SB 244 gives broader discretion to social service agencies

Last November, the death of a three-year old girl in Nashua led to questions being raised on the state oversight and child abuse. This consequently gave birth to Senate Bill 244 (SB 244). The child, Brielle Gage, was subjected to assaults at the hands of her mother, Katlyn Marin (25) and was killed over a two-day period. The mother has been charged with second-degree murder in the case.

SB 244 was introduced by state Senator David Boutin, R-Hooksett and was signed into law by Governor Maggie Hassan on Thursday, June 11, 2015. The bill provides broader powers to social service agencies to enter homes in cases of suspected child abuse.

In an attempt to bring forward this bill, Senator Boutin joined hands with a friend of Brielle’s family, the New Hampshire Kids Count and other child advocacy groups. The legislation also creates a commission to investigate handling of child abuse reports and recommends changes to the same[1]. The commission is likely to include government representatives, state agencies and nonprofits organizations like Kids Count and the Coalition against Domestic and Sexual Violence.

According to the new law, upon notification of a child’s safety at stake, the court “shall,” upon finding probable cause, order a home visit for further investigation. (Amendment to RSA 169-C:34, IV). This is the broader discretion that the existing law tends to give the courts. In addition to this, the child “shall not be returned” to the home unless the court finds that there is no threat of imminent harm posed to the child and that the parent(s) is/are actively engaged in efforts to address the circumstances that led to the removal of the child. (Amendment RSA 169-C:18 by inserting paragraph V-c).

The law calls for an interim report from the commission on November 1, 2015 and a final report by June 30, 2016.

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