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Updated: Thursday, 17 May 2012, 8:32 PM EDT
Published : Thursday, 17 May 2012, 8:21 PM EDT
MARTINSVILLE, Ind. (WISH) - A Morgan County judge says the Department of Child Services is "broken."
Morgan County Circuit Court Judge Matt Hanson made the comment in a ruling on whether prosecutors have the authority to file Child In Need of Services – or CHINS - cases in Indiana.
Hanson ruled state law gives DCS the sole authority to file CHINS cases. He then blasted the state agency for the way it handled a recent Morgan County case.
Martinsville attorney Michael Ice represents the child.
"The child in this case has mental issues, has had them for a long time," Ice said.
According to court documents, a video shows the child banging the its head against a car multiple times while angry. The prosecutor asked DCS to step in and help the child. Multiple phone calls were made to DCS on the child's behalf. DCS refused to take the case. Ice said it's not the first time.
"In my opinion there has been at least eight cases in the last 12 months in Morgan County alone that should have been filed as CHIN 6s and have ended up in juvenile delinquent court as a result of DCS refusing to file CHINS 6," said Ice.
CHINS 6 cases involve children with mental health issues who are determined to be injurious to themselves or others.
The Department of Child Services denies the agency is broken.
"Can it be better? I think any system can always be better. We recognize that we want to continually improve what's best fort these children," said DCS Chief of Staff John Ryan.
But attorneys, prosecutors and now a judge have gone on record to say changes to the system need to be made.
Hanson called his own ruling, which affirmed DCS is the only agency that can file CHINS cases, "unfortunate."
He wrote the issue "cannot be simply left to die," as it is likely "problematic throughout the state of Indiana."
Using straightforward, biting language, Judge Hanson went on to say: "It is evident that the DCS has not been providing services that are needed to children with mental health issues."
Prior to 2008, prosecutors in Indiana had the authority to file CHINS cases. A re-writing of the law changed that. Ice would like to see that provision reinstated. He said another option to improve the current CHINS system is to give judges the authority to start a CHINS case.
This summer a committee of state lawmakers will take another look at the current law.
When DCS determines a case does not qualify as a CHINS case, a prosecutor can often get help for the child by filing a juvenile delinquency case. The problem there, prosecutors say, is the child only receives help from the state if he or she is found by a judge to be a juvenile delinquent. That label can affect a child for the rest of his or her life.