March 2, 2007
FAMILY WITH SERVICE NEEDS — LEGISLATIVE HISTORY
By: Ryan F. O'Neil, Research Assistant
You asked about the history of the Family with Service Needs (FWSN) program.
The program was created in 1979. The initial act outlined:
1. what constituted a FWSN,
2. who could file a FWSN petition,
3. when a FWSN child could be placed in temporary custody,
4. procedures for handling a runaway, and
5. prevented status offenders from being placed in secure facilities,
Implementation was delayed until 1981. In 1985, it was modified so that violation of a FWSN court order could result in a child being placed in a secure facility. In 1989, it became allowable to petition to have FWSN records erased. In 1990, school superintendents were allowed to file FWSN complaints based on truancy. In 1993, an act changed the FWSN definition so that it included a child between 13 and 16 years-old having sex with someone over 13 years old and there is no more than two years difference between ages. In 1998, truancy court docket demonstration programs were established. In 2005, juvenile courts could no longer place a child who violated a FWSN court order into a secure facility.
PA 79-567, AAC FAMILIES WITH SERVICE NEEDS
This act created the Family with Service Needs program. It removed certain types of behavior (“status offenses”), which were unlawful only when committed by a child under 16 years of age, from the classification of delinquency and established specific law enforcement and judicial procedures for these juvenile matters.
1. established police alternatives for handling runaway children;
2. established specific procedures whereby probation officers could handle cases involving alleged status offenders without subsequent court involvement;
3. specifically authorized referring a status offender to community-based or other services;
4. eliminated a status offender's right to counsel and predisposition investigations by probation officers;
5. prohibited, after August 1, 1980, temporary custody of alleged status offenders in state-operated detention homes; and
6. eliminated the court's authority to place a child in the care of an institution without involvement of the commissioner of the Department of Children and Youth Services (DCYS) (now the Department of Children and Families), but authorized the alternative of referring the child to the department for voluntary services.
Any child under 16 years of age found to have committed the following acts would be considered under the category of FWSN:
1. running away from his or her lawful place of residence;
2. being beyond the control of parents, custodians, or guardians;
3. engaging in indecent or immoral conduct; and
4. being habitually truant or overly defiant of school rules and regulations.
The act also made violation of a court order relating to a FWSN child a status offense instead of a delinquent act.
Police Procedures for Runaways
The act established police procedures for handling runaways. After the officer reports the location of the child to the parents or guardian, the officer could:
1. decline to take further action;
2. transport the child home or to another person's house;
3. refer the child to Superior Court;
4. until August 1, 1980, transport the child to a state-operated detention home;
5. allow the child to remain in protective custody for up to six hours; or
6. transport or refer him or her to a public or private agency servicing children, if the child agreed.
Complaints and Petitions
Under the act, any of the following could file a complaint with the Superior Court alleging that a child is a FWSN:
1. any selectman, town manager, police officer, or local welfare department;
2. probation officer;
3. school superintendent;
4. DCYS commissioner;
5. any child-caring institution, agency, or youth service bureau approved by DCYS; or
6. a parent or foster parent or a child or a child's representative.
A probation officer can:
1. files a petition alleging that a child is a member of a FWSN or
2. refer the matter to a suitable community-based or other service provider upon consent of the child and the child's parents.
The act removed the ability of the court to make “whatever nonjudicial disposition is practicable.” Instead, it permitted a judge to make referrals to community-based or other services. If the matter is resolved within three months, the petition may be dismissed.
A child from a FWSN was required by the act to be held in temporary custody, pending disposition of the case, if there existed:
1. a strong probability that the child may injure him or herself,
2. a strong probability that the child may run away before the hearing, or
3. a need to hold the child for another district.
PA 80-401, AAC FAMILIES WITH SERVICE NEEDS
The act changed, from July 1, 1980, to July 1, 1981, the effective date of PA 79-567. The act also:
1. changed from August 1, 1980, to July 1, 1981, the date after which children in FWSN families may no longer be sent to state-operated detention facilities and exempts runaways from other states;
2. eliminated the court's authority to order a FWSN child to do work in public buildings and on public property;
3. removed the necessity for a child's consent before a police officer could transport or refer the child to a public or private agency serving children; and
4. protected police officers and municipal or community agencies giving assistance to such children from legal liability for personal injuries that result when a child or his parents voluntarily terminate services provided.
PA 85-226, AAC CHILDREN OF FAMILIES WITH SERVICE NEEDS
The act made it a delinquent act for a child to violate a FWSN court order regulating his or her behavior. This:
1. allowed the child to be placed at DCYS' Long Lane School and
2. allowed the arrest and return of the child if he or she ran away or violated the terms or conditions of parole.
The act also decreased from 10 days to 72 hours the amount of time a child could be held after a detention hearing and before a final hearing on the question of violation of a FWSN court order. It also required that the child be warned in writing of the consequences of violating the court order. The warning also had to be given to the child's attorney and parents.
Finally, the act required that a child be placed in Long Lane or another secure facility only when no less restrictive alternative existed to meet the needs of the child and the community.
Violating a FWSN Court Order
The act required, in cases of a violation of a FWSN court order, that:
1. a probation officer must investigate the facts of the case, including the child's background, school situation, and parents or guardian, and report to the judge before the disposition of the case;
2. the parents, guardian, and child have a right to attorney and the right to be informed of that fact, and if they can't afford an attorney, one must be provided, and the attorney has the right to confront and cross-examine witnesses (in FWSN cases, the court must provide an attorney only if the custody of the child is at issue); and
3. the standard of proof which must be met during the proceeding is increased from “clear and convincing” to “beyond a reasonable doubt,” which is the degree of belief needed to find guilt in a criminal case.
PA 89-273, AN ACT IMPLEMENTING THE RECOMMENDATIONS OF THE LEGISLATIVE PROGRAM REVIEW AND INVESTIGATIONS COMMITTEE RELATIVE TO THE JUVENILE JUST SYSTEM IN CONNECTICUT
The act allowed a FWSN child or parents or guardian to petition the court for erasure of FWSN records. If two years had elapsed and no subsequent proceeding has been brought, the court must order the records erased.
Whenever a FWSN matter is filed based on a child's truancy, the act required the court to order the local or regional board of education to do an education evaluation, at the board's expense, of the child if none has been done in the past year.
PA 90-240, AAC STUDENT TRUANCY
The act required:
1. superintendents to file FWSN complaints for any habitual truants in the public schools;
2. substituted its definition of truant and habitual truant for the general undefined criterion of habitual truancy used in determining whether a child's family is a FWSN; and
3. prohibited both a probation officer's rejection of a truancy-based complaint and the court's dismissal of a truancy-based FWSN petition on the sole ground that the complaint or petition was filed in the months of April, May, or June.
Private schools were required by the act to ensure that any of their students who are named in a FWSN petition based on habitual truancy receive educational evaluation, if none has been done within the previous year, for, and to pay for that evaluation. The law already made school boards responsible for these evaluations of public school students.
The act allowed a court to refer a child, whose family it has found to be a FWSN family solely because of the child's truancy, to the appropriate private or public school authorities for services, such as summer school, that the school or district may provide. It also made such a child subject to the supervision of his or her school district or private school authorities, as well as to a probation officer, when the court has ordered him or her to remain at home or in the custody of a relative or other suitable person.
PA 91-303, AAC REVISIONS TO THE EDUCATION STATUTES
This act required school boards' truancy policies to include (1) referring children to community agencies providing child and family services and (2) coordinating services with such agencies. It also added referral to community agencies providing children's and family services to the actions a court can take upon finding a truant child's family a FWSN solely because of the truancy.
PA 93-340, AAC SEXUAL ASSAULT
This act gave the juvenile court jurisdiction in situations where a child between age 13 and 16 had sexual intercourse with someone age 13 or over and there is no more than two years difference in the ages of the two parties. It places such situations within the definition of a FWSN.
The act allowed the court in any FWSN situation involving sexual relations as defined above to refer the child to a youth service bureau or similar agency for a teen pregnancy, sexually transmitted disease, or similar program or require the child to perform community service in a hospital, AIDS prevention program, or obstetric/gynecology program.
PA 98-183, AAC TRUANCY AND OTHER FAMILY WITH SERVICE NEEDS CASES
Judicial Branch Responsibilities for Truancy and FWSN Cases
The act directed the Judicial Branch to:
1. coordinate truancy and FWSN programs and services with other state agencies;
2. set protocols in cooperation with Office of Policy and Management, the Department of Children and Families (DCF), and the Department of Education (SDE) for referral to community-based intervention programs before sending a case to juvenile court;
3. develop and use procedures to evaluate risk and service needs for cases referred to juvenile court; and
4. collaborate with community-based programs.
Truancy Demonstration Project
OPM, in consultation with the Judicial Branch and SDE, had to issue an RFP and award competitive grants to towns to establish special truancy court dockets. After further consultation, OPM then had to select two demonstration project sites.
Demonstration Project Requirements
To be eligible for a grant, the program must describe the board of education's policies and how the board plans to work with community truancy prevention leaders, monitor school attendance, enhance existing in-school truancy prevention efforts, establish after- and summer school programs, provide mentoring for children at risk of truancy, implement school and community-based intervention programs targeting families with elementary school children with persistent absenteeism or truancy patterns, and provide in-school education for chronic truants. The board must agree to provide OPM with monthly truancy reports.
The program must also describe the roles of youth service bureaus, juvenile review boards, and other community-based service networks. Their services can include truancy coordinators, mentorship programs, peer mediation for children, and truancy case management before a board of education refers a truant to juvenile court.
The proposal can also include appropriate diversion of truants from juvenile court. Case management must include developing student intervention plans, family counseling and parental education programs, and appropriate mental health and substance abuse assessments and referrals for parents or children.
The chief court administrator may establish a truancy or FWSN docket in communities that are awarded a competitive grant and establish the initiatives; and the Office of Alternative Sanctions (OAS) must, within available appropriations, make certain services available to them. These include a risk needs assessment tool and funding for diverting truants to youth service bureaus and juvenile review boards.
For court-sanctioned intervention programs, OAS must provide parenting education; expand existing programs to serve truancy cases; provide intensive outreach and monitoring including intensive probation for chronic truancy cases; provide mental health assessments and outpatient mental health and substance abuse services; and provide short-term emergency residential placement for children with multiple juvenile court referrals for truancy, running away, and being beyond their parents' control.
FWSN Resource Plan
The act directed the chief court administrator and the OPM secretary to develop and submit to the governor and General Assembly by January 1, 1999, a FWSN plan that includes FY 1999-01 biennial budget recommendations to implement it. They must develop the plan in consultation with the education and DCF commissioners, the co-chairs and ranking members of the Judiciary and Education committees, and a representative of (1) the Select Committee on Children, (2) youth service bureaus, and (3) the truancy subcommittee of the Safe Schools and Communities Coalition.
PA 05-250, AAC CHILDREN OF FAMILIES WITH SERVICE NEEDS
This act prohibited (1) holding a child whose family has been adjudicated as a FWSN in juvenile detention or (2) adjudicating them delinquent solely for violating a court's FWSN order. Judges could previously place children charged with violating a FWSN order in juvenile detention facilities and juvenile probation officers determined whether a delinquency petition should be filed.