As news of Harmony Montgomery‘s disappearance traveled throughout New England, many looked at the top elected leaders in New Hampshire and Massachusetts for answers to how the system could’ve failed so badly in both states.
Governors Chris Sununu and Charlie Baker have had a long and friendly relationship. So it was noteworthy when Sununu sent a scathing letter to the Chief Justice of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court in January blasting the state’s handling of the Harmony Montgomery case.
Sununu’s anger back then has now turned to grief following news that the Harmony Montgomery case has been deemed a homicide.
In a statement Sununu said in part:
"Our greatest fears were confirmed today and now our efforts shift to ensuring justice for Harmony."
Sununu had questioned how a Massachusetts judge could have awarded custody of Harmony Montgomery to her father despite a history of violence and jail time, adding,
"I’m angry that the system didn’t have the right checks and balances in it. I’m angry that the states weren’t working together like they should with a compact that should’ve been in place."
Sununu was referring to a 1965 federal interstate compact that he says is outdated. He has proposed that the New England states have their own compact for the placement of children. There was no word from Sununu‘s office Thursday on if there has been progress made on that front.
Baker has not tried to defend the court system and said he understood where Sununu was coming from.
Following news of Harmony’s disappearance, Baker called for $50 million to recruit and train more guardians ad litem, for every child in DCF care. Currently, the majority of DCF children do not have that personal advocate - including Harmony Montgomery.
Charles Lerner, state director for CASA MA, court-appointed special advocates said he doesn’t do any of this through a political lens.
He added that the Montgomery case is a system failure that goes far beyond one person or one agency.
"Let’s get bold. Let’s think big… Let’s create a system that lifts people out of poverty, dramatically reduces the number of children who were in foster care, because then those that do hopefully will be adequate resources to ensure that they have every opportunity to thrive under some very challenging circumstances," he said.
As for the $50 million that Baker called for to increase the number of guardian ad litem - it did not pass through the legislature before the July 31 deadline. A state house source said there were significant concerns with his proposal including capacity issues, no minimum training requirements and no oversight.