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Jan 29, 2016 7:12 PM

Landrigan: Child Fatalities Commission checks for holes in NH safety net to protect kids

CONCORD - The Child Abuse Fatalities Commission uncovers holes in the safety net to protect children from abuse and untimely death like the tragic demise in 2014 of Brielle Gage in Nashua and less than a year later Sadie Williott in Manchester.

"I couldn’t tell you the mental health services being offered. We just get a phone call back send the child home with the Mom. It’s okay. Okay. How are we protecting this child in the future? I don’t know,’’ says Dr. Michael Millier, director of Pediatric Critical Care at Elliot Hospital.

An associate commissioner pleads with the pediatric expert that it can’t be that bad.

"I’m fairly certain this isn’t 100 percent of cases,’’ says Associate Health and Human Services Associate Commissioner Mary Ann Cooney.

"I am certain it is not,’’ Miller answers.

"Could you please express in some detail if you can what goes right?’’ Cooney asks.

Leaders say a stressed out parent’s right to shut the door to state assistance doesn’t help.

"The ability for families to opt out of services is also a detriment to providing for safety for the children that we see,’’ says Deborah Pullin, assistant medical director of the Child Advocacy and Protection Program at Children’s Hospital at Dartmouth.

And problems have gotten worse since years ago when DCYF stopped offering 24/7 coverage.

We know that abuse happens on nights and weekends,’’ says Janet Carroll, coordinator of the New Hampshire Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner Program.

"Having someone on the scene that is so dedicated to the welfare of the child such as DCYF has the potential to make a very large difference.’’

These advocates still say the agency’s heart is in the right place.

"The vast majority of experiences we have with DCYF are positive,’’ Pullin adds.

Many of the solutions talked about in there are all about resources.

This commission isn’t the Legislature and it can’t spend money.

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