Update on the Office of Child Advocate
We hear stories about the child protection system all the time, but we can't always assume that bad outcomes are a result of bad practice, or that good outcomes are a result of good practice. An OCA will help us move from a blame and excuse mentality to one of true accountability. An Office of Child Advocate will not solve all the problems within the child protection system, but it is a needed step to create transparency and to build public trust.
H.215 was introduced and referred to House Human Services in February. Since then, we have held a press conference and had two television appearances. There has been a great deal of support for this bill. House Human Services spent the first half of the session consumed with other issues, including child care, and has not heard testimony on an OCA to date.
The only opposition that we have heard thus far is from the DCF administration. I don't think any state's administration has sought oversight of itself. However, we are all invested in better experiences and outcomes for kids. If this office is established well, my sincere hope is that DCF will see the value in it. In order for that to happen, we all need to ensure that once the office is established, we take action on their recommendations. It is great to have NH as a model, we have statements from DCYF employees there who see great value in the OCA. I have also spoken with the Commissioner from NH DCYF and have received positive feedback.
There are a couple of pieces of the bill that we would like to change and the sponsors of the bill seem open to that.
Two of the biggest shifts are:
1) We do not think this office should sit in a non-profit
2) We do not think the office should represent families before the human services board.
If you know of anyone who has experienced our child protection system, please ask them to share their story. https://www.voicesforvtkids.org/share-your-story