NH Office of Child Advocate urges family setting for children in state custody

The New Hampshire Office of the Children’s Advocate is concerned about the future of children at Sununu Youth Services Center as its closing date approaches. Office officials said they want the facility to continue while the state seeks to build a new operation that is more community-based. Officials said the facility should be smaller and provide a family setting. The OCA said incarcerating children is ineffective and leads to harmful outcomes. The office is pushing to move to a treatment model. “Individualized care is so important because we understand that children come with different sets of experiences that they bring with them,” said Cassandra Sanchez of the OCA. “Trauma has a big impact on their behavior and their ability to manage their behavior on their own, so what we understand is what children need is to be assessed based on their individual needs.” According to the OCA, nine of the 12 children at the Sununu Youth Services Center have long histories of referrals to the Division of Children, Youth and Families for issues of abuse or neglect. Three have previous child protection cases. Senator Becky Whitley, a Democrat representing Hopkinton, responded to the statement by saying the transition period should focus on the needs of children. “These kids end up in the juvenile justice system and then end up deep in the system due to early unmet needs,” Whitley said. The governor’s office said, “We are reviewing the children’s advocates’ statement and appreciate their continued diligence in this shared effort.”

The New Hampshire Office of the Children’s Advocate is concerned for the future of the children at Sununu Youth Services Center as its closing date approaches.

Office officials said they want the facility to continue while the state seeks to build a new, more community-focused operation.

Officials said the facility should be smaller and provide a family setting. The OCA said incarcerating children is ineffective and leads to harmful outcomes. The office is pushing to move to a treatment model.

“Individualized care is so important because we understand that children come with different sets of experiences that they bring with them,” said Cassandra Sanchez of the OCA. “Trauma has a big impact on their behavior and their ability to manage their behavior on their own, so what we understand is what children need is to be assessed based on their individual needs.”

According to the OCA, nine of the 12 children at Sununu Youth Services Center have long histories of referrals to the Division of Children, Youth and Families for issues of abuse or neglect. Three have previous child protection cases.

Senator Becky Whitley, a Democrat representing Hopkinton, responded to the statement by saying the transition period should focus on the needs of children.

These kids end up in the juvenile justice system and then end up deep in the system due to early unmet needs,” Whitley said.

The governor’s office said, “We are reviewing the children’s advocates’ statement and appreciate their continued diligence in this shared effort.”

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