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Dec 3, 2015 3:09 PM

Landrigan: NH legislative panel endorses keeping proven child abuse records forever

CONCORD - Those who loved the tragically killed children Brielle Gage and Sadie Willott have reason to smile today.

A key commission recommended Thursday to indefinitely keep records on the proven cases of child abuse.

Currently even these founded reports of abuse are destroyed every six years - unfounded complaints get tossed away after three years.

Commission Chairman and Sen. David Boutin, R-Hooksett, said this makes no sense given the high turnover of child protective workers and the need to build a case of alleged, repeated incidents.

"You have to build a record, a trail and that only happens if we are holding onto these files," Boutin told NH1 News. "Otherwise you could have a child fall through the cracks with disastrous consequences.’’

This proposal would compel state officials to keep unproven or unfounded files for at least 10 years. Even those complaints dismissed out of hand would have to be retained for seven years; at present those are tossed out as soon as the complaint is rejected.

The head of the state’s Division of Children, Youth and Families endorsed the move particularly as the proposed bill will have the change starting in September 2017.

"We want to be keeping our records particularly the founded records, longer than we have,’’ said Director Lorraine Bartlett.

Another change the panel embraced would double to 48 hours how long local police could take a suspected victim of child abuse into protective custody before there’s a hearing in court.

And it would extend the life of the commission to the end of June 2017.

The commission meets next Monday to hammer out its final recommendation - to make it clear that law enforcement has access to any abuse records on a child that dies for any reason.

Attorney General Joe Foster asked for this change.

Boutin said he’s confident lawyers for DCYF and Foster’s office will work out conflicts they have with the language.

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