Parenting is a personal matter, with each family operating a little bit differently. Some families have a stricter disciplinary parenting style, while others are much more relaxed. Parents are given the general freedom to raise their children the way they see proper and fit. However, there are exceptions to encourage the mental and physical safety of children.
Indiana law provides for protection of children through a number of statutes. There are child support statutes to ensure that children whose parents are separated are provided for financially. There are education statutes, requiring the education of children at an appropriate level. There are also juvenile/CHINS (Children in Need of Services) laws to protect children from unsafe environments1.
The law defines situations that make a child a CHINS, including not being provided with proper necessities by a parent or guardian (e.g. food, clothing, shelter), parents not involved in school discipline, or a child endangering their own health or someone else’s, just to name a few.
There is then a balance between parents’ ability to raise their children the way they see fit and the involvement of law and DCS (Department of Child Services) when a child is not being properly cared for by parents or guardians.
A recent Court of Appeals case examined the balance in a recent case, In Re the Matter of B.N. and H.C. Children in Need of Services2. In this case, Mother was arrested at a gas station after police found she had oxycodone, Xanax, and marijuana in her car and had a suspended driver’s license.
DCS filed a petition alleging the children were CHINS based on the Children’s “physical or mental condition is seriously impaired or seriously endangered as a result of the inability, refusal, or neglect of the child’s parent, guardian, or custodian to supply the child with necessary food, clothing, shelter, medical care, education, or supervision”.
However, Mother was able to provide valid prescriptions for the Xanax and oxycodone which she was prescribed due to anxiety over previous domestic violence she faced from the Children’s Father (for which DCS was also involved). Also, Mother tested negative for marijuana consistently.
The juvenile court found the Children to be CHINS, and Mother appealed. Upon review, the Court of Appeals found that there was not sufficient evidence to support that the Children were CHINS. Mother had valid prescriptions for the pills found in her car, she tested negative for marijuana on all occasions/tests, she provided a copy of her lease and proof of employment and that one of the Children was enrolled in Head Start.
While there is a need to protect children who truly are in need of services, it is important to allow parents to raise their children as long as they are able to do so safely. Parents do not have to be perfect to raise children, but they have to be able to raise children in an environment that is safe and protects their mental and physical health.
We hope that this blog has informed you on parenting and CHINS matters. Ciyou & Dixon, P.C. attorneys practice throughout the State. This blog post was written by attorney Bryan L. Ciyou and Jessica Keyes.