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DCYF seeking bids to help revamp child-protective services

New Hampshire Union Leader - 2/17/2021

Feb. 17—Taking its second significant step to revamp child protective services, New Hampshire state officials said Tuesday they are seeking organizations to deliver a specific therapy that focuses on keeping troubled teens at home.

The state Department of Health and Human Services said it is soliciting bids from organizations to provide Multisystemic Therapy, a proprietary, evidence-based service for families of New Hampshire teenagers with antisocial, delinquent, physically aggressive or bullying behaviors.

"This model is really intense. It's really for the kids on the verge or even in our (juvenile justice) system," said Joseph Ribsam Jr., director of the state Division for Children, Youth and Families.

In 2019, DCYF initiated a self-examination that included DCYF staff, child protection agencies from other states, nonprofit agencies, and parents involved with DCYF.

Last November, DCYF announced its first outcome of the process: Waypoint and Family Resources Center in Gorham would offer support services for families that don't meet the threshold of children who are abused or neglected. Many of those represent impoverished families, and they number about 1,000 a year, Ribsam said.

The process then decided on five therapeutic models for families already in the system.

The first involves Multisystemic Therapy, which was developed at the Medical University of South Carolina. The program demands low case loads (no more than six per caseworker) and specific benchmarks for family contact, Ribsam said.

The MST designers will provide training, program development and quality assurance for counselors. With MST in place, DCYF will place less emphasis on Home Based Therapy, which involved counselors visiting homes but not following a specific therapeutic model, he said.

Savings in Home Based Therapy and federal matching grants should help pay for MST, Ribsam said. Officials estimate that about 250 families statewide will be eligible for MST.

Studies have shown that 91% of youth who receive MST remain home upon completion of the program; 86% of youth remained in school and employed; parental arrests even dropped in MST families.

DCYF is accepting bids for agencies to provide MST until Feb. 25.

Over the next 12 months, DCYF expects to solicit bids for organizations to provide other evidence based, proprietary therapies:

Intercept, which targets children under the age of 18 who have serious emotional and behavioral problems or have experienced abuse, neglect or trauma. It focuses on family skill development and family functioning.

Homebuilders, a four- to six-week, "high dosage" program designed to deliver intensive in-home counseling, skill building and stabilization to prevent removal of children from families, or to ease family reunification.

Healthy Families America, which focuses on new or expectant families. DCYF currently funds the program and hopes to expand it.

Child-Parent Psychotherapy, which focuses on trauma-exposed, preschool-aged children. It focuses on strengthening the parent-child relationship and restoring the child's sense of safety and attachment.

In a statement to the media, Department of Health and Human Services officials emphasized that the DCYF will work with other DHHS divisions and with community partners to implement the new service models.

"Community partners play a pivotal role in helping us deliver services to strengthen and support families in New Hampshire," said DHHS Commissioner Lori Shibinette. "We are excited to continue our current partnerships with community organizations that engage with families across the state every day and look forward to building new ones."


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