CONCORD, N.H. — In a scathing letter to the Massachusetts Trial Courts, New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu expressed ‘grave concerns’ about a Massachusetts’ judge’s decision to place Harmony Montgomery, a 7-year-old girl whose disappearance went unreported for two years, in the custody of her father, Adam Montgomery, a Manchester resident with a long criminal history.
In a letter to Chief Justice Kimberly S. Budd, Sununu wrote: “Harmony’s father Adam Montgomery is a monstrous drug dealer with previous convictions including shooting someone in the head and a separate armed attack on two women in Massachusetts. This family was troubled, transient and originally engaged with the Massachusetts child protection system. Only as an unfortunate result of Harmony’s disappearance has New Hampshire come to learn the full extent of the family’s background and the type of upbringing Harmony faced prior to arriving in New Hampshire. In fact, in December 2018, the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families (MA DCF) requested that New Hampshire DCYF conduct a home study of Adam Montgomery and his then wife Kayla Montgomery. NH’s DCYF Interstate Compact for the Placement of Children unit responded to MA DCF stating that in order to conduct the home study, additional information was needed regarding Adam Montgomery and his wife’s progress and their engagement of services with MA DCF.”
According to Sununu, New Hampshire’s Division for Children, Youth and Families (DCYF) sought additional information to conduct a home study but “a court in Lawrence, Massachusetts abruptly gave sole custody of Harmony to her father in February of 2019,”while an ICPC request was still pending. An Interstate Compact for the Placement of Children (ICPC) is an agreement between states to ensure that a child placed in care across state lines is safe and receiving proper services. It requires certain safeguards and regular check-ins.
Sununu’s letter noted that an ICPC is a standard request in a cross-border case.
On January 6th, 25 Investigates first reported that Harmony was sent to NH in February 2019 without an ICPC. 25 Investigates also reported that the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families (DCF) closed Harmony’s case once her father was given custody and she moved to New Hampshire, leaving her with no agency oversight.
In his letter, Sununu questions that decision: “Why would the Massachusetts court choose to place custody of Harmony with this horrible individual? What caused such a fateful decision? What makes this case exceptionally unusual is that not only did a Massachusetts judge move to place this child with such a monster as Adam Montgomery, but it did so WITHOUT an Interstate Compact for the Placement of Children (ICPC) home study to be completed.”
Sununu added “as result of your judge’s decision, New Hampshire officials were not afforded the ability to monitor Harmony’s safety. Had the court required that an Interstate Compact home study be completed, there would have been more checks in the system to help ensure Harmony’s safety when she was moved to New Hampshire such as continued oversight on the family.”
Late on Tuesday, a Massachusetts Court System spokesperson told 25 Investigates in a statement:
“Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court Chief Justice Kimberly Budd received the letter from Governor Sununu this afternoon. The Massachusetts Office of the Child Advocate has opened an investigation into this tragic situation. The Massachusetts Trial Court is cooperating fully with that investigation and will cooperate with other investigations as authorized by law.”
Investigative reporter Kerry Kavanaugh has been working to get answers about the decision to send Harmony to NH for two weeks. Citing privacy laws, MA DCF, on several occasions, told 25 Investigates the agency can’t comment.
25 Investigates took our findings to a retired juvenile court judge, who was not involved in Harmony’s case. Judge Terry Craven, who served on the Suffolk Court Juvenile Court for 18 years, said the lack of an ICPC was unusual.
“I don’t recall ever doing it. I always liked the safety precaution of the ICPC. But if DCF gets a rejection from New Hampshire, I cannot as a judge order New Hampshire to do the ICPC,” she said. “What I think is hard for people to comprehend is a judge is the finder of facts and we’re only as good as the facts that are presented to us and we can read through. So I go back to where the obligation lies when you file a care and protection. DCF is required to present that evidence, they are the ones who are saying we have no place to put this child, therefore judge, you have to give the state custody, we have no other place to put this child.”
25 Investigates also brought this case to a government watchdog who thinks Harmony’s story should be a signal for change.
“It’s a perfect example of how things can go wrong if you just presume that everything’s gonna be okay if the court changes the custody to a biological parent. There should be a period of follow up to protect the child,” said Greg Sullivan of the Pioneer Institute. “The system that’s in place to protect children doesn’t end at the biological door.”
25 Investigates continues to press child protection agencies in both states for answers about Harmony’s case. As we reported last week, police visited the Manchester home where Harmony lived with her father on multiple occasions over a five month period in 2019. On at least three of those visits, police records show, DCYF intervened. When 25 Investigates asked DCYF how they responded to those visits the agency cited privacy laws.
This is a developing story. Check back for updates as more information becomes available.
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