Parents have a right to raise their children without state interference under what has been referred to as the most fundamental right in the United States Constitution. However, there is a point where parental decisions cross the line into abuse or neglect or children engage in activities that would be criminal if they were adults.
When this occurs, Child Protective Services (CPS) may be notified by any concerned third party and are required to be notified by certain individuals and entities such as medical groups, doctors, therapists, and teachers. There is a statewide toll-free number for notification.
A child who is abused or neglected is often subject to a lawsuit brought by CPS alleging they are a Child in Need of Services (CHINS) because of the acts by their parents. This proceeding allows the child and parents to receive court-ordered services to remedy the intra-family situation. However, the acts of the parents may be criminal and by admitting the CHINS filing may be admitting to a criminal act. So the parents may need counsel as well as the child.
Further, if the parents do not cooperate with the services, a termination (of parental rights, “TPR”) may be filed, which if successful, terminates the parent's legal rights as natural or adoptive parents and allow the child to become a ward of the state or adopted by a third party. Thus, cooperation with CHINS may result in criminal charges, but refusal may result in a TPR. For these and several other reasons, parents should have skilled counsel in the CHINS legal arena to advise them about these competing courses they may take.
In a more complicated situation, one child may abuse or neglect the other with the parents’ knowledge. The child who is abused may be subject to a CHINS filing and the abuser a delinquent and even waived into adult court. If the parents knew about this situation, then they may be guilty of crimes ranging from criminal neglect to conspiracy.
Where a parent or parents face criminal risk, they have a right to counsel and may refuse to testify. However, this may be used against them in this CHINS or delinquency proceeding and they have the CHINS child placed with a third party to subject to a TPR and the other child delinquent detained a delinquent.
Therefore, CPS’s duty is to protect children and take action against those that but for their age would be charged with crimes like an adult. However, due process of law still applies to these proceedings and the parents and/or the children may need independent counsel. To navigate this factually and legally complex scenario, parents should consider consulting and retaining skilled and knowledgeable counsel.
This blog post was written by attorneys at Ciyou & Dixon, P.C. who handle CHINS and CPS cases throughout the state. This blog is intended to provide general educational information and is not intended to provide specific legal advice for any given case or circumstances, nor is it a solicitation for services. It is an advertisement.