The public policy of Minnesota is to protect children whose health or welfare may be jeopardized by caregivers. This public policy is carried out by the individual county human service agencies. The Attorney's Office provides legal advice and representation to our client agency, Nicollet County Health & Human Services.
Child in Need of Protection or Services Petitions
When there is a need to obtain court jurisdiction over a family in order to provide protective services, the Attorney's Office files a petition in Juvenile Court alleging that the Child is In need of Protection or Services (CHIPS). From that point forward, the County Attorney's Office represents Health & Human Services in all court proceedings relating to the petition. Parents have the right to an attorney in the proceeding, and the right to a trial on a CHIPS petition. If the petition is proven by clear and convincing evidence, the child is adjudicated CHIPS.
By law, the primary goal in all child protection cases is to maintain the child in the family home; or if a child is removed from the home, to return the child to the family if it is safe and in the child's best interests to do so.
To that end, Health & Human Services must provide reasonable efforts to families to either maintain the child in the home or reunify the child with the parent. Reasonable efforts are set forth in a case plan that may include requirements such as:
- Chemical dependency treatment
- Mental health assessments and counseling
- Parenting classes
- Obtaining adequate housing
- Regular visitation
- Other terms the court feels are necessary to reunify the family or keep the child safe
The law allows parents a limited period of time in which to correct the conditions when a child is placed out of the home. If the child cannot be returned to the care of a parent within 6 months, the court must review a parent's progress to determine if the parent should be given more time to correct the conditions that made an out-of-home placement necessary. If the court determines the parent is making progress, the court may give the parent an additional 6 months to correct the conditions.
If the parent is not making progress or the child has remained out of the home for 12 months, the Attorney's Office files a permanency petition alleging either that parental rights should be terminated or that permanent legal and physical custody of the child should be transferred to a relative or kin.
For some children, neither termination nor transfer of custody is in the child's best interests. Health & Human Services may ask the court to order that the child remain in long-term foster care until the child is no longer a minor. In this case, Health & Human Services must continue to look for an adoptive home for the child.