January 30, 2023

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Rally and Lobby for CHINS Reform

CHINS flyer
Rally and Lobby for CHINS Reform
Wednesday, June 27th –
School’s out: children and teens welcome !
CHINS flyer

On Wednesday, June 27 at 1:00 p.m., hundreds of adults and youth from across Massachusetts will mobilize at the State House.
  • Free buses leave Worcester City Hall promptly at 11 a.m.
  • Rally on the State House steps at 1 p.m. followed by legislative visits
  • Buses leave Boston at 4 p.m. and arrive back in Worcester by 5:30 p.m.
Sign up here to reserve your seat on the bus or call 508-713-8420

For over 40 years the CHINS system has criminalized young people who need help, not punishment, a probation officer and the lasting stigma of a court record.  In July 2011, the Massachusetts Senate unanimously passed our bill (S.1963) to reform the CHINS system to FACES (Families And Children Engaged in Services) so that young people and their families can receive mentorship, mediation and counseling services they need.  For nine months, our House of Representatives has failed to act.  Join us and our allies: Children’s Mental Health Campaign, The Children’s League of Massachusetts and Massachusetts Alliance for Families as we call on the Speaker to release S.1963 from House Ways and Means (tee shirts and lunch will be provided).  This is our final chance – help us make it happen!!

“CHINS” is Broken – Face the Facts! 
The Problem: For nearly 40 years, CHINS has punished thousands of people, and helped few.

  • The current CHINS system puts a youth (ages 6 to 18) into the criminal justice system and assigns them a probation officer, even if they have never been accused of breaking a law.
  • Being labeled a “CHINS Kid” unfairly stigmatizes a young person at a time when we are still defining who we are.
  • Studies show that youths who are exposed to the criminal justice system in the formative years between 6 and 18 are more likely to be involved in serious crimes later in life.  One reason for this is that young people become de-sensitized to going to court, so that it seems like no big deal.
  • There are roughly 9,000 applications for CHINS every year in Massachusetts, and each of those youths is assigned a probation officer.  Of the approximately 6,000 cases that go through court, 60% or around 3,600 families lose custody of their child.

The Solution: Senate Bill 1963 would replace CHINS with a new program: FACES 

  • The proposed program of FACES (“Families and Children Engaged in Services”) would create an alternative to court, whereby families have the opportunity to receive the help they need without going through the court system.  These services would be voluntary and collaborative.
  • The FACES program is designed to address whatever problems may be underlying a young person’s negative behavior – with mediation, mentorship, mental health or academic supports, for example – rather than treating the youth as a criminal in need of punishment.
  • Under FACES, both the youth and his or her parents would be eligible for legal representation.
  • Under FACES, there would be a full range of services provided consistently throughout the state, and these would be coordinated through a “wrap-around” process so that families and youth are part of a team working to build on the youth’s strengths and meet his or her needs – and also to build on the family’s strengths and meet their needs.
  • One goal of the FACES program is to provide services so that the youth can continue to reside in their home communities and attend their own schools.
  • If the FACES bill passes, a child will never be restrained in shackles or handcuffs, or placed in a lockup facility unless they are accused of breaking the law.
  • This bill would also increase the mandatory school attendance age to 18.
  • Cost to the Commonwealth: minimal, as resources would be reallocated.

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