There have been a lot of great things happening about CHINS 6 petitions in juvenile court!
Senate Bill (SB) 164 as originally written sought to restore the authority for prosecutors to file CHINS 6 petitions. It passed out of the Indiana Senate with a vote of 49-0. In the House, SB 164 was modified slightly to allow prosecutors to file requests to authorize any CHINS petition, including CHINS 6. The prosecutor could also choose to remain the attorney of record for the State during the CHINS case, or relinquish the role to the DCS attorneys. Today, SB 164 passed out of the House with a vote of 92-0. It now heads back to the Senate with amendments, but we are hopeful that it is on the way to becoming law effective July 1, 2013.As background, a CHINS 6 is a specific allegation that a child is a child in need of services (CHINS) due to his/her own actions endangering his/her health or the health of another. The child is not being abused or neglected by their parents. During the 2012 legislative session, the Department of Child Services (DCS) attempted to have CHINS 6 eliminated from the Indiana Code because a CHINS 6 allegedly pitted a child against his/her family — an effort that was eventually defeated. However, that did not resolve the issue.
Following sweeping changes to the juvenile code in 2008, DCS attorneys had the sole authority to file requests to authorize a CHINS 6 petition in the juvenile courts, eliminating the prosecutors from the statute. Between 2008 and 2012, DCS changed its policy and virtually stopped pursuing CHINS 6 petitions. The result was that some profoundly mentally ill children who would have been treated within the confidentiality of a CHINS action were thrust into the juvenile delinquency system, often by their parents in an act of desperation to access services. Many of the children were arrested for fairly minor acts that could be attributed in part to their mental illness, such as leaving home without permission or disorderly conduct. By being adjudicated as a juvenile delinquent to access needed services, the children were now subject to the collateral consequences that come with juvenile adjudications.
We would not be this far without the help of many, many people and organizations, including, in part, the legislative interim study committees, the Indiana Public Defender Council, the Indiana Prosecuting Attorneys Council, the Indiana State Bar Association, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, the Youth Law Team, reporter Marissa Kwiatowski, public defender Michael Ice, Judge Hanson, Morgan Circuit Court, and deputy prosecuting attorney Robert Cline. Thank you all for your efforts.