New Hampshire has a new State Child Advocate.
The Executive Council on Wednesday approved Cassandra Sanchez for the position. She succeeds Moira O’Neill, the first person to hold the position. O’Neill declined to seek a second, four-year term.
Sanchez, who was nominated by Gov. Chris Sununu, last worked for the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families as a supervisor in the Kinship unit. She has a background in mental health.
The office was created as an independent oversight agency for the state Division of Children, Youth and Families. It was part of an effort to reform the state’s child protection system in the wake of two toddler deaths in 2014 and 2015.
The new advocate comes in at a time when New Hampshire is grappling with several high-profile cases, including the disappearance of Harmony Montgomery.
In 2020, a new law expanded its oversight to all state agencies that provide services to children, as well as to other public and private organizations.
The office’s work has included systemic reviews of the use of of restraint and seclusion of children in residential care and how the state supports infants born exposed to drugs and alcohol.