Oct 28, 2015 6:58 PM
CONCORD - N.H. Attorney General Joe Foster updated the Child Fatalities Commission on changes he’d recommend to better protect abused kids.
"We’re not looking to lay blame or responsibility for what’s happened in the past. We’re looking to collaborate and make the system better.’’
The tragic deaths of Brielle Gage in Nashua and months later Sadie Willott in Manchester moved lawmakers to form the panel.
But there's a quirk in the law.
Cops have access to files on proven child abuse cases.
"But should a child die for whatever may have occurred access to the records are not permitted,’’ Foster said.
And how about the mandatory practice of destroying all files.
"Records by statute are automatically purged which means a caseworker looking at a particular family or particular individual doesn’t have the history,’’ Foster says.
The commission chair says it makes no sense since criminal cases can languish for years and be damaged because staff don’t stay.
"The caseworker turnover may be so high that caseworker may be in California,’’ says State Sen. David Boutin, R-Hooksett.
The agency director says some judges block the state from placing on file records about suspected but not proven abuse for when an actual crime is revealed in the same family.
"We do have some jurisdiction some courts that will not allow us to enter the information about unfounded reports,’’ says DCYF Director Lorraine Bartlett.
Some DCYF problems are hard to solve. Not enough money, staff instability, a tough burden of proof but giving cops access to the files of dead children and not destroying all the records - those look like easy fixes.
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