Bill Text: NH HB1612 | 2022 | Regular Session | Introduced

NOTE: There are more recent revisions of this legislation. Read Latest Draft
Bill Title: Relative to the confidentiality of reports made to the division for children, youth, and families.

Spectrum: Moderate Partisan Bill (Republican 5-1)

Status: (Engrossed) 2022-04-14 - Refer to Interim Study, Motion Adopted, Voice Vote; 04/14/2022; Senate Journal 8 [HB1612 Detail]

Download: New_Hampshire-2022-HB1612-Introduced.html

HB 1612-FN - AS INTRODUCED

 

 

2022 SESSION

22-2050

11/05

 

HOUSE BILL 1612-FN

 

AN ACT relative to the confidentiality of reports made to the division of children, youth, and families and requiring guardians ad litem be appointed in certain instances.

 

SPONSORS: Rep. Spillane, Rock. 2; Rep. Roy, Rock. 32; Rep. Bershtein, Rock. 2; Rep. A. Lekas, Hills. 37; Rep. Read, Rock. 17; Sen. Avard, Dist 12

 

COMMITTEE: Children and Family Law

 

-----------------------------------------------------------------

 

ANALYSIS

 

This bill provides that the identity of any person reporting suspected child abuse or neglect shall be fully confidential unless such a person makes such a report in bad faith or maliciously and with intent to cause harm. This bill also requires courts to appoint guardians ad litem when reports of suspected child abuse or neglect involve one or more parties in a divorce proceeding.

 

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

 

Explanation: Matter added to current law appears in bold italics.

Matter removed from current law appears [in brackets and struckthrough.]

Matter which is either (a) all new or (b) repealed and reenacted appears in regular type.

22-2050

11/05

 

STATE OF NEW HAMPSHIRE

 

In the Year of Our Lord Two Thousand Twenty Two

 

AN ACT relative to the confidentiality of reports made to the division of children, youth, and families and requiring guardians ad litem be appointed in certain instances.

 

Be it Enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives in General Court convened:

 

1  Child Protection Act; Guardians Ad Litem.  Amend RSA 169-C:10, I to read as follows:

I. In cases brought pursuant to this chapter involving a neglected or abused child, the court shall appoint a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) or other approved program guardian ad litem for the child.  In cases brought pursuant to this chapter where one or more parties are involved in divorce proceedings, the court shall appoint a guardian ad litem for the child. If a CASA or other approved program guardian ad litem is unavailable for appointment, the court may then appoint an attorney or other guardian ad litem as the guardian ad litem for the child. The court shall not appoint an attorney for any guardian ad litem appointed for the child. The CASA or other approved program guardian ad litem shall have the same authority and access to information as any other guardian ad litem. For purposes of this paragraph, "unavailable for appointment" means that there is no CASA or other approved program guardian ad litem available for appointment by the court following a finding of reasonable cause at the preliminary hearing held under RSA 169-C:15 so that the child's interests may effectively be represented in preparation for and at an adjudicatory hearing.

2  Child Protection Act; Reporting Law; Nature of Report; Liability.  Amend RSA 169-C:30 and RSA 169-C:31 to read as follows:

169-C:30 Nature and Content of Report.  An oral report shall be made immediately by telephone or otherwise, and followed within 48 hours by a report in writing, if so requested, to the department. Such report shall, if known, contain the name and address of the child suspected of being neglected or abused and the person responsible for the child's welfare, the specific information indicating neglect or the nature and extent of the child's injuries (including any evidence of previous injuries), the identity of the person or persons suspected of being responsible for such neglect or abuse, and any other information that might be helpful in establishing neglect or abuse or that may be required by the department. All such reports made to the department shall include the name, address, or phone number of the person or persons making the report of suspected abuse or neglect of a child under this chapter.  The department shall inform the complainant that should the complaint be made maliciously or with intent to harm, that the identity of the complainer shall not be kept sealed.

169-C:31 Immunity From Liability.  

I.  Anyone participating in good faith in the making of a report pursuant to this chapter or who provides information or assistance, including medical evaluations or consultations, in connection with a report, investigation, or legal intervention pursuant to a good faith report of child abuse or neglect, is immune from any liability, civil or criminal, that might otherwise be incurred or imposed. Any such participant has the same immunity with respect to participation in any investigation by the department or judicial proceeding resulting from such report.

II.  It shall be a misdemeanor to knowingly make false statements of suspected child abuse as defined by RSA 169-C:3 to the department, to any court, to any law enforcement agency, to any social services agency, or to any mandatory reporter of suspected child abuse as defined in RSA 169-C:29.  Any person who knowingly or in bad faith makes a false report of suspected child abuse as defined by RSA 169-C:3 may also be subject to civil penalties.

3  Services for Children, Youth, and Families; Case Records.  Amend RSA 170-G:8-a, I(d) to read as follows:

(d)  The name of a person who makes a report of suspected abuse or neglect of a child pursuant to RSA 169-C:29, or any information which would identify the reporter, except as provided in subparagraph VI(c).

4  New Subparagraphs; Services for Children, Youth, and Families; Case Records; Confidentiality.  Amend RSA 170-G:8-a, VI by inserting after subparagraph (b) the following new subparagraphs:

(c)  The identity of the person who makes a report of suspected abuse or neglect of a child shall be confidentially retained separately from any other case records of the department.  Such information shall be sealed and confidential at all times unless and until the complaint is found by the caseworker assigned to the complaint to have been made in bad faith or maliciously and with intent to cause harm.  The identity of any complainant found to have been made in bad faith or maliciously and with intent to cause harm shall be unsealed and identified, and included as part of the case records of the department.  Under no circumstances shall the identity of a complainant who makes a report of suspected abuse or neglect in good faith or pursuant to RSA 169-C:29 be released.

5  Effective Date.  This act shall take effect 60 days after its passage.

 

LBA

22-2050

Redraft 12/20/21

 

HB 1612-FN- FISCAL NOTE

AS INTRODUCED

 

AN ACT relative to the confidentiality of reports made to the division of children, youth, and families and requiring guardians ad litem be appointed in certain instances.

 

FISCAL IMPACT:      [ X ] State              [ X ] County               [    ] Local              [    ] None

 

 

 

Estimated Increase / (Decrease)

STATE:

FY 2022

FY 2023

FY 2024

FY 2025

   Appropriation

$0

$0

$0

$0

   Revenue

$0

$0

$0

$0

   Expenditures

$0

Indeterminable Increase

Indeterminable Increase

Indeterminable Increase

Funding Source:

  [ X ] General            [    ] Education            [    ] Highway           [    ] Other

 

 

 

 

 

COUNTY:

 

 

 

 

   Revenue

$0

$0

$0

$0

   Expenditures

$0

Indeterminable Increase

Indeterminable Increase

Indeterminable Increase

 

METHODOLOGY:

This bill: (1) requires that the court appoint a guardian ad litem (GAL) in child protection cases in which there is also an ongoing divorce proceeding; (2) requires that all individuals making reports of child abuse or neglect to the Department of Health and Human Services include their name and address; and (3) makes it a misdemeanor to make false reports and creates civil penalties for knowingly making false reports of abuse and neglect.  With respect to (1), the Department states that if the bill's intent is for the court to appoint GALs only for cases under RSA 169-C, statute already provides for such appointment and there will be no additional cost. If, however, the intent is to provide for GALS instead of court-appointed special advocates (CASA) in cases also concerning divorce, the bill will increase costs to the Judicial Branch but not to the Department. (Additional impacts to the Judicial Branch are described below.)  With respect to (2), the Department assumes no fiscal impact.

 

With respect to (3), there is no method to determine the number of additional charges that may be brought as a result of the newly-created misdemeanor.  However, the entities impacted have provided the costs associated with such cases below:

 

Judicial Council

FY 2022

FY 2023

Public Defender Program

Has contract with State to provide services.

Has contract with State to provide services.

Contract Attorney – Misdemeanor

$300/Case

$300/Case

Assigned Counsel – Misdemeanor

$60/Hour up to $1,400

$60/Hour up to $1,400

It should be noted that a person needs to be found indigent and have the potential of being incarcerated to be eligible for indigent defense services. Historically, approximately 85% of the indigent defense caseload has been handled by the public defender program, with the remaining cases going to contract attorneys (14%) or assigned counsel (1%).  Beginning in March of 2021, the public defender program has had to close intake to new cases due to excessive caseloads.  Due to these closures, the contract and assigned counsel program have had to absorb significantly more cases. The system is experiencing significant delays in appointing counsel and the costs of representation have increased due to travel time and multiple appointments.

NH Association of Counties

FY 2022

FY 2023

County Prosecution Costs

Indeterminable

Indeterminable

Estimated Average Daily Cost of Incarcerating an Individual

$105 to $125

$105 to $125

 

The cost to the Judicial Branch is indeterminable.  There is no method to determine how many charges would be brought as a result of the changes contained in the bill.  In the past the Judicial Branch has used average caseload data based on times studies to estimate the fiscal impact of proposed legislation.  The per case data on costs for routine criminal cases currently available to the Judicial Branch are based on studies that are more than fifteen years old, so the data does not have current validity.  A new case study is being conducted and updated estimates will be available in the future.

 

It is assumed that any fiscal impact will begin in FY 2023.

 

AGENCIES CONTACTED:

Department of Health and Human Services, Judicial Branch, Judicial Council and New Hampshire Association of Counties

 

feedback