New Hampshire CHINS Program to Restart in September

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Coos County Courthouse, Lancaster, N.H.

jimmywayne / Flickr (license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/deed.en)

Coos County Courthouse, Lancaster, N.H.

After two years of providing very minimal services, New Hampshire’s Children in Need of Services (CHINS) program is scheduled to crank up again on Sept. 1.

Prior to 2011, the state’s CHINS program had been in operation for several decades, serving approximately 1,000 children a year. However, budget cuts ordered by state Republicans, who controlled the state’s legislature, forced the CHINS program to reduce its services to around 50 cases annually, according to The Concord Monitor.

Speaking on the floor of the state senate, Democratic Sen. Molly Kelly said, “We literally heard an outcry from families, from advocates and from the youth in our communities of the need for the CHINS program.”

In the previous legislative session, Gov. Maggie Hassan worked with state legislators to find new funding streams for CHINS services.

In June, Hassan signed a budget appropriating $8.2 million for the program. The same month, a separate bill was passed by the state senate that outlines a new framework for the program.

Although the pre-2011 program only provided services to families following a judge’s approval of their petition, the reinstated program does away with this requirement. However, the services provided to children with status offenses, such as truancy and running away, are more restrictive compared to the former program. Out-of-home placements, for example, are only available via court-order to “habitual” status offenders or children with more dangerous cases.

Taken as a whole, Disabilities Rights Center Policy Director Michael Skibbie told the Concord Monitor, the new program is a “significant improvement” over the former CHINS framework.

“Certainly making services available to families that need them is a good thing,” he said. “And it’s also a good thing to not force them to go through a court process.”

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