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Senator Spilka and the FACES Coalition Call for Reform of CHINS System

March 28, 2011

On Tuesday, March 29, 2011 at 10:30 A.M. in State House Hearing Room B-2, the Joint Committee on Children and Families and Persons with Disabilities will hold a public hearing on Senator Spilka’s bill to reform the Children In Need of Services System (CHINS).  The public is encouraged to testify.

Also on Tuesday, just prior to the hearing, Senator Karen Spilka and State Representative Paul Donato will launch the Families and Children Engaged in Services (FACES) Coalition Campaign.   The FACES Coalition is a group of legislators, advocates, children and families working together to enact the SPILKA-DONATO bill S.66/H.1294 An Act Regarding Families and Children Engaged in Services. This proposed legislation would transform the CHINS system, which sends families with children who have behavioral issues like truancy and running away into the court system when they need help. FACES would implement a community-based system to provide more effective, timely, and family-based intervention.

Those planning to testify include:

  • Bill sponsors Senator Karen Spilka and Representative Paul Donato
  • Marylou Sudders, President and CEO of Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children
  • Lisa Lambert, Executive Director of the Parent/Professional Advocacy League
  • Jesse Winfrey, former CHINS involved youth



The Children in Need of Services (CHINS) system was created to correct the behavior of children who: “are habitually truant, runaway from home or refuse to obey the lawful and reasonable commands of their parent(s) or guardian(s) and/or the rules of their school”.  The program is based in the juvenile court and probation and deals with troubled children in isolation. In 2010, almost 8000 children were involved in the CHINS system and more than 50% of these CHINS involved youth have diagnosed mental health disorders.  The CHINS system fails to adequately meet their needs, and in some instances makes things much worse. One of the main goals of FACES is to prevent children from becoming involved with the juvenile court. This bill transforms the system so that it is family and child focused as well as community based. FACES would integrate school and community based services with juvenile justice interventions to keep children healthy and safe.  It supports and strengthens family connections, provides family services in the least restrictive environment possible, prevents children from becoming criminally involved, and eliminates the necessity for parents to lose custody of their children in order to receive services. Passage of this bill would bring the Children’s Mental Health Campaign one step closer to achieving its goal to ensure that all children receive the highest quality mental health care.

Listen for Senator Spilka tomorrow morning on WBUR and WBZ radio when she will be discussing FACES and the urgent need for CHINS reform.


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