The New Road | Proposal 5: Family Advocacy Rights
Explore critical details about the reasoning behind each proposal and the intended effect to increase transparency and effectiveness of NH's Child Protection System.
Read the long term Cost Analysis statement associated with leaving NH's Child Protection System "as is."
5. Affirming a Family's Right to an Advocate of Their Choice
Currently, DCYF is attempting to use RSA 170-G:8-a V to prevent and intimidate families from seeking support and advocacy from outside parties. The statute says that, "...it shall not be unlawful for a parent or child to disclose case records or the information contained in them to persons providing counsel to the child or family. It shall be unlawful for any person who receives case records or the information contained in them from a parent or a child to disclose such records or information. Any person who knowingly discloses case records or information contained in them in violation of this paragraph shall be guilty of a misdemeanor."
While the statute does not define 'person' or 'counsel,' the Attorney General has recently decided to interpret the statute as applying to legal advice, in an action that does anything but build trust and communicate transparency. This means that families who need outside parties who are not legal counsel to advocate on their behalf, such as state legislators, family members, or advocacy groups, are being discouraged to do so under the penalty of a misdemeanor.
We believe legislation that clarifies and cements a family’s right to recruit the support of anyone of their choosing to advocate for them to DCYF, including through the release of records and communicating with DCYF staff, is paramount to ensuring a family's civil rights and providing additional oversight of DCYF's actions. Not all families can afford legal counsel, nor should they be compelled to seek it if they do not wish to. Additionally, some families may want a second opinion, or the assistance of another party in advocating on their behalf, as this process can be daunting and time consuming.