DCYF: New Hampshire's
Child Protective Services agency

First things first

Did you come to this page while searching the WWW to learn how to deal with your first visit with DCYF? First, take a deep breath. Next, visit my wife's site, starting at http://nhdcyf.info/first_contact.html, read some of her other pages, then come back here to learn the rest about an agency that strikes fear into the best informed citizens of this state.

I can't determine exactly when I first published this page. It was in the last century, but no earlier than 1998. NHDCYF.info split off from these pages in May 2003. My DCYF pages haven't changed much since 2002, and this page in particular became quite stale with many broken links.

In many ways that is a good thing, because it implies that DCYF no longer annoys me enough to devote as much time to the WWW and USENET as I did back then. Even better, it's allowed me a chance to persue various weather and climate projects including various weather spotting groups.

This page is still useful, but it is time to trim some of the older stories. There are still important issues, and those will stand out better. Maybe some of the old stories will reappear in a retropsective with a "Can you believe the state ever did that?" theme.

Recent updates

For regular visitors, here's what I've been up to lately:

There is a recent updates section at my wife's site, http://nhdcyf.info/index.html, too.


All over the country, citizens and non-citizens are discovering that the ideals of state agencies charged with protecting children have run amok. Reports from anonymous callers, Police, and Emergency Room personnel are leading to many investigations of law-abiding families. While many of these investigations wind up being dropped as unfounded, the remaining cases put people through a financial and emotional wringer.

A case in Massachusetts is typical. Parents brought their twin sons to the Children's Hospital emergency room in Boston. X-rays disclosed multiple bone fractures in one child. The Massachusetts Dept. of Social Services was alerted, and the children were taken away and place in foster care. Doctors not on the payroll of the DSS but part of the hospital's child protection team were quick to diagnose child abuse, other doctors with more germane backgrounds were ignored. No attempt was made to investigate alternative diagnoses, even after tests and review disclosed the proper diagnosis, "Brittle Bone Disease". Ultimately, the court system threw out the case.

To be sure, there are cases where lives have been saved by prompt action by the agencies. However, the reluctance of Child Protective Service (CPS) agencies to admit and repair mistakes is unconscionable and the public, the press, and the internet community are beginning to take note. Not only does CPS go after falsely accused parents, sometimes they are perpetrators themselves. In Maine, foster child Logan Marr was suffocated by duct tape placed over her mouth and nose by her foster caregiver Sally Schofield. Schofield was originally charged with manslaughter and bail set at $500 "because she had little [biological] children and she should be at home." However, the charge was upgraded to "depraved indifference murder," Eventually she was found guilty of manslaughter. Schofield used to work for Maine's DHS training foster contractors.

A USENET post soon after the conviction reports, "... is back on the streets after about a week in the county jail. They said they were granting bail because she had to be kept in solitary confinement to protect her from other prisoners. It's been over a month and there is no sentencing date projected. I doubt there ever will be." However, she was sentenced to 20 years in prison (28 years with 8 years suspended) and is incarcerated while the sentence is being appealed to the state supreme court.

The Supreme Court in 2005 overturned the conviction because Schofield had waived a jury trial and the judge imposed a greater than usual sentence. Schofield was resentenced to 20 years with 3 years suspended and is appealing that sentence.

One common theme in CPS cases is that the agency hides behind a veil of secrecy - to protect their client's privacy is the most often proffered reason. Even when the clients go public with their stories, the CPS maintains its silence, still claiming they must protect their clients privacy. DCYF has sought to minimize leaks by seeking court orders to ensure embattled parents remain quiet under the threat of being charged with contempt of court or violation of state law.

Table of Contents

The following are links to subsections of this page. Several have links to the other pages at this site. The following are links to some of Paula Werme's pages and cover topics that would be here if they weren't there.

The NH BRIDGES database

One common theme among CPSes is a presumption of guilt. Even after courts summarily reject abuse or neglect charges against parents, their children are not always returned. The pages on the NH BRIDGES database are from the training manual, but they also provide some accidental insight about how DCYF looks for the cloud in any silver lining. As you read through the scenario in the introduction and later pages, keep track of the strength of the evidence against the parents, how it is recorded, and how the system is laced with a presumption of guilt. Deny that your kid has been abused, and DCYF deftly assumes you are guilty of neglecting your child's welfare.

Fortunately, access to NH Bridges is tightly controlled and information about abuse/neglect cases is available only to certain DCYF employees. I don't know how a Bridges case number appeared on a Concord Hospital admission form that was filled out one Saturday night when DCYF offices were closed. I'm sure there's a good explanation.

Abuse or medical misdiagnoses

Osteogenesis Imperfecta, commonly called "Brittle Bone Disease" is a genetic disease with a wide range of severities. Difficult to diagnose, except in the most severe cases, Child Protective Services the medical profession in several states have have been quick to remove children from home and slow to diagnose OI. This has been a problem in New Hampshire, but the last few years have been pretty quiet. A success story? Perhaps! There are thousands of WWW pages now that mention OI and child abuse. A lot of information is available to both parents and CPS.

Wally and Debby Hines of Minnesota were accused of abusing their six week old baby and lost him to foster care for several months. Despite a diagnosis of OI and another break while in foster care, the state attempted to take their son after another break four months after being returned to the family. They fled the country to when they heard that police were on their way. They returned after CPS promised to leave the family intact. They now have a second son and a WWW site, http://www.protectourfamilies.com/ dedicated to helping people in similar binds.

The Osteogenesis Imperfecta Foundation also has useful information.

We've all heard of cases of Shaken Baby Syndrome. However, while many doctors know what to look for, they don't understand the variations between individuals or other disorders that can lead to more severe injury. Impacts, deliberate or accidental, can cause a much greater force. Not all cases diagnosed as Shaken Baby Syndrome are truly abuse. Shaken Baby Syndrome Defense has more information than DCYF or emergency room physicians have to distinguish between abuse, accidents, or mimics.

While not a New Hampshire case, a visitor described her involvement with CPS when she was acused of child neglect for researching alternative treatments for Myasthenia Gravis instead of the thymectomy prescribed by the surgeon. Her story was so interesting that we created a web page to warn people of this risk.

"At least the KGB doesn't take your children."

This quote comes from Elena Katz, a Russian emigre who found herself homeless and with a infant one Christmas season. She commented on the similarity with Mary and Jesus in Bethlehem. Unfortunately, that was interpreted to mean she was delusional and unfit to be a parent. DCYF accused her of neglect and took custody of the baby. Eventually her daughter was returned, and Ms. Katz later won a civil rights case against DCYF. [Foster's Daily Democrat, 1998 April 18, John Wolfson reporter]

Double head fracture - double scare

Suppose you're cooking dinner one evening and you accidentally drop your first born son on the floor. At the hospital you find that both sides of his skull are fractured. Since you cannot explain exactly how the fall did that, DCYF has to be notified. Then the next day you discover the true nature of DCYF and that the scariest events are not past.

Stephen, from Rollinsford, wrote this account of his family's experience. His son was was never put in foster care, but his case is still open. One odd lesson in all this - if your child sustains a fractured skull, you may be in more trouble if his weight is below the 25th percentile.

"Hungry as wolves and aggressive as lions."

This is a first hand account of the start of eight year old Corina Turgeon's stay in NH foster care, written two years later. It is one of the very few accounts anywhere that comes directly from the "victim" and shows the eloquence that can come from enduring bad situations. Corina was released to home from foster care in six months, much shorter than the usual stay.

Foster care survivors

Corina was lucky, but what about the foster children who aren't returned home and who aren't adopted? In general, they "emancipate" from foster care when they turn 18, ready or not. Limits on what they can save before heading out, lack of survival skills, and lack of a family support system all combine to make for a rocky start. Many wind up in prison, most have trouble forming long term relationships with friends, all have difficulties that last for years.

Foster Survivor and FormerFosterChildrenStories are WWW sites started by ex-foster children and provide a support system that the states don't. After years of trying to stop CPS from putting children into foster care, sites like these opened my eyes to the longterm effects of foster care. There's no place like home. The personal accounts at each site include stories from people in their 40s or older - clearly foster care is a life altering experience that one never fully recovers from.

Home schooling

Several CPSes, DCYF included, are reacting to the remarkable growth in home schooling by trying to find ways to get to the children to ensure their safety and to offer their services. Ironically, part of the growth in home schooling is due to DCYF's close ties to school administrators and guidance counselors. After unpleasant, unwarranted, and unnecessary "assistance" by DCYF, several parents have concluded that DCYF's ready access to their children in school is untenable and are looking for alternatives to public education, including home schooling.

The Home Schooling Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) specializes in home schooling law. Many of their cases deal with parents charged with abuse or neglect for home schooling.

Abuse/Neglect reports and followup

In New Hampshire, as in several other states, all persons are required to report suspected abuse or neglect. Except for malicious reports, reporters are granted immunity from retaliation or other charges. Reports are handled very inconsistently and offer great opportunities for abuse as few (if any) people are prosecuted for making false reports.

Anonymous reports and aggressive followup

Not only does DCYF refuse to comment on any case, but they happily accept anonymous complaints. As do Police departments. In one case that is still active, a police investigation was initiated after receiving "an anonymous cellular phone call" alleging that the passing motorist heard a child screaming and saw the child being hit over the head by an adult male. The investigating officer talked to the mother and was told that there had been a squabble between two of her children. He demanded to see the children, but was refused on fourth amendment principles. The policeman left, saying he would file a child abuse report, thereby bringing DCYF into the case.

The man of the house is state senator David Wheeler, who was at a political fundraiser at the time. He is also embroiled in a controversy in town over his right and permits to spread paper mill byproducts in a Christmas tree grove he is starting behind his house. The town has refused to turn over the police investigation report while the investigation was open. However, the police did tell the local newspaper that they had concluded that Sen. Wheeler is not a suspect. The report was finally turned over at a court hearing. The police department has also refused to turn over or tapes of the incoming call despite past court cases affirming that such tapes are public record. The police department has concluded that Sen. Wheeler is not a suspect. The also concluded that the report was not "malicious or without basis." If there is a basis to the report, why have the police closed the investigation?

While the squabble is primarily between the Wheelers and the police, the police contacted DCYF and the case has been entered into NH BRIDGES. At the time, Sen. Wheeler was on the senate committee that oversees DCYF and is well known for helping constituents who have had problems with DCYF. DCYF closed the case without a finding, citing that the Wheelers had been uncooperative in the investigation. Much of this case has played out in public. An editorial from the Keene Sentinel did a good job summarizing the affair, but is no longer available online. [Keene Sentinel, 1998 Sep 3, et al]

Police reports and aggressive followup

Police often file reports of suspected abuse/neglect when they don't think there's a case, but because they would put themselves at risk if they didn't report.

When DCYF gets a police report, I think they figure it must be serious given some of their actions (e.g. neglect charges against both parents for each kid after one parent accidentally left one kid at a nearby supervised recreation spot).

Other reports and poor followup

On the other hand, a 2000 report made on Oct 31 triggered phone calls on November 6th and 9th. Later on the 9th, Kassidy Bortner was pronounced dead. While DCYF encourages people to report almost any suspicion, they don't seem to realize that if they encouraged only reports that deserve investigation they wouldn't waste as much time investigating false reports. In the aftermath of this case, a Concord Monitor article said that DCYF will review their policy. [Concord Monitor, 2002 Jan 13, Stephanie Hanes reporter]

Tricks of the trade

When you look at the DCYF cases that make the news or hear victims' stories at meetings around the state, various patterns of action emerge. Tricks of the trade takes a look at some of the most common actions and how DCYF employs them. That page also has a link to the side effects of the secrecy DCYF employs.

The adoption connection

If you ask DCYF, they will be quick to say that their primary goal with foster kids is reunification with their biological parents. Their actions are another matter. Some foster caregivers are in it to give kids a place while their parents recover from some crisis and work to return the kids as soon as possible. However, consensus among CPS watchers around the country that these fosters are in the minority. Some are in it for the money and do things like take a clothing allowance but dress the kids in clothes from Goodwill. These children are often at greater risk of neglect and abuse than they were at home. Other fosters are in it for adoption, and are looking for an instant family. These can often be the hardest fosters to deal with as they are most motivated to prevent visitation and work to promote "Alienation of Affection" in the children.

Where does reunification rate? Not very high, it turns out. For example, a federal program sponsors the "Court Improvement Project". Sounds like a good idea, until you look into it. http://www.nhfostercare.org had an article which stated:

According to a recent administrative review, completed by the New Hampshire Division for Children, Youth and Families, there are approximately 1,700 children in New Hampshire currently in out-of-home care. Additionally, the average number of placements for foster children in New Hampshire is approximately three and the average length of placement for foster children in the state is approximately two and one half to three years.

To ensure that these children move through the court process more quickly and achieve permanency sooner, the New Hampshire Administrative Office of the Courts received a grant in 1995 from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to establish the New Hampshire Court Improvement Project. The project, funded through 2002, is under the supervision of Judge Edwin Kelly and the New Hampshire District and Municipal Court. New Hampshire is one of 48 states that has created a Court Improvement Project to address permanency for children and other issues related to abuse and neglect.

Reunification, if it is included at all, is under "other issues".

There is at least one case where a DCYF social worker promised an infant to a friend to foster and then adopt - and moved the newborn from hospital to foster care without bothering to charge the mother with abuse or neglect! We don't know how many cases there are, but even one is enough to discredit the state's efforts to "protect" the privacy of the parent and child by keeping adoption records sealed.

Aging out: The end of the line

Once a kid in foster care turns 18, his or her world changes dramatically. While a petition can made to continue services while they are in school, the transition to adulthood is difficult. Several years ago the federal government leaned on states to offer independent living training so kids have some job hunting, apartment hunting, and money management skills. Oftentimes they go back to their original family or join the siblings' or other relatives family. Sometimes this is good and what everyone except DCYF wants. Few are really able to support themselves on their own and often wind up in some other "family" setting. College is the best outcome, and in 2007 New Hampshire's legislature considered a bill to waive tuition to state colleges for ex-foster children. Military service is another good outcome, especially for teaching discipline. All too often ex-foster youth wind up homeless or in the state prison system, yet another "family."

I testified in support of the college tuition waiver, pointing out that if the alternative is prison, the tuition waiver would be much less expensive to the state.

The Witch Hunt of Wenatchee

I really want this page to have a New Hampshire focus, but a nearby witch hunt 300 years ago has been "improved" upon in Wenatchee, Washington.

Troxel v. Granville

On 2000 June 5, the US Supreme Court noted that "the liberty interest at issue in this case - the interest of parents in the care, custody, and control of their children - is perhaps the oldest of the fundamental liberty interests recognized by this Court" and ruled that "As we have explained, the Due Process Clause does not permit a State to infringe on the fundamental right of parents to make childrearing decisions simply because a state judge believes a "better" decision could be made."

This is more than a breath of fresh air, it may be the decision that blows away the underpinnings of DCYF's ability to interfere with parents who have not been proven of abuse or neglect.

The Executive and Judicial Branches

On the other hand, NH's family and district courts are less interested in your rights than DCYF's health. While these courts are part of the Judicial branch of state government and DCYF is part of DHHS (Department of Health and Human Services) in the Executive branch, it's dangerous to look to our courts as impartial seekers of truth and justice. If you have to go to court, first read how Judge John Maher and others perceive DCYF.

USENET and alt.support.child-protective-services

While the world Wide Web is a wonderful medium for making information available to all, it has its limitations. Finding new pages before they are indexed by search engines is difficult. Email lists help to notify subscribers of new pages, but USENET is better in several ways. For those of you unfamiliar with USENET, its faults may be more apparent than its benefits. It's worst fault is that it has a low "signal to noise ratio". However, it is archived at Google.com which offers a good way to find something on anything, especially on current events.

Near the end of 1999, I created the USENET newsgroup alt.support.child-protective.services to provide a public, archived forum for discussion about CPS and how to deal with them. Assume that anything you post there will be read by your mother, your children, and everyone at DCYF. The link on the title link probably won't work for you. If it fails, your ISP's help pages probably have instructions for using Netscape Messenger or Microsoft Outlook Express to access USENET. (Newsgroups are often called discussion groups as a more intutive description.)

I frequently post links to updates at this site here, others post news stories, and several try to educate other readers about the ways of CPS. It's a very good forum to learn about differences between the states.

The Cathedral and the Bazaar

What does the development of Linux have in common with this and all the other Web sites springing up that take a critical look at CPS agencies? The motivation and the rewards are surprisingly similar. Child Protective Services and the Bazaar takes a unique look at why I and others spend so much time on the net fighting for truth, justice, and the Libertarian way. Unless you are familiar with Eric Raymond's The Cathedral and the Bazaar and with how CPS works, this page is almost certain to leave you befuddled.

Future WWW pages

We are interested in compiling accounts of people's experiences with DCYF, both positive and negative. Please
contact Paula Werme if you have something you want to share.

Others' CPS pages and sources of information

The following links are an eclectic lot. Some from victims of CPS "assistance", some are from CPS supporters, some are neutral. Something for everyone?

Pages with a legal or national emphasis

Some of these pages are also listed at the
bottom of Paula's law page, because they are useful in her practice.

The American Family Rights Association runs the most extensive national level pro-family site.

Linda J. Martin setup a site that shows the dedication that only comes from someone wronged by CPS. Her Fighting Child Protective Services False Accusations site is well worth checking out.

Ray Thomas runs Child Protector Watch, a newsletter looking recent developments and news. He has a lot of articles that are sufficiently different from other sites to make his an important link.

The National Child Abuse Defense and Resource Center is a clearinghouse with a national scope. Their emphasis is is on helping attorneys and providing references.

John Sidline at www.rightturns.com is starting a series on CPS actions and issues that draws heavily from information on the WWW. This suggests that there's now "too much" information available and that journalists can collect and organize into new articles. His first article, A Question of Abuse is very good.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Administration for Children and Families gathered this data on child abuse statistics for 1997. For New Hampshire, they report that 9,015 referrals were made for investigation, 1,092 were substantiated, and 824 perpetrators were identified. It would be interesting to see a breakdown of the the 8,000 unsubstantiated reports and why they were made in the first place. It would also be interesting to see how many perpetrators abuse/neglected multiple children and in how many cases no one was accused of being the perpetrator. Yes, your children can be taken with no one being charged with abuse or neglect!

DCYF has alleged Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy which is when a parent, usually mother, injures a child to gain recognition by bringing the child in for medical attention. This is often a faulty diagnosis, sometimes with tragic results. MAMA, Mothers Against Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy Allegations is an organization to correct the misperceptions and their results.

Pages based in New Hampshire

Some of these have links to national pages.

The New Hampshire State Library has a large WWW presence and is the home of the Family Resource Center. Their calendar has many courses with various target audiences. Be careful when registering for one as DCYF uses NH Bridges for some seminar registrations. You don't want to be in that database!

The New Hampshire Guardian ad Litem Board maintains a list of certified Guardians ad Litem. GALs are court appointed lawyers that do not act exactly as the child's attorney. A Missouri WWW page has a good description of their role in that state. Read their description of CASA too. In general, a child is better represented by a hired attorney than by a GAL.

Paula's and my web sites attracted the ire of a DCYF assessment worker, Sara Tirrell, in Plymouth NH. Paula has never met her, but our sites may have contributed to her starting a blog. Her early entries railed against us, but once she became pregnant the site is largely devoted to her son's development. I'm surprised at how much personal information she's posted. We didn't mention our daughter on the Web until she was 9 and didn't put up a picture until she was 13. Of course, our main concern was limiting DCYF's knowledge about her, I guess Sara doesn't have that worry.

Pages concentrating on other states

Massachusetts' DSS is almost legendary in the harm it has inflicted on families. Massachusetts attorney Greg Hession started his MassOutrage because he's outraged at some of the things DSS keeps doing. Barbara Johnson was so outraged she ran for governor. Her False Allegations shows the effects of beating ones head against the wall for too long.

Oregon's ChildProtectionReform.org is a website much like this. Lots of good web links and documents to peruse.

Nehmo Sergheyev's Blaze Law site has a lot of links to Missouri pages. He hasn't updated it in a while, though. Missouri is home to a number of sad cases. Sonja De Vivo's Shredded Society site shows how many of my "Tricks of the Trade" were used by a father to wrest custody of his youngest child. Ultimately they backfired and delays in the court system led to triggering the timeouts in the Adoption and Safe Families Act. The only "winner" in the case appears to be state, as it received a $4,000 adoption incentive authorized by the Act.

In Austin Texas, Robin Cash placed an ad in The Austin Chronicle asking, "Do you feel CPS has hurt your family?" She received 1,000 Email responses within a week and formed the group "Parents Get United" to organize everyone. They don't have a web site(!) but I was so impressed with the response rate that I decided to record it here. Robert Shepard does have a page about the events on his site.

Pages concentrating on other countries

Sad to say, but the United States does not have a monopoly on abuse by child abuse agencies. We are lucky in that Free Speech is taken more seriously here than perhaps in any other country. Dufferin VOCA (Voices of Children Alliance) concentrates on Dufferin County, Ontario. However, they have links to other Canadian and US sites and is a good springboard to other sites in Canada and to their CPS, the Children's Aid Society (CAS). The site has survived several attempts at shutting it down.

Australia seems to have a lot of trouble. The breakin and forced removal of Adam Todd sounds crazy, the video is very disturbing. Apparently it was all because a neighbor thought the baby should be fed formula and that boys shouldn't wear pink.

Pages that simply can't be categorized

Greek scholar Joseph Sarandos wrote an epic poem about CPS based on what he learned from years of trying to deal with the system. It's long (of course), but well worth reading. The final verse from A Call For Change:

If you are not a leader, but believe and understand,
And see the dangers as exist for children in our land,
Then send this as a letter to your representative,
Requesting that he read it and his own opinion give.

Contact Ric Werme or return to his home page.

Last updated 2007 April 12.