CHINS Lawyers -- Crown Point & Valparaiso, IN.

Serving Merrillville, St. John, Schererville & NW Indiana

When the Department of Child Services (DCS) is involved with a family, it can be an extremely stressful time for the children, the parents, and other family members. The system and the statutes governing it are complicated, and obtaining private legal counsel can help to provide peace of mind.

At the initial hearing in the CHINS case, the parents will be asked to admit or deny the allegations of the CHINS petition. When a parent denies the allegations, a fact-finding hearing is set by the court. At the fact-finding hearing, the judge determines whether to adjudicate the child as a CHINS. DCS’s policy is generally to encourage reunification of children with their parents, and to provide services to enable reunification to happen wherever possible.

In CHINS proceedings, a court-appointed special advocate (CASA) should be appointed for the child. However, this appointment is not always made right away, as CASA volunteers are in high demand, and there are generally wait lists for the appointment of a CASA.

There are two types of cases that juvenile courts normally handle involving minors (those children under 18). The first is a CHINS case. This acronym means “child in need of services.” There are several categories of CHINS cases. In most cases, CHINS cases involve allegations of abuse or neglect of a child by his or her parents. The second type of case is juvenile delinquency. These cases are matters where a juvenile has committed an act that but for his age, would be a crime.

For CHINS cases, most tips come from the state hotline. Upon receiving a report of abuse or neglect, the Department of Child Services must immediately conduct an investigation. While some cases are dismissed, DCS can request authority to file a CHINS case and it begins. If the case is severe abuse/neglect or sexual abuse, DCS can get an immediate detention hearing and seek to remove the children from parental care.

The detention proceeding has a special rule of evidence that applies to it given the alleged risk to the child and allows hearsay statements and other evidence to be presented to the judge that would otherwise not be admissible. Given the parents have criminal risk, they should seek counsel and remain silent in most cases at a detention hearing.

In less serious cases, an initial hearing will be set, and the parents will be required to be present to hear the allegations. Parents can admit to the allegations and begin services or deny the allegations in the petition. This a very tricky situation because if the allegations contain criminal allegations and the parents admit to getting the child services, they just admitted to a crime under oath which can and oftentimes does, lead to criminal prosecution.  In less severe cases, parents can be deemed not to be cooperative with services, and after a true fact-findings (this, like in a criminal case, is the trial of the allegations) and disposition (this, like a criminal case, is the sentencing) may have a petition filed to terminate their parental rights. If successful, this severs the parent’s rights to his/her children. Thus, a parent involved in a CHINS action has the risk of criminal charges and/or having his or her right to their children terminated.

Parents who become involved in juvenile delinquency proceedings or have a child who is alleged to be a juvenile delinquent, should have experienced legal counsel to help them navigate the process of risk potential criminal charge or losing their children through a TPR proceeding. Equally, the parents of a juvenile delinquent serve their child well by retaining knowledgeable counsel. In each of these cases, a parent or juvenile may do well to assert their right to remain silent but doing so may hurt the case.

At Gaspairs & Zembillas, Attorneys At Law, we can advocate on your behalf for your CHINS case.  Call us today!

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