Child In Need of Care
In 2021 the Johnson County District Attorney’s Office filed 231 Child in Need of Care (CINC) cases based on abuse and neglect or dangerous conduct on the part of the minor child, and 336 CINC cases based truancy or the failure to attend school as required by law. A CINC case for abuse and neglect is initiated by a report to local law enforcement or the Kansas Department for Children and Families (DCF), followed by an investigation by DCF and law enforcement. The DCF investigation often includes the offering of services to avoid the need for court involvement. When possible, the child and family receive services to address issues while the family remains intact and the child is in the home. If the child cannot be safely maintained at home, a request is made to the Johnson County District Attorney’s Office and a CINC petition is filed with the court.
In CINC investigations there are several options early in the process for a “non-court” intervention. Most CINC referrals are made to DCF (the local DCF office can be contacted at 913-826-7300). DCF is assigned the task of screening the referrals. Most referrals require no action. In cases where criminal conduct is alleged (such as in the case physical or sexual abuse of a child), law enforcement will also be asked to investigate and a separate criminal action may result. If the allegations are such that the child could be “harmed”, law enforcement has the authority to remove the child from the home and place the child in Police Protective Custody for up to 72 hours, excluding weekends and court holidays. A petition must be filed, and the case heard by the court within the 72 hours of protective custody being initiated.
Overall, most CINC investigation are resolved without court intervention.
Once a CINC case is formally filed with the court an attorney will appointed as a guardian ad litem (GAL) to represent the best interests of the child in court proceedings. The child’s parents or guardians are also entitled to court appointed counsel if the parents are deemed to be indigent.
In CINC cases, the court must first determine whether all parents and grandparents have been properly notified and served with the petition which outlines the reasons the child is “in need of care”. Then the court must determine if the child is "in need of care" (meaning, that the child is without proper care or supervision, or has been abused, or is truant, or other statutory reasons). If the court finds the child to be a CINC, the court has tremendous authority to make orders for the child and family. The court may order the child and parents to obtain counseling or treatment. The court may order the child placed in the custody of a relative or in state custody.
If the child is placed in DCF custody and ordered by the court live out of the home, the court may require the parents to complete tasks necessary to establish the child may be safely returned home. The parents will also be required to pay child support to DCF for the time the child is placed out of the home. If the parents fail to complete the tasks assigned by the court, the court may consider termination of parental rights or permanent placement with a family member. The goal in all CINC cases is to have the child remain in the home when it is safe to do so. Termination of parental rights is only considered after all attempts to reunite the family have failed.