On November 1, 2013, The Child and Family Law Committee submitted a report under HB 418, Chapter 44:1, Laws of 2013. Their Memorandum, widely and broadly supported testimony from the NH Juvenile Court Diversion Network. The report, also included key recommendations for Juvenile Diversion, and called for elemental and specific findings in seeking to address Children in Need.
These important recommendations were:
1. Foremost, the state needs to improve the safety net available to juveniles and families by providing better access to affordable mental health and substance abuse treatment and counselors. Programs should be accredited and evidenced-based. Treatment should be multi-systemic and include the entire family. Services should be coordinated so all providers are in communication, including JPPOs, mental health therapists, schools, police, etc. Treatment and counseling should be available within schools, where possible. Continuity is essential to insure that stakeholders will be able to follow through the process with the child by providing continuity of the personnel(judges, prosecutors, JPPO’s therapists) and schooling involved in a child’s case.
2. Juvenile diversion services should be available in every county. Diversion services should include in-home treatment, as is appropriate, and may include concepts such as restitution and Community panels.
3. There needs to be more focus on the child following intervention; there should be follow-up aftercare services available to juveniles and families which may include, but should not be limited to, natural supports such as a family member, a neighbor, a teacher, or another person the child respects. There should also be an exit interview for every child and family leaving the CHINS system to determine what worked and what did not, whether the child got all of the services ordered and the quality of those services.
4. The state also needs to create the ability to track CHINS petitions throughout the state by law enforcement so one county can see petitions filed in another county.
5. The New Hampshire Department of Education should compile data and reports on effective truancy programs and disseminate the information to all school districts in the state.
6. The state should develop state-wide multidisciplinary teams with different areas of geographic responsibility or create a mobile state team which could travel to meet specific geographical needs, particularly in the North Country.
7. Legislation should be drafted to clarify the meaning of “habitual” to broaden the standard for when a juvenile’s behavior warrants a CHINS petition, particularly for the case where a single act may put the child in danger.
8. All schooling provided should be adequate so the child can get credit and transfer that credit to any public school in the state
9. There needs to be a comprehensive, open-minded review of the Sununu Center.
In reviewing these items and testimony, the study committee endorsed the concept of early intervention, and specifically stated that more programs throughout the state. Importantly, the state highlighted Diversion programs directly, in supporting youth, and lowering state costs. Lastly, and most importantly, the Child and Family Law Committee stated the needed support of the State for the Juvenile Court Diversion Network “whose research is credible and possesses comprehensive institutional knowledge.” Specifically, the committee cited that while money is being spent on services for children, it doesn’t feel that it’s being spent in the appropriate places.”
Lastly, and importantly, the committee finds that lack of services and staffing in northern New Hampshire, and called upon southern municipalities to collaborate, in an effort to free up funding that could be allocated to the North Country. This freed up funding, “would make the committee willing to explore the allocation of state dollars by square mile rather than per capita or some combination of both.” Further, where the financial difficulty involved in delivering services where it is unsustainable to in every town, the committee stressed this as a positive solution for the hurting youth in northern counties.