National attention has focused on the case of still-missing 7-year-old girl Harmony Montgomery, who was last seen in 2019 but only reported missing late last year. Now, attention within New Hampshire will be focused on the state agency tasked with child welfare.
According to Gov. Chris Sununu (R), the N.H. Division of Children, Youth, and Families is currently subject to an internal review.
The Montgomery case came up during the tail end of a Wednesday press conference about the Granite State’s COVID-19 response.
“[A]ny time there is a critical case of a child, regardless of who the child is or the timing, we always do an internal review,” the governor said in response to a direct question about the girl’s whereabouts. “And I’ve instructed DCYF to already start that process, right, to do that understanding of not just where were we in this specific case, but was there any point where information wasn’t being transmitted? Was there any point where we hit a roadblock and/or didn’t respond to something, or anything like that?”
The governor went on to say he has confidence in the job the agency has done so far in assisting with the investigation and insisted the DYCF “is just pulling out every stop they can” to follow up on any relevant information related to Montgomery’s disappearance.
“But we’re doing an internal review, as we always do,” Sununu continued. “And if there’s anything to be found and learned from it, of course we will bring that to bear and change any processes that need to be changed.”
As Law&Crime previously reported, the missing girl was last seen sometime in late 2019 when she was five years old. She would be seven years old now. Harmony Montgomery’s missing status, however, was not reported until late 2021 by her mother, Crystal Sorey, who lost custody of her daughter in July 2018 due to substance abuse issues when the girl became a ward of neighboring Massachusetts.
Adam Michael Montgomery, 31, was arrested last week for assault charges over an incident that left his daughter with a black eye in 2019. The father was also charged with a series of relatively minor offenses related to his alleged treatment of and behavior towards the girl. Specifically, police charged him over his alleged failure to maintain custody of his daughter, for preventing child welfare agencies from taking custody of her, and for not providing information about Harmony Montgomery’s whereabouts when interviewed by Manchester police officers.
He is currently being held without bail.
The girl’s onetime stepmother, Kayla Montgomery, was arrested the next day, Jan. 6, for allegedly continuing to receive Harmony Montgomery’s food stamp benefits for several months despite not having lived with the girl–and allegedly admittedly not having seen her–since a morning in November or December 2019.
A recent report by Boston FOX affiliate WFXT anchor Kerry Kavanaugh notes that police in Manchester visited the Montgomery household some 13 times between June and November 2019–sometimes to investigate the welfare of the children who lived there. That report says that “local child welfare authorities were aware of problems at the home” and cites a police report from August 2019 that offered the following conclusion from the N.H. DYCF: “Everyone’s home, generator is running, food in the house, they are healthy. All is well.”
That state of wellness appears not to have lasted much longer.
Now, after elected officials in N.H. have raised voluble concerns about the efforts of state agencies and how the girl might have fallen through the cracks, the DYCF is facing inside pressure.
“Our top priority remains finding Harmony, and we are turning over every stone we can to bring her home safe,” Sununu said in a recent statement to WFXT regarding the internal inquiry. “From the beginning, the state has been as open and transparent as we are allowed to under the law. I have already instructed DCYF to begin an immediate review, and anytime there is a critical Incident involving a child, a cross-agency review is triggered and completed.”
Law&Crime reached out to the DYCF’s parent agency regarding the contours of the investigation and for comment on this article but no response was forthcoming at the time of publication. In the past, DCYF has told Law&Crime it cannot provide any detail about the case whatsoever, citing privacy laws.
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