By Melanie Plenda

A joint study commission has recommended that a committee charged with investigating the child and family services system also come up with a plan to implement a family drug court in New Hampshire by 2020.

The bipartisan Committee to Study the Development of a Family Drug Court in New Hampshire released its recommendation in a report November 1. In it, they assigned the duty of outlining implementation of a Family Drug Court to the existing Joint Legislative Committee to Examine the Independent Review of the Division for Children, Youth and Families.

      “The Joint Legislative Committee has the ability to bring together all of the parties who would be involved in creating this new type of court,” the Family Drug Court Committee report says. “It also has a reporting date of 2020 providing the time needed to flesh out all of the important details, including a cost analysis.”

The committee says that legislation will be filed to add the additional responsibility to the committee.

In March, state senators approved three bills aimed at addressing staffing and funding deficiencies at DCYF which was widely criticized for mismanagement after the state settled several high-profile cases involving children whose deaths were linked to abuse and who had been under watch by the agency.

The division’s independent advocate, the Office of the Child Advocate, has also pointed to years of budget cuts and rising substance abuse disorders as issues contributing to the system’s current crisis.

An August federal review determined that the state’s child welfare services weren’t meeting standards for protecting children from abuse and neglect.

In addition to providing roughly $5.5 million in funding to the DCYF, the bills also created 13 new social worker positions and added to the budgets for foster care and state loan repayment programs. But one of the bills, SB 592, which largely went unnoticed, established a study committee to look at the viability of adding a family drug court to the group of specialized courts already in existence around the state.

 

Read more in the November 21 edition of Bar News.