What I Learned About Getting a CHINS Petition for My At-Risk Teen
I started the story of my rebellious, defiant daughter in a previous post. One of the recommendations that the police officers who I talked to when I was trying to find her was that I should look into the CHINS program. I had no idea what that was, and so I went online to try and find more information. There really wasn’t much that I could find but only the county web page on it and a phone number. I called right away to see if I could get her admitted. The person who answered the phone said that more than likely, I wouldn’t be able to, and I should attend the Parent Support Group that the court-sponsored. I did until I started my MBA classes that fell on the day they met. I started learning more about CHINS. It was also where I learned about the Family Resource Meeting (FRM). After my daughter ran away a couple of more times, I called again, and we got an appointment with an Intake Officer.
For those who are struggling with defiant teenagers, you will learn more here about my experience with CHINS. Did I feel it help or was it more of a waste of time? I will hopefully help answer those questions.
What is CHINS?
CHINS stands for “Children in Need of Supervision or Services.” This is for children and teens who aren’t doing criminal acts that could end them in Juvenile Detention. However, the child/teen and/or parents need assistance. In my county, CHINS can be approved for three cases:
- Running Away – If your teen runs away more than twice, then he/she can qualify for a CHINS petition. My daughter ran away 3-4 times before we were able to get an appointment with an intake officer. It makes sense cause a teen can runaway once and never do it again. However, when it gets to 2, 3, 4, 5 times, then it’s time to get more assistance.
- Skipping School – Schools usually have police officers stationed there, which are called School Resource Officers (SROs). If a child/teen has a high number of unexcused absences and interventions have not helped, then he/she can qualify.
- Behaviors that Can Cause the Teen to Be At-Risk – If a teen is putting himself/herself in dangerous situations, then they will qualify
In other counties, it is not called CHINS but PINS. CHINS, or PINS, is offered by the Juvenile Court in your county. I haven’t heard of another name for this program, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be. I would search “Children in need of assistance,” or call the Juvenile Courts and ask.
The CHINS process started with me calling to get an appointment with an Intake Officer. The first few times I tried, they said I didn’t qualify. After three times, I called again, and this time, I was able to meet with an Intake Officer. They prefer that your teen be present, but if she is currently not home because she has run away, then they will still see you. The first time we got a CHINS petition, the two of us went. It was around 8 PM when we went to court.
Both of us filled out questionnaires. One of the questions asks what has been attempted before asking for court assistance. You should try to at least get your child to see a therapist, have filed the police reports, and tried to make changes in the home and your relationship. This will show that you are actively trying to find help, and not just trying to push the parenting responsibility to someone else.
We talked to the Intake Officer together and then separate. After she listened to us, the Intake Officer filed the CHINS petition. The following day we were assigned a Probation Officer. I didn’t know until going through this process that there Probation Officers manage different case types. There are some who handle initial cases that will quickly resolve. Others only handle cases where the child/teen needs services. A third group handles the long-term cases, which unfortunately happened to be my daughter.
My daughter ran away a few days after being put on probation. She was then provided another probation officer. They tried ankle monitoring, and she decided to cut the electronic monitor and still run. She then got the third probation officer. The next time she ran away, and I filed the police report, the probation officer filed a “Shelter Care Order.” This is for when she is found, the police or I would take her to shelter care, which is a temporary group home that she will remain until her court hearing, which usually occurs that day if she is found before 12PM or the next day.
I will write another post on Shelter Care because that deserves its own post.
The next time she ran away and was found, the police didn’t just find her and bring her back home. This time they took her to shelter care. We had court the next day. The court required my daughter to participate in the FRM she refused to be part of the first time or an Inter-Disciplinary Team (IDT). An IDT is the same as a FRM, but it’s through the courts. Being part of both, I will say that I prefer the FRM. I will say more in a post about it.
After running away a couple of more times and partaking in the FRM, my daughter finally stopped running. The Probation Officer and I tried to get her into a residential program offered by the county, but the judge decided to give her one last chance. I thought at first it was a huge mistake, but I know now that working on yourself is not something anyone can force you to do. I am glad that my daughter is now at the residential program and is at the point she wants to work on herself.
Advantages of the CHINS Petition
The CHINS Petition is a great way to get your teen help especially when they refuse to do it. It is court-mandated, so there is not much your teen can do to get out of it. However, as I said, this is only if your teen wants help. If your teen is like mine who is defiant, rebellious and is never to blame for anything that happens to her, then it won’t help. But, the majority of teens aren’t like mine so CHINS will help.
The other advantage is that you get access to services you won’t get if there is no CHINS petition. An example if the residential program that my daughter is now in. I tried getting her in it after the probation ended this January. However, being that it’s only offered by the county and through the courts, I couldn’t.
It also gives sends your teen to a temporary group home. This can help ease some of the tension between the relationships in the household and help put services in place before the teen returns. I was also frustrated that without the CHINS petition, the police would just return my daughter to me just for her to run away again.
During this entire ordeal, I really appreciated the police officers. I saw how frustrated they were with how runaways are treated. You feel like as a parent you are stuck with a teen who is treating your house like a hotel and not listening to your rules. If you call the police, there is nothing they can do. It’s frustrating for everyone involved, and you feel like you, as a parent, have no rights.
Disadvantages of the CHINS Petition
Running away, skipping school (unless it’s the parent’s fault), or behavioral issues are not considered breaking any laws. Therefore, if you have a teen like mine, then you feel like the CHINS is not working. There were a few times that I was frustrated, even angry.
I also came to learn the huge disconnect between the Courts and Police. It was definitely ignorance on my part (and also that I have been part of building computer solutions for a long time) that the two systems do not communicate so unless people from the court and police talk to one another, they don’t know what’s going on.
Whenever the police came to follow-up, I had to tell them that my daughter was on a CHINS petition or they wouldn’t know.
The main disadvantage is if you have a defiant teen like mine. It isn’t until she hits rock bottom when she will finally be willing to accept help.
Will CHINS Work for Me?
This is something that only you can answer, but I will say that I am happy that I did it. It took almost a year to finally see some results, but that wasn’t the fault of the courts or police. My daughter was the one who had to be willing to accept help.
This whole process has opened my eyes, and I have a huge level of respect for the court employees, probation officers, shelter care employees, police, etc. All of them want to help your family and you. In the end, do what you can on your end and don’t give up.
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