A leader of the state agency dedicated to the welfare of children supports the intent of a proposed foster parent bill of rights in New Hampshire.
Christine Tappan, associate commissioner of Human Services and Behavioral Health for the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services, said on The Exchange on Thursday that she was surprised that the state had not already enacted something similar because of past review by stakeholders, including a foster adoptive parents association.
She tells NHPR that her staff continues to review proposed legislation, which is a work in progress.
“We are in support of what is articulated as the aspirations within that foster parent Bill of Rights. Absolutely," she says. "What we would like actually really again is to have a fuller conversation about what are the best changes to be making in New Hampshire in particular what are the best to be putting into statute.”
It is one of several bills being considered at the State House, including a foster care children's bill of rights. Another dynamic in this debate is that the state's foster care population has doubled over the past three years, according to Joe
Ribsam, the director of the Division of Children, Youth & Families.
He joined Tappan on The Exchange to discuss steps the state has taken to improve child services and assessment after an investigation a year ago revealed DCYF to be in crisis. [Related Story: Outside Review: DCYF Had Backlog of More Than 2,000 Cases]
Ribsam was appointed last fall to help DHHS work on the transformation of the state’s child welfare system.
“In the current crisis that we found ourselves in, or the former crisis that we found ourselves in, the staff ended up getting tapped to do assessments or to cover cases and they could no longer be dedicated to support foster parents," he says. "The other dynamic there is that we’ve seen our foster care population double in the past three years.”
He says progress includes 20 additional staff members hired at the end of the last legislative session. There are currently 125 assessment positions, 113 of which are filled. Because of training requirements, only 85 are ready to carry a full-case load.
Ribsam says one challenge, despite a dedicated core of social workers, is a high staff turnover, which is not unique to New Hampshire.