reports Good News, Bad News on NH’s Division of Children, Youth and Families

Local News Reports Good News, Bad News on NH’s Division of Children, Youth and Families

January 6, 2018

Our local newspaper, the Valley News, featured a front page story by AP reporter Holly Ramer titled “Review: DCYF Cases Appropriately Closed”. The report was prompted during former Governor Maggie Hassan’s term as Governor because she and many in the general public had a sense that the Division of Children, Youth, and Families (DCYF) was closing cases without performing due diligence on each case and this was leading to the needless death and injury of infants and children. The good news, as reported by consultants Eckerd Connects, was that after sampling 100 case files they found “…only two cases in which caseworkers failed to appropriately intervene or monitor an intervention but in both cases, the children in question currently are safe.” The bad news, for the State, however is this: 

Eckerd pointed out several areas in need of improvement, including documenting that background checks are done on all parents and caretakers; interviewing parents and caregivers who don’t live in the home; and interviewing neighbors and other relatives. But instead of trying to review the remaining cases, the group urged the state to focus on the “urgent need” to address its current workload.

“In particular, available additional resources would be more appropriately targeted to the morethan 2,200 overdue assessments that were open to the agency as of Nov. 16, 2017,” Eckerd wrote. The division is focused on that backlog, said Health and Human Services Commissioner Jeffrey Meyers, who noted that the Executive Council recently approved a contract with Child and Family Services to work with the department in closing overdue assessments.

Unfortunately for the children who live in troubled families this is nothing new. For years DCYF has been underfunded, their staff has been underpaid, and because of turnover caseloads are unwieldy and, sadly, result in some instances where a child dies when they “fall through the cracks”. Voters and taxpayers, wanting to avoid facing the obvious solution, which is to raise the compensation level for DCYF employees and increase the DCYF staff, instead look to scapegoat the employees who work diligently and thanklessly to help children and families in need.

But, as readers of this blog realize, this kind of scapegoating is not limited to DCYF. It carries over into virtually every agency that serves disadvantaged populations where the pay is low, the hours are long, and the rewards must be internal because the labors of social workers, medical professionals, …and teachers, who serve in these fields are seldom appreciated by the public at large and often excoriated when they fail. And increasingly, when a publicly funded organization like DCYF fails, the solution is to “introduce competition” or to turn over the function to the private sector. But here’s the problem with the market solution: parents who need the services of DCYF seldom “shop” for them. A family needing services are referred to DCYF by schools, by health professionals, by law enforcement officials, and by courts. Given the desire to suppress costs by all government entities, it is hard to imagine that having an array of agencies to choose from would yield lower costs for taxpayers and better service of children that the current system in place. The root causes of the problems that manifest themselves in family dysfunction are often systemic: and our system that de-values shelves of the disadvantaged, scapegoats the services providers for children in poverty, and suppresses taxes has created a vicious cycle that can only be broken by voters if they are willing to dig a little deeper in their pockets to help their neighbors in need.

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