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Child in Need of Services program

Guidance on obtaining a court order for temporary placement of a child in a residence other than the home of their parent when other meditation services cannot help.

A child in need of services is defined by statute as a child under the age of 18 who meets at least 1 of the following 3 requirements:

  • Is beyond parental control such that the child's behavior endangers the health, safety, or welfare of the child or other person.
  • Has been reported to law enforcement as absent without consent for at least 24 consecutive hours from the parent's home, a crisis residential center, an out-of-home placement, or a court-ordered placement on two or more separate occasions and has exhibited a serious substance abuse problem or behaviors that create a serious risk of hard to the health, safety, or welfare of the child or any other person.
  • Is in need of necessary services, including food, shelter health care, clothing, educational, or services designed to maintain or reunite the family and lacks access to or has declined to utilize these services, and whose parents have evidenced continuing but unsuccessful efforts to maintain the family structure or are unable or unwilling to continue efforts to maintain the family structure.

The Child in Need of Services Program helps obtain a court order mandating temporary placement (for up to 6 months) of a child in a residence other than the home of their parent. The need for the placement must be based on a serious conflict between the parent and child that cannot be resolved by delivery of services to the family while the child remains at home.

How to petition

A child, parent, or Department of Social and Health Services may file a CHINS petition. A "parent" is defined as someone having legal right to custody of the child and includes custodian or guardian. Once a CHINS petition has been filed, the child may be temporarily placed, if not already placed, by DSHS in a crisis residential center, foster family home, licensed group home facility, or any other suitable residence to be determined by the Court and DSHS.
  • Get a Family Assessment

    Contact your local Family Reconciliation Services (FRS) office at DSHS and request an appointment for intake and a Family Assessment. At the conclusion of this meeting, the intake caseworker will prepare a Family Assessment. Request a copy of the Family Assessment and attach it to the petition before filing. The Court must have a copy of the Family Assessment before proceeding with the hearing.

    Call 1-800-609-8764 from 8 am to 4:30 pm and 1-800-562-5624 for after-hours.

  • Fill Out an CHINS Petition

    Fill out the CHINS Petition Packet with Instructions and Forms (1.34MB)

    Follow the guidance and FAQ included in the packet. If you need additional help, contact a case manager.

  • File your petition

    File your petition with the Court Clerk's Office at either Maleng Regional Justice Center in Kent or King County Courthouse in Seattle.

    File your petition at any location. Hearings, however, occur in the courthouse nearest the zip code where the parent resides. Generally, Seattle, Eastside and North King County cases will be heard in Seattle and South King County will be heard in Kent.

    There is no cost to filing.

    If you need help, call a case manager based on where you live:

    • Amy Andree for Auburn, Enumclaw, Federal Way, Highline, Kent, Renton, Tahoma, and Tukwila school districts
    • Karen Chapman for Bellevue, Issaquah, Lake Washington, Mercer Island, Northshore, Riverview, Seattle, Shoreline, Skykomish, Snoqualmie, and Vashon school districts

    Interpreter services

    If an interpreter for the youth and/or parents is necessary, let the Clerk's office know at the time of filing. Provide the name of the person needing an interpreter and the language requested. King County Superior Court will pay for all interpreter services.

  • Serving the petition

    After filing a petition, it must be properly served to the person you are filing against along with a Notice of Hearing that you received from the Clerk's Office. The server must be someone other than the petitioner who is age 18 or older. This person must hand the party a copy of the documents that are coming before the court.

    After the server delivers the court papers to the opposing party, the server should complete the Declaration of Service form. That form requires the server to make a sworn statement to the court (under oath) that s/he served the party with the necessary court papers. The server must date and sign the form at the bottom and return it to the party requesting her/his services. That form constitutes "proof of service" and should be brought to the hearing.

    If the child is on the run and personal service is not possible contact a case manager for further information.

  • Preparing for court

    You will get a date for a fact-finding hearing when you file a petition with the Court Clerk's Office.

    At the fact-finding hearing, the court checks the provided evidence. After confirming the facts, the court may impose conditions of supervision on the child. These cannot include involuntary commitment for substance abuse or mental health. The parent may also need to take in services. The court may ask for a dispositional hearing for this.

    At the end of the disposition, the court will schedule the matter for a review hearing within 90 days. At this hearing, the court reviews the conditions of supervision from the previous hearing. They can make any necessary additions or changes to the previous conditions.


    Your child will be assigned a court-appointed attorney for all hearings. Under a CHINS proceeding, a court-appointed attorney may be provided for the parent if they are eligible. The Department of Public Defense does a financial screening to see if you qualify.

    Learn more about public defense services

    A parent always has the right to obtain an attorney at their own expense.

    Prepare for the hearing

    • Get copies of all relevant written records and make 2 copies of any document you plan on submitting to the Court.
    • You may bring witnesses to provide testimony at the hearing. Written sworn statements from witnesses who cannot appear at the hearing are acceptable. A "sworn" statement must:
      • Include "I declare under penalty of perjury under the laws of the State of Washington that the foregoing is true and correct" underneath the statement
      • Be signed and dated with the city noted.
    • Prepare a short background summary of the situation for the court.
    • Everything you provide to the court must also be shared with parties.

  • After hearing

    • Do not leave the building before obtaining a copy of the court order signed by the Judge/Commissioner from the Court Coordinator.
    • Read the order carefully to ensure that everything is written as indicated by the Judge/Commissioner.
    • Make a note of the date and time of the next court hearing in your calendar.
    • If the court order includes individual or family counseling, anger management, drug/alcohol evaluation or treatment, psychological/psychiatric evaluation or treatment, you should begin exploring service providers and get a program set up immediately; you may contact DSHS for referrals. You may ask a case manager for assistance.


    The parent is responsible for costs related to the court-ordered plan (counseling, drug/alcohol evaluations/treatment, mental health evaluations, etc.). There may also be a cost for the appointed attorney for your child. Whenever the court approves an out-of-home placement, the court will check if the parents can pay for the service. If they are able to contribute to the support of the child, the court orders them to make support payments. However, a parent who has both opposed the placement and sought reconciliation with, and return of, the child will not be pay for out-of-home placement.

    Contempt of court

    Failure by any party to follow a court order is contempt of court. Report violations of the court order are to the court through the filing of a contempt motion. A parent, a child, or a person/agency with custody of the child can file one. If the court makes a finding of contempt at a contempt hearing, the court may impose penalties.

    This may be one or more penalties, including:

    • Coercive sanctions, such as research papers or community service hours
    • Alternatives to secure detention, such as work crew or electronic home monitoring
    • Confinement for up to 7 days in juvenile detention
    • A fine of up to $100

    You do not need to wait for a scheduled review hearing to report violations of the court's orders. An appointment with a case manager is necessary to file a contempt motion or request a warrant. You must call ahead and schedule an appointment to meet with a case manager for help. Check phone messages for hours before dropping in.