NH Executive Council approves contract to review 100 of 1,520 closed DCYF child abuse reports
CONCORD — Governor Chris Sununu said a contract approved by the New Hampshire Executive Council to review 100 closed DCYF child assessments is the first step into investigating the 1,520 cases that the department closed back in February of 2016.
With the Executive Council's approval of the $82,000 contract, DCYF will enter into a sole source agreement with Eckerd Youth Alternatives Inc. to provide a quality assurance review of the child protective assessments closed on Feb. 22 and 23 of 2016.
The Department of Health and Human Services, along with the Clearwater, Florida, a non-profit corporation, will pick the 100 cases to review, something that Sununu said he is not worried about.
"We've brought in some new folks that will take a lead in making sure that the quality control and oversight that we need in that department is there," Sununu said.
According to Jeff Meyers, commissioner of DHHS, just over 100 of the 1,520 closed cases were coded as potentially high-risk cases, therefore those will be the cases that Eckerd Kids will initially review.
These 100 cases is looked at as a sampling, Sununu said. Once the initial review of those cases is completed, Eckerd Kids will issue a final report to determine if additional assessments need to be revisited.
"They look at (the 100 cases) in really every detail and that's where I think some of Eckerd's expertise really comes into play, and then based on that they see what the next phase is," Sununu said.
Eckard Kids, which is nationally recognized for their "Rapid Safety Feedback" software, according to their website, has faced their own issues over the past years.
The Chicago Tribune reported that Eckerd Kids acknowledged last year that 43 foster children were forced to sleep in offices and other unlicensed locations after running out of foster beds. Also, five Florida children allegedly died while in the care of Eckerd Kids.
New Hampshire officials have reviewed these issues have been reviewed; however, the company is highly regarded when it comes to what DCYF will use them for, Sununu said.
"We're really using them for the tools and technical services and quality control aspect of their business, which they do very, very, very well," he added.
Both Meyers and Sununu plan on the investigation moving quickly.
According to the contract, Eckard Kids would begin their review June 8 by looking over DCYF's protocols in order to develop a safety analysis tool for the department. Eckerd Kids staff will then apply the safety analysis tool to the 100 assessments to measure compliance with the agency's protocols. From there, they will present a final report to DCYF with areas for improvements and strengths by Dec. 31.