Law gives agencies broader power to enter homes where child abuse is suspected
CONCORD, NH — A bill that gives social service agencies broader powers to enter homes in cases of suspected child abuse was signed into law by Gov. Maggie Hassan on June 11, 2015.
SB 244 was introduced by state Sen. David Boutin, R-Hooksett, after the death of a 3-year-old girl in Nashua last November raised questions about state oversight and child abuse reporting.
Brielle Gage was killed in November following assaults over a two-day period, allegedly at the hands of her mother, Katlyn Marin, 25, of Nashua, who has been charged with second-degree murder in the case.
Court records showed the girl, along with her four brothers, were initially removed from Marin’s Nashua home in the spring of 2014 after allegations of child abuse first surfaced. But all of the children were eventually sent back home despite a pending second-degree assault charge pending against Marin for allegedly beating her 8-year-old son with a studded belt.
Boutin worked with a friend of Brielle’s family, along with New Hampshire Kids Count and other child advocacy groups to develop the legislation, which also creates a commission to investigate how child abuse reports are handled and to recommend changes.
The new law says that upon notification that the safety of a child may be endangered, the court “shall”, upon finding probable cause, order a home visit for further investigation. The existing law gave the court broader discretion in making that decision
The new law also states that the child “shall not be returned” to the home unless the court finds that there is no threat of imminent harm and that the parent or parents are actively engaged in efforts to address the circumstances that led to the removal.
The commission will include government representatives, state agencies and nonprofits like Kids Count and the Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence.
The law calls for an interim report from the commission on Nov. 1, and a final report by June 30, 2016.
“We must always be working to do everything that we can to prevent child abuse and neglect so that every child can secure their fundamental right to be safe, to be cared for and loved, and to seize his or her vast potential,” said Hassan after signing the bill into law. “Senate Bill 244 helps ensure that all of our children have this opportunity, giving state officials another tool to help prevent child abuse and neglect.”