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Senator Spilka and Representative Donato Receive 2012 Children’s Choice Award

April 4, 2012
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Senator Spilka and Representative Paul Donato at today's Children's League of Massachusetts Event

(Boston) – At their annual Advocacy Day at the State House, the Children’s League of Massachusetts (CLM) presented their 2012 Children’s Choice Award to Senator Karen Spilka and Representative Paul Donato in recognition of their dedicated work over the past seven years to reform the Children in Need of Services (CHINS) system.

Spilka and Donato have filed legislation, An Act Regarding Families and Children Engaged in Services, to completely overhaul the current system for handing children who consistently get in trouble at home or school, including runaways and students who are habitually truant. Their bill transforms the 38-year-old program that critics say unnecessarily puts troubled children in front of a judge before seeking services to help the children and their families. The bill eliminates the inconsistent juvenile court-based system and replaces it with a statewide community-based intervention network that would integrate and promote school and community services for children and families.

Following the awards, CLM members visited offices throughout the building to educate legislators on their priorities, including having the CHINS reform bill taken up in the House for a vote. The Senate unanimously passed the bill in July.

Highlights of S. 1963, An Act Regarding Families and Children Engaged in Services:

  • Establishes a new system under the Executive Office of Health and Human Services, which consists of a statewide network of family resource centers and community-based services for families and children requiring assistance;
  • Diverts children from the legal process when appropriate and instead provides behavioral and preventative services for both the child and their family;
  • Requires school districts to establish truancy prevention programs that would be offered to habitually truant students before referring them to juvenile court;
  • Allows requests for assistance to be filed by parents/guardians, police officers and schools;
  • Prohibits children requiring assistance from being placed in DYS custody, confined in shackles or confined in a court lockup in connection with any request for assistance;
  • Mandates that a law enforcement officer may only take a child into custodial protection if the child either disobeyed a summons or if the officer has probable cause to believe the child has run away from home and will not respond to a summons; and
  • Requires the probation department to report on the services provided by probation officers to children and families who require assistance.

CLM is a statewide association of more than 80 organizations and individuals who together advocate for public policies in the best interest of children, youth, and their families.

This award comes just days after Spilka was recognized at the first-ever State House rally of The Caring Force, a grassroots human services advocacy movement. The group recognized the Senator for her dedicated work on behalf of human service providers and the thousands of vulnerable residents they assist.

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About the Children’s League of Massachusetts

The Children’s League of Massachusetts (CLM) is a statewide non-profit association of over 80 private and public organizations and individuals that collectively advocate for public policies and quality services that are in the best interest of the Commonwealth’s children, youth and families. It is through public education and advocacy that the Children’s League promotes the availability, accessibility, and quality of these needed services.

Members are comprised of providers, advocates, and regulators of services, and know first-hand the struggles that children and their families face in the Commonwealth. Throughout Massachusetts, we strive to ensure availability of services and accessibility of support for all families in need.

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