How does the CHINS process work?

The CHINS process begins because the Department of Child Services believes something has happened involving a child or children. The law lists several categories that can begin the CHINS process: child neglect; child physical abuse; child sexual abuse; parental allowance of child’s participation in sex offenses; child endangerment of self or others; parental failure to participate in school disciplinary proceedings; missing child; child born with fetal alcohol syndrome or with drugs; abnormal child development because the mother used alcohol or drugs during pregnancy.

When a DCS case manager is assigned to a case, they investigate the reports or allegations, often by interviewing different people. This is called an assessment. Based on the assessment, DCS classifies the report as substantiated or unsubstantiated. If the report is unsubstantiated, that means DCS has decided the evidence does not show a CHINS action should be pursued. If the report is substantiated, then DCS/CPS can offer to provide an Informal Adjustment, which involves the family participating in services under court order. The case manager can also ask DCS to file a CHINS petition, including if the Informal Adjustment fails or other acts occur.

If a CHINS petition is filed, you have certain rights. It is critical that you contact a lawyer that has experience dealing with DCS and CPS to discuss your rights and options.

At the Initial Hearing, the parents will either admit or deny the CHINS allegations. This is similar to a guilty or not guilty plea–but CHINS are civil and not criminal cases. If the parents or a parent admit, then the court will decide that the child is a CHINS and hold a dispositional hearing. The dispositional hearing is where the court decides what services should be ordered for the family.

If the parents deny, then a fact-finding hearing is set. The fact-finding hearing is a trial. If the court decides there is not enough evidence to adjudicate (rule) the child a CHINS, the issue is dismissed. If the court adjudicates the child a CHINS, then there will be a dispositional hearing. The court will also have periodic hearings to review the status of the CHINS and family. If the parents fail to comply with the court order or if the CHINS goes on long enough, then DCS can file to terminate the parental rights of a parent or parents.

The CHINS process and dealing with DCS and CPS is extremely complicated and tiring. Having a lawyer on your side that will fight for you and your family is extremely important. Contact Randall or Riley Parr today at 317-632-9322 or 765-335-2432.