Blog

What is a Child in Need of Services Case?

These days the Indiana Department of Child Services (DCS) is often caught up in the news. Most of the attention centers around children in need of services (CHINS) cases and termination of parental rights (TPR) cases. Today the Law Office of Thomas A. Vick begins a series of blog posts regarding CHINS cases.

According to the Indiana Code, a child, who is under the age of eighteen (18), is a “child in need of services” if the following is found to be true:

"(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."

Indiana Code § 31-34-1-1.

That is a lot of words to explain a conceptually simple matter. Simply put, a CHINS case arises when a family needs government assistance to take care of a particular child. For example, such a need might arise from a parent's substance abuse, a child's special needs, a parent's mental health, or a child’s uncontrollable behavior. While the specific facts of any given case may vary greatly, the most common factual scenario, as we are in the throes of the opioid epidemic, is a parent's substance abuse. The Indiana Department of Child Services is charged with the duty of representing the State of Indiana when a child is a "child in need of services".

Although DCS is well-intentioned, sometimes DCS gets it wrong. DCS might get it wrong for a multitude of reasons. Perhaps a DCS caseworker believes that a parent is abusing substances when that is just simply not the case. Perhaps an allegation of abuse, which is not based in fact, has been made to DCS. These are just a couple examples of how DCS sometimes might get it wrong. That is why it is important to have an attorney represent a parent in a CHINS case.