Saturday, March 2, 2013

10 Things You Should Know About CHINS

1. There is no such animal anymore.

On November 5, 2012, a new law went into effect that revamped CHINS and did away with that term. The new law was supposed to be called FACES (Families and Children Engaging in Services) but is instead going to be known as CRA (Children Requiring Assistance). Read AN ACT REGARDING FAMILIES AND CHILDREN ENGAGED IN SERVICES hereSession Laws Acts 2012 Chapter240.

2. Definitions changed.

The new statute applies to children between the ages of 6 and 18. The old law only went up to 17. Since the mandatory school attendance law only requires school attendance until age 16, school-based applications must still be dismissed when the student reaches age 16.

A Runaway is a child between the ages of 6 and 18 who repeatedly runs away from the home of a parent, legal guardian or custodian.

The other home-based category makes clear that the rules violations to trigger an application must be important ones. An application may be filed for a child between the ages of 6 and 18 who repeatedly fails to obey the lawful and reasonable commands of a parent, legal guardian or custodian, thereby interfering with their ability to care for and protect the child.

A Truant is a child who when not otherwise excused from attendance in accordance with lawful and reasonable school regulations, willfully fails to attend school more that eight school days in a quarter.

The other school-based application is for a child who repeatedly fails to obey lawful and reasonable school regulations.

3. Police officers may no longer file applications.

Mass. General Laws chapter 119 § 39E (which will be here: but has not yet been updated with the new statute) lists those who may file an application for assistance as "A parent, legal guardian, or custodian of a child having custody of such child." Custodian and having custody are additions to the statute. Practitioners question if "having custody" applies to a parent. Some courts were not letting non-custodial parents file under the old CHINS law.

Police officers are no longer listed in those who may file. The new statute no longer requires a certified supervisor of attendance to file school-based applications. Applications may be filed by a school district. Practitioners question whether that means a school district employee or if a school district may only be represented by an attorney.

4. The bail provisions of the old CHINS law were eliminated.

There is no reference to bail in the new CRA law. The court may place the child in the temporary custody of DCF but the order is only good for 15 days at a time and may only be renewed twice for a total of 45 days.

5. Arrest is no longer allowed.

If a child fails to obey a CRA summons or the a police officer has probably cause to believe a child is a runaway AND will not respond to a summons, s/he may be taken into custodial protection.

BUT custodial protection does not allow police to bring child to the police station or a lockup (not even the juvenile court detention facility) and cannot be handcuffed or shackled.

Court orders for to bring a child to court for failure to obey a summons are not to be entered into the state's Warrant Management System (WMS).

6. CRA cases are not be placed on CORI, CARI, BOP or WMS.

The cases are not to be entered on the child's Criminal Offender Record Information, Court Appearance Record Information, Board of Probation record or Warrant Management System. If the application is dismissed before a fact-finding hearing it is supposed to be expunged. No record "shall be maintained or remain active" after the case is dismissed.

7. Parent applicants may now dismiss their petitions.

Overturning the In re Gail, 471 Mass. 321 (1994) case, which said that the petitioner-mother could not dismiss her CHINS petition, the new CRA law authorizes any party to file a motion to dismiss until the disposition hearing. The judge "may" order dismissal if it is in the best interests of the child or if all parties agree.

8. No more jury trials.

The new statute specifies that the fact-finding hearing is before a judge, not a jury. When the legislature did away with trial de novo in every other area of law, it left it in the old CHINS statute. The new CRA law does away with the child's ability to have a second trial in a jury session. Instead appeals are no longer whole new trials but will be decided on issues of law in the single justice session of the Mass. Appeals Court (under M.G.L. c. 231, § 118).

9. Disposition is a two-step process and is time-limited.

Under the new CRA law the court must convene and may participate in an on-the-record "conference" of the probation officer, petitioner, school, parent, child, child's attorney, DCF and "any other person who may be helpful in determining the most effective assistance available to be offered to the child and family." The probation officer must write recommendations and other persons may submit written recommendations to advise the court on appropriate treatment, services, placement, conditions and limitations.

The first disposition order may last for not more than 120 days. It may be extended after hearing for 90 days. A maximum of 3 extensions are allowed for a total of 390 days.

10. Links to resources.

The Massachusetts Juvenile Court Department issued a Handbook for Parents, Legal Guardians, and Custodians in Child Requiring Assistance Cases it is no longer available here, but can still be found by searching for it by title.

The Children and Family Law Program of the Committee for Public Counsel Services has compiled a set of links which includes the Juvenile Court Memorandum of October 25, 2012 and links that let you download "a detailed memorandum discussing the new law," "a short summary of the changes," and "the sections of Chapter 119 that pertain to status offenses, as it will read on November 5, 2012"; or go here to access the links from the CAFL News page.

Special thanks to Attorney Michael Kilkelly who prepared a lot of the CAFL materials and presented them in a series of workshops for interested attorneys.