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Feb 15, 2017 12:30 PM

Ex-employee claims DCYF's negligence led to NH child setting himself on fire in lawsuit


A former employee of the Division of Children, Youth, and Families (DCYF) filed a lawsuit against her former employer on Jan. 27, with up to 20 separate complaints.

Legislators are calling this a whistleblower lawsuit because it came about after she was fired from the department.

Ashley Rossiter, of Massachusetts, is looking to bring to light the negligent nature of DCYF by highlighting several instances, including one in which a child set himself on fire after supervisors told her the situation was in the hands of the police.

The child Rossiter was working with reported to her that because of abuse he was enduring, he had planned to hurt himself or someone else, and that he had the means to do so hidden in the woods, according to court documents.

Rossiter reported the comment to police, who allegedly said they were unable to do anything due to lack of documentation. Her supervisor, Caroline Racine, allegedly would not approve it and said it was up to police to handle the situation.

The child ultimately set himself on fire and suffered third-degree burns over his body, and he had to be transported by medical helicopter to a burn facility, court documents stated.

“The number one thing that Ashley is looking to do is bring this out into the public and make it clear that the issues mentioned in her complaint are not isolated," Rossiter's Attorney Stephen T. Martin said.

Rossiter also alleges that the defendant did not properly supervise her, denying her of all promotion and raise opportunities and, ultimately, unlawfully terminating her.

She felt that she often went beyond her job description to find or remove children who were in significant danger and that her employer reprimanded her, instead of taking action on the children at risk, court documents state.

“These are division-wide issues. Our first hope is that this complaint, along with the review and other complaints, acts as a catalyst for change within DCYF," Martin said.

Rossiter felt that her supervisors poorly handled several incidents that she found "highly disturbing," including an instance when supervisors allegedly instructed the office staff to participate in what they called "the pig game."

Each staff member drew a pig, including Rossiter, and at the conclusion of their drawings, were allegedly told that the length of the pig's tail represented the quality of their sex lives.

On another occasion, Rossiter brought a case to her supervisor's attention, involving a child with marks on his body suggesting that he was beaten. The child claimed he had done it to himself, but medical reports showed otherwise.

Her supervisor/s allegedly disciplined her after she refused to close the case as "unfounded."

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