Report calls for DCYF changes, legislation to better protect children in light of Harmony Montgomery case

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Photographs of Harmony Montgomery, 7, last seen in November 2019.

CONCORD, NH – An update on the case of Harmony Montgomery, missing since late 2019, calls for the New Hampshire Division of Children Youth and Families to require confirmation of the residence of all children known to be members of a household, including one who is alleged to have moved from a family.

No one was aware Harmony, 7, of Manchester was missing until September 2021 because her father, Adam Montgomery and his wife, Kayla, told DCYF officials in January 2020 that Harmony had gone to live with her mother around Thanksgiving 2021.  A caseworker left a voicemail for Harmony’s mother, Crystal Sorey, but never received a callback.  That was the only attempt to verify the information, according to the report.

The 7-page “Comprehensive Update on the Ongoing Case Involving Harmony Montogomery and Recommended Systematic Improvements,” (see below) was issued Friday by Gov. Chris Sununu, the Division of Children, Youth and Families, along with the New Hampshire Attorney General’s Office.

“This update is about bringing Harmony home,” said Sununu. “We left no stone unturned in our fact-finding mission to help determine what happened in the hopes that it will help bring Harmony home safe. Everything we could make public, we did make public, and we hope the improvements recommended below set the stage for an even better and safer child protection system here in New Hampshire — and across the country.” 

The report also recommends New Hampshire pass new Interstate Compact for the Placement of Children (ICPC) legislation concerning placement of children with parents in other states only when a court finds that the parent already has a substantial relationship with the child and that the placement is in the child’s best interest.  That new legislation would become effective when 35 states have enacted it.

Because that doesn’t become effective until 35 states enact it, the report recommends the Legislature pass legislation to make the ICPC provision applying to parents effective immediately.

“New Hampshire must not wait for national action and instead should work with bordering and other New England states to enter into an ‘ICPC Border Agreement’ as a way to improve cross-state communication and collaboration,” according to the report.

The report also recommends that an assistant supervisor be added to DCYF’s Manchester office, one of the busiest in the state with a higher volume of assessments deemed at high risk than in other parts of the state.

In the meantime, Manchester police continue their search for Harmony.

The report explains how no one in an official capacity, neither social services nor police, were aware that a young child had been missing for nearly two years.

According to the report, Harmony Montgomery first came to the attention of DCYF on Dec. 19, 2018, through a request from the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families.  That agency asked the state to conduct an ICPC home study of Adam and Kayla Montgomery who lived in Manchester.

NH DCYF needed more information and sent an email regarding Massachusetts DCF’s work to date concerning the couple.  Before receiving that information, a Massachusetts court awarded custody to Adam Montgomery.

On July 29, 2019, DCYF received an anonymous call regarding alleged abuse of Harmony. The caller alleged that a week earlier, on July 22, 2019, Harmony had a black eye that Adam Montgomery admitted to causing.  A child protective caseworker visited the home and observed the children, including Harmony, the same day as the report. 

The caseworker informed Manchester police that they did not observe an injury on the child consistent with a black eye. The assessment was made as Adam Montgomery and Harmony were entering their vehicle and leaving the home.

During a second and more detailed assessment visit on Aug. 7, 2019, the same social worker interviewed Harmony, Adam and Kayla, and noted a red mark in Harmony’s eye and faded bruising under her eyelid.  Harmony and Adam both said the mark was caused by horseplay with another sibling when a toy lightsaber hit Harmony near her eye.

The social worker made three home visits – two unannounced – and the children “appeared happy and healthy.”  A final visit took place on Oct. 1, 2019.  The report of child abuse was determined to be unfounded although the situation was scored high risk for future welfare involvement because of a history of substance use, prior family history with child protection and economic challenges.  A letter sent to the Montgomerys on Oct. 17, 2019 advised them of the finding and recommended additional services to assist them with housing.

The family was ultimately evicted from their home and ended up living in their car for a time.

The report says that currently the system does not make Harmony’s history in Massachusetts available to NH DCYF, including any request for an ICPC, and thus that information was not readily available to the caseworker.

On Jan. 8, 2020, DCYF received a referral regarding the Montgomery household, but it did not reference Harmony.  When the social worker asked about Harmony, Adam Montgomery said she was residing with her mother in Massachusetts.  He said she had been there since Thanksgiving 2019.  The social worker called and left a voicemail for Sorey, her mother, on Jan. 21, 2020 to confirm Harmony was living there but Sorey never returned the call.  There is no evidence in the record of any additional attempts to contact her, according to the report.

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Manchester Police Chief Allen Aldenberg, foreground, and Assistant Chief Steve Mangone during a Jan. 3, 2022 news conference regarding the search for Harmony Montgomery, 7. Photo/Jeffrey Hastings

On two other occasions – Jan. 12, 2021 and March 16, 2021—referrals were made to DCYF regarding the Montgomery household, unrelated to Harmony.  When the caseworker inquired about Harmony, Adam Montgomery again said she was still living with her mother and he hadn’t seen her in a year.

In September 2021, someone close to Sorey contacted NH DCYF with concerns that Sorey hadn’t seen Harmony since 2019 and has not been able to contact Adam Montgomery to visit her daughter.  

NH DCYF said they conducted a “thorough review” of its records and has no record of any call from Sorey between October 2019 and September 2021.  

On Jan. 9, 2022, Sorey told reporters that she and other family members followed every lead they had to try and find Harmony and had made “more than 80 calls” to child and youth protective services both in Massachusetts and New Hampshire, but no one followed up with her.

As its investigation continued, DCYF contacted the Manchester School District, confirming Harmony had never been registered for public school.

The Manchester DCYF District Office continued to try and locate the Montgomery family, checking individual schools in the area where they were last known to live; speaking with Sorey; leaving voicemails at the last known number for Kayla and Adam Montgomery; visiting multiple addresses where the family was known to previously reside; requesting Manchester schools complete a comprehensive search for any prior records of Harmony Montgomery; completing searches of public benefit databases; and conducting an Accurint search, a widely-used, locate-and-research tool used by  government, law enforcement and commercial customers.

DCYF then notified Manchester police who on Nov. 18, 2021, opened an investigation. Police located and spoke with Kayla Montgomery, who told them the last time she saw Harmony was in November or December 2019. She said Adam said that the day after Thanksgiving he was going to drive Harmony back to Massachusetts to live with her mother.

When police located Adam Montgomery on Dec. 21, 2021, Harmony was not with him.  He provided “contradictory and unconvincing explanations for Harmony’s whereabouts,” according to the report. First, he said Sorey picked up Harmony while he told Kayla he was driving her to Massachusetts to her mother.

At that point, the DCYF investigation changed from one in which a family was thought to have moved to an unknown location to one where a young child was missing.

On Jan. 4, 2022, Adam Montgomery was arrested on charges of interference with child custody, two counts of endangering the welfare of a child and a felony charge of second-degree assault, accusing him of blackening Harmony’s eye.  He is being held in the Valley Street jail.

Kayla Montgomery was arrested on Jan. 6, 2022, on a felony charge of welfare fraud accusing her of obtaining more than $1,500 in food stamp benefits by not removing Harmony from the family account when the child no longer lived with them.

 Anyone with information about Harmony should call or text the dedicated tip line, monitored 24/7 by Manchester police, at 603-203-6060.


About this Author

Pat Grossmith

Pat Grossmith is a freelance reporter.