What is a CHINS action?

August 10, 2015

By Keffer Hirschauer LLP

CHINS is short for “Child In Need of Services,” which represents legal short-hand for a civil proceeding used to address the well-being of a child. Under Indiana law, a child is in need of services if “(1) the child’s physical or mental condition is seriously impaired or seriously endangered as a result of the inability, refusal, or neglect of the child’s parent, guardian, or custodian to supply the child with necessary food, clothing, shelter, medical care, education, or supervision; and (2) the child needs care, treatment, or rehabilitation that: (A) the child is not receiving; and (B) is unlikely to be provided or accepted without the coercive intervention of the court.” I.C. 31-34-1-1.

Determining whether a child’s condition is impaired or endangered can often be a subjective exercise. Perrine v. Marion Cnty. Office of Child Servs., 866 N.E.2d 269, 276 (Ind. Ct. App. 2007) (noting that “we found no Indiana CHINS cases in which a single occurrence of drug use, outside of the child’s presence, has been found sufficient to support a CHINS determination.”).

So who is responsible for determining if a child’s condition is seriously impaired or endangered?

Prior to a petition being filed, the responsibility is entrusted to the Indiana Department of Child Services. DCS has declared that it “protects children from abuse and neglect, and works to ensure their financial support.” See www.in.gov/dcs/ (last visited August 4, 2015). DCS is responsible for investigating issues concerning children, typically through a family case manager (or “FCM”), and deciding whether a CHINS petition should be filed with a court. Once a CHINS petition has been filed, the matter of child custody falls exclusively within the juvenile court’s jurisdiction. In re Adoption of E.B., 733 N.E.2d 4, 5 (Ind. Ct. App. 2000). That case manager then works with a DCS attorney who is responsible for arguing and advocating DCS’s position before the Court. The court then decides whether the child is in need of services and what is in the child’s best interest. If a parent finds themselves involved in a CHINS proceeding, it is crucial to have your own attorney to advocate his or her interests.

Contact us today if you have questions or believe your constitutional or family rights have been violated. We stand ready to provide our clients with trusted representation and accurate information regarding the law and its application to their individualized case. Act now and contact us today at (317) 857-0160.