Mass. Lawmakers Seek To Overhaul Family Services

Massachusetts lawmakers are looking to overhaul the way the state helps families of runaway or truant children.

Framingham state Sen. Karen Spilka and Medford Rep. Paul Donato, both Democrats, have filed a bill that would replace the state's existing Children in Need of Services system, or CHINS.

Currently, when a child is habitually truant, defiant or unruly, the courts usually get involved. The current system assigns a probation officer to oversee services designed to help a child get back on track.

Spilka and Donato say the system hasn't been working well enough to keep children out of the juvenile justice system.

The lawmakers say the state should instead adopt a new system that they said focuses on community-based preventative measures to keep children in their homes and in school and avoids using the courts and probation to solve family problems.

"A family should not have to go to the criminal justice system to get services for a child," Spilka said. "There has to be a better way."

On average, there are about 7,000 requests each year for the courts to get involved with unruly children.

With reporting from The Associated Press and WBUR's Deborah Becker.

This program aired on March 29, 2011. The audio for this program is not available.


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