Director's Corner

AUGUST 16, 2012

David Villiotti, Executive Director
November 10, 2022 / 5 mins read


During my 26 year tenure at Nashua Children’s Home, I have often taken calls from parents advocating for a stay at Nashua Children’s Home for their child. They often describe a series of hard knocks, perhaps some questionable decisions that they’ve made, but typically speak to putting their lives in order while their adolescent son or daughter is running amok. My standard reply is to review the possible vehicles for residential placement at Nashua Children’s Home.

“Has your son been involved in any deliquent activity?” I ask. “Thank God, no!” says the parent. “Is there any basis for your being charged with abuse or neglect?” I go on. “What!!?” is the response I often hear. I then would describe the lone remaining option, which parents would often pursue, that being going to district court and filing a CHINS (Child In Need of Service) on behalf of their child, ostensibly for having “…disobeyed the reasonable and lawful command of their parent.” Even this was not an appealing option to parents, who would initially plead that their relationship with their child was tough enough. And yes, it did involve having an attorney appointed for their child, with their son or daughter then entering a plea. There was no getting around the reality that this was an adversarial process. But yet, it was a process that was available to parents in an unenviable position.

Fast forward to the New Hampshire legistlative session of 2011, of which I had written in the Fall 2011 newsletter. Now, the CHINS statute has been restructured in a manner that no longer offers parents this option. The change is perhaps best illustrated by a discussion at a recent Board of Directors meeting, where I was reviewing the new CHINS statute.

“So, do you mean that we can’t do anything about those kids that stay out all night and break into people’s houses?” asked a Board member. “No,” I replied, “we can still do something about those kids. It’s the kids that stay out all night and don’t break into people’s houses that we can’t do anything about.”

Since the new statute has taken effect, rarely a week goes by where I don’t field a call from a desperate parent, feeling that their son or daughter who is out of control would benefit from placement at Nashua Children’s Home and wondering how to make that happen. I now describe a circuitous process where if their son or daughter is fortunate enough to be diagnosed with a mental illness, and presents a requiste level of danger; the parent can make thier case to the local juvenile justice office. If it passes muster in that venue, it’s then kicked up to Concord and only if meeting the State Office gate-keeping approval, does it proceed to district court locally. Now, rather than parents being thankful their son or daughter has not engaged in delinquent activity, such behavior provides an opportunity to access the system. Being completely out of control at home may not be a sufficient vehicle for services at Nashua Children’s Home, but shoplifting a pair of nylons from Kohl’s might do it.

There are some efforts afoot to mitigate the delterious effect to the revision of the CHINS statute. Unfortunately, the train has left the station, as it were, much to the detriment of at-risk youth. We will continue, with the assistance of community leaders, to right the wrongs of a system that has been turned on it’s head.