Tag Archives: CHINS

CHINS REFORM BILL PASSED!

Finally! We have F.A.C.E.S
An Act Regarding Families and Children Engaged in Services

With our FACES bill on the Governor’s desk, the night before last night proved to be a victorious night for those who worked tirelessly on this reform for so many years, and also for 8,000 children and youth and their families across the state. For almost 40 years the CHINS system has criminalized young people who need help, not punishment, a probation officer and the lasting stigma of a court record.

ABOUT FACES:

The Problem: For nearly 40 years, CHINS has punished thousands of people, and helped few.

The CHINS system put youth (ages 6 to 18) into the criminal justice system and assigns them a probation officer, even if they have never been accused of breaking a law.

Being labeled a “CHINS Kid” unfairly stigmatized a young person at a time when we are still defining who we are.

Studies show that youths who are exposed to the criminal justice system in the formative years between 6 and 18 are more likely to be involved in serious crimes later in life. One reason for this is that young people become de-sensitized to going to court, so that it seems like no big deal.

There were roughly 9,000 applications for CHINS every year in Massachusetts, and each of those youths is assigned a probation officer. Of the approximately 6,000 cases that went through court, 60% or around 3,600 families lost custody of their child.

More than 50% of CHINS cases involved youth with a diagnosed mental health disorder, youth who needed treatment, not punishment.

The Solution: CHINS is now replaced with a new program: FACES

FACES (“Families and Children Engaged in Services”) will create an alternative to court, whereby families have the opportunity to receive the help they need without going through the court system. These services would be voluntary and collaborative.

The FACES program is designed to address whatever problems may be underlying a young person’s negative behavior – with mediation, mentorship, mental health or academic supports, for example – rather than treating the youth as a criminal in need of punishment.

Under FACES, both the youth and his or her parents will be eligible for legal representation.

Under FACES, there will be a full range of services provided consistently throughout the state, and these would be coordinated through a “wrap-around” process so that families and youth are part of a team working to build on the youth’s strengths and meet his or her needs – and also to build on the family’s strengths and meet their needs.

One goal of the FACES program is to provide services so that the youth can continue to reside in their home communities and attend their own schools.

A child will never be restrained in shackles or handcuffs, or placed in a lockup facility unless they are accused of breaking the law.

This bill would also increase the mandatory school attendance age to 18.

FACES will transform the current juvenile court based CHINS system to one which is community-based and family and child focused. It will integrate school and community based services with juvenile justice interventions to keep children healthy and safe; support and strengthen family connections; provide family services in the least restrictive environment possible.

FACES will prevent children from becoming criminally involved and decrease the juvenile justice pipeline CHINS has created.

FACES will eliminate the necessity for parents to lose custody of their children in order to receive services.

CHINS reform now!

We need your help to make CHINS Reform a reality.

Your action matters! H.3492 – Families and Children in Need of Services (FACES) or CHINS Reform will be voted on soon!

As you know, we just launched Re-Routing the Prison Pipeline – our five-pronged campaign to reduce crime, criminalization, incarceration and ghetto-ization.

We are working with Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (MSPCC) on one of our top priority bills: H.3492 – Families and Children in Need of Services or CHINS Reform.

Our bill is currently in the Senate Ways and Means Committee. We hope the Sentate will debate our bill soon.

EPOCA needs your help today: Tell your Senator that this reform must pass to help children and families get the support services they need in the community today.

The current Children in Need of Services (CHINS) system sends our troubled young people to Juvenile Court and assigns them a Probation Officer – without their ever having committed a crime.

Studies show that children or youths introduced to the criminal justice system are far more likely to be incarcerated later in life than those who haven’t.

Let’s take action to end this pipeline to prison for our children and youth.

CHINS petitions stem from many different conditions, such as mental illness, substance abuse and domestic violence, which require a multiplicity of resources and responses. National data shows that up to 50% of children involved in the juvenile justice system have diagnosable mental health disorders.

Our courts and probation officers do the best they can do, but they are not equipped to help children and families access proper treatment and services.

The FACES system will offer counseling, mentoring and referral services to children and their families – and help them get on the right track.

Please take action – contact your State Senator and ask them to VOTE in FAVOR of H.3492

On Wednesday, July 13, at 10:00 a.m., we will hold a training and make calls to the senate.

Come and join us for this action at our office at:

5 Pleasant Street,
3rd Floor
Worcester, MA 01609

Hope to see you there!

We need your help NOW to see that children are treated within their communities and diverted from the courts whenever possible!