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Senate Considering CHINS Bill Tomorrow!

July 13, 2011

On July 12, legislation filed by Senator Karen Spilka (D-Ashland) to reform the Children in Need of Services system, was endorsed by the Senate Committee on Ways and Means, and is set to be taken up by the Senate tomorrow, July 14th.  Senator Spilka’s  An Act Regarding Families and Children Engaged in Services (FACES), which she has been working on for six years, will transform the way the state responds to children in crisis because of behavioral difficulties.

In 2005, Senator Spilka and Representative Paul Donato (D-Medford) called together a task force to explore the Commonwealth’s and other states’ practices and laws around the CHINS system. More than 100 stakeholders participated, including many parents and children involved in the current system. The legislators also convened monthly steering committee meetings, as well as various subcommittees. In January of 2007, Spilka filed legislation, based on the recommendations from the task force and the best practices of other states, to reform the CHINS system.

The present system was put in place to correct the behavior of children who are truant, runaway, or seen as “ungovernable.” FACES will transform the system into one which can offer help to children and families in a more effective, timely, and comprehensive manner.  The bill will shift intervention from the courts to local family oriented resource centers which will not only provide the necessary services for the child, but will help the families by supplying them with the tools they need to raise their child. FACES would be gradually implemented over four years, building off the existing Children’s Behavioral Health Initiative. The program would be voluntary, giving parents the option of working with the courts if they deem necessary. It would also establish mandatory school-based truancy prevention programs and requires school to offer these programs to truant children before they can be referred to the courts.

FACES will divert children from the juvenile courts by using a 21st century approach to adequately meet the needs of the 8,000 children in the CHINS system and their families.


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