Tuesday, February 5, 2008

CHINS cases: Parents have the right to counsel.

The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court acknowledged today that parents are entitled to intervene and to have counsel (appointed if indigent) in Child in Need of Services (CHINS) cases when the court is considering granting custody of their children to DSS. Describing the statutory scheme as one capable of "substantial" intrusion on the parent-child relationship and children as "'those most dear' to parents", Justice Ireland (a former Juvenile Court judge) ruled that "pursuant to G.L. c. 119, § 29, after a child is adjudicated a child in need of services, a parent is entitled to counsel at the dispositional phase of the proceeding if custody of the child could be granted to the department." In the Matter of HILARY (and a consolidated case), SJC-10036 (argued October 2, 2007, decided February 5, 2008).