N.B.: These Web pages were not produced by an agency of the State of New Hampshire. They are here as a public service and attempt to accurately reflect material received through a "Right to Know" petition sent to Nancy Rollins, the current director of the Division of Children, Youth, and Families (DCYF).
NH BRIDGES is a database system used to track information about DCYF cases. Information is entered by DCYF case workers and several other state agencies. Medical and welfare information is also in the database. In general, the information collected tends to be "red flag" items. If the State paid for mental health counseling, that fact may well be recorded. If you are the coach of a Odyssey of the Mind team, it most likely is not.
As you read through the scenarios below, 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.
N.B. These pages were created by scanning the Classroom Materials and extracting text via OCR. It has been reformatted to fit typical WWW pages. Several graphic elements have been omitted. The goal here is to give readers an understanding of what NH BRIDGES is and how it is used by DCYF. This is not a substitute for the real training materials.
Not all sections have been scanned. Some more may be done, many will not. The most interesting parts of the document are the scenarios. The mechanics of entering data are most useful to users of the database, but some of the choices presented are interesting and show what information is collected.
Despite the reformatting, the text is as close to the original as possible, including some questionable wording, punctuation, etc. Ecept for navigation links, nothing has been added, nothing has been deliberately changed or lost.
DCYF reports that they retain records for:
This is consistant with state law that refers to the Central Registry, a separate database maintained by DCYF:
Section 169-C:35 Central Registry. There shall be established a state registry of abuse and neglect reports made pursuant to this chapter at the department for the purpose of maintaining a record of information on each case of alleged abuse or neglect reported. The registry shall be confidential and subject to the rules on access established by the commissioner of the department under RSA 541-A. Upon receipt by the department of a written request and verified proof of identity, an individual shall be informed by the department whether that individual's name is listed in the founded reports maintained in the central registry. Founded reports shall be retained for 7 years. Unfounded at-risk reports shall be retained for 3 years.
The Division is currently interpreting these numbers as minimums, not as requirements to destroy after a certain period of time. If they never change their computer programs, they'll still be in compliance. Actually, there's nothing in RSA 169-C:35 that refers explicitly to NH Bridges anyway and therefore it may not even apply.
They didn't destroy records when the records were paper, (and I have proof) and I'm sure if there is no change in the law, they won't change their computer programs to destroy records either.
In that case, the Division obtained legal custody of her child at the preliminary hearing (in violation of the statute) so she couldn't easily obtain medical opinions that she desperately needed for defense. DCYF, by controlling the kid, controlled the evidence.
In another 1996 case, DCYF kept telling the judge that they had "concerns" about the parent not charged with abuse, but refused to specify what their "concerns" were. The judge unceremoniously refused to give custody to the fit parent despite his repeated requests to do so. That practice has since been held unconstitutional by the NH Supreme Court, although the courts apparently are ignoring the decision, from my experience in practice.
In a 2002 case, I found an entire application for state welfare aid, via the New HEIGHTS data base in the DCYF file. These matters are supposed to be protected by federal privacy laws.
When you consider that evidence of payments to providers of psychological providers is also available, possibly along with diagnoses codes, the ability to DCYF to collect otherwise confidential information far surpasses the ability any other private or government agency to have access to records protected by federal privacy statutes.
Contact Paula Werme, Esq. or return to Law Practice home page.
Last updated 2002 January 25. (Originally written 1998 August 4.)