The Court continues to focus on and improve the justice system for families and children in the state.
Families in Need of Services Assistance Program (FINS-AP), the program under which the Judicial Administrator's Office manages the funds provided by the legislature to assist local FINS programs. A type pre-delinquency intervention, FINS provides interagency social work services to assist children and families, often signing contracts for school and family progress in lieu of court adjudication. The FINS Assistance Program has developed a needs-based allocation formula, a uniform data system for tracking, managing and reporting FINS informal cases, programmatic standards, performance indicators and measures, and periodic fiscal reports.
Family in Need of Services (FINS), a legislatively created type of juvenile court proceeding, was enacted into law upon passage of the Louisiana Children’s Code in 1991. The FINS title consolidated former Child in Need of Supervision and Parents in Need of Supervision jurisdiction as Title VII of the Code. FINS became effective in all courts having juvenile jurisdiction on July 1, 1994. In addition to formal court procedures, an informal process was added in which the court, through a court-appointed intake officer, facilitates the establishment of a voluntary family services plan between the family and the providers of needed services. The FINS process provides a unique opportunity for early judicial intervention to prevent delinquency and child abuse. The FINS process is designed to identify and integrate existing service providers, connect families to needed services, and to promote the establishment of new services or programs where gaps in services have been identified.
Legislative funding for FINS began in 1995 by an appropriation made through the Children’s Cabinet of the Governor. In 1998, the legislature requested a study by the Louisiana State University – Office of Social Services Research and Development (LSU-OSSRD) for equitable distribution of funds for the administration of FINS throughout the 41 judicial districts, in accordance with Louisiana Performance Audit laws. The LSU-OSSRD study reported that development of uniform standards is integral to the concept of equitable distribution. In addition, the study emphasized the need for centralized program and financial management, uniform data collection, centralized data analysis, and statewide accountability for FINS.
In June 1999, in response to the LSU-OSSRD study and at the request of the legislature, the Louisiana District Judges Association, and the Louisiana Council of Juvenile Judges (LCJFC), the Louisiana Supreme Court accepted responsibility for administrative program oversight of FINS.
FINS-AP - Linking Children and Families to Needed Services
To implement the recommendations of the study, the Court created the Families in Need of Services Assistance Program (FINS-AP) within the Judicial Administrator’s Office. Since creation of FINS-AP, the Supreme Court has taken many steps needed to bring FINS into compliance with the Louisiana Performance Budgeting Act. More important, the Court has made continuous efforts to improve the administration of FINS and work with individual districts to effectively identify and help link Louisiana families to needed services.
In keeping with the mission of FINS-AP to manage funds provided by the legislature for assisting local FINS processes, developments have included a need-based allocation formula; a uniform data system for tracking, managing and reporting FINS informal cases; programmatic standards; development; performance indicators and measures; case assessment and evaluation, and periodic fiscal reports and financial responsibility; and general supervision of and assistance to local FINS offices in other ways.
Currently the Orleans Parish Juvenile Court and more than 55 other judicial district offices participate in the Families in Need of Services Assistance Program and serve more than 7,000 families. In addition to monthly allocations, more than 70% of FINS-AP participants have requested and received funding for enhancements including computer upgrades and technical assistance. During the next phase, the Supreme Court will continue its efforts to develop and implement reforms that will provide children and families with opportunities to access services targeted to properly address the underlying causes of pre-delinquent behavior.
The Supreme Court accepted the statewide administration of FINS because it recognized the importance and great benefits to be realized by the program. Louisiana Supreme Court Justice Bernette Joshua Johnson is directly overseeing the FINS program on behalf of the Court. Working closely with Chief Justice Johnson and the Court is Deputy Judicial Administrator for Families and Children, Kären Hallstrom and FINS-AP, Judicial Program Manager, Lynette P. Adams.
The Families in Need of Services (FINS) became effective in all courts having juvenile jurisdiction on July 1, 1994, as Title VII of the Louisiana Children’s Code. This title of the Children’s Code represents a substantial consolidation of former proceedings known under the Code of Juvenile Procedure as Children in Need of Supervision [CINS] and Parents in Need of Supervision [PINS]. The Families in Need of Services [FINS] process is designed to permit the juvenile court to return to its original role of coordinating community resources to assist and reinforce the family in an effort to prevent delinquency and family disintegration. FINS goals are to reduce formal juvenile court involvement while generating appropriate community services to benefit the child and improve family relations.
How Does FINS Work?
- Submit a written complaint to the FINS program alleging a family is in need of services. ChC Article 731.
- Anyone may file a complaint. Most common, however, law enforcement, school officials and parents make referrals. The complaint must allege at least one of the grounds listed. Under ChC Article 730:
Grounds for such a complaint include the following: ChC Article 730
1. Child is truant or has wilfully and repeatedly violated lawful school rules.
2. Child is ungovernable.
3. Child is a runaway.
4. Child repeatedly possessed or consumed intoxicating beverages, or that he has misrepresented or deceived his age for the purpose of purchasing or receiving such beverages from any person, or has repeatedly loitered around any place where such beverages are the principal commodities sold or handled.
5. Child committed an offense applicable only to children. [Smoking/purchasing tobacco]
6. Child under 10 years of age committed any act which if committed by an adult would be a crime under any federal, state, or local law.
7. Caretaker has caused, encouraged, or contributed to the child’s behavior under this Article or to the commission of delinquent acts by minor.
8. After notice, caretaker wilfully failed to attend meeting with child’s teacher, school principal, or other appropriate school employee to discuss child’s truancy, the child’s repeated violation of school rules, or other serious educational problems of the child
9. Child found incompetent to proceed with a delinquency matter
10. Repealed by Acts 2012, No. 730 § 2. (Child found in possession of handgun or semiautomatic handgun under circumstances that reasonably tend to exclude any lawful purpose.)
- Complaint Filed - Family meets with FINS Intake Officer who conducts an initial interview, often referred to as an Informal Family Conference or Mandatory Conference. Child is asked to complete an assessment to help identify behavioral, substance abuse, mental health and other problems. ChC Article 743
- Family completes an Informal Family Service Plan Agreement (IFSPA), including among others, the identification of the conduct of the child, caretaker, or any other family member causing serious harm to the child and the services needed by that individual to reduce or eliminate the problems within the family unit. The IFSPA also includes a description of the services which are needed; the availability of services, and a plan for ensuring that any such services that are available is secured and delivered. The duration of the initial IFSPA is six (6) months, with a maximum duration of twelve (12) months. The family is expected to cooperate with efforts to resolve its problems as recommended by FINS. ChC Article 744.
- Noncompliance - If recommendations are not followed, FINS may refer the family to court, a FINS conference, and/or a hearing before a judge. If a hearing should happen, each and every member of the family shall be subject to the jurisdiction of the court. Ch CArt. 745.
Children and families have the opportunity to access services that are targeted to properly address the underlying causes of pre-delinquent behavior.
Following an assessment and extensive interview to evaluate the unique needs of each family, a family service plan is developed.
Compliance with the service plan is monitored by FINS staff and other designated individuals for a maximum of six months without further judicial order.
An IFSPA shall not be considered adjudication. If any of the terms of the agreement are violated, the case may proceed to an adjudication hearing on the allegations.
FINS is an informal process designed to focus on the family unit, rather than just the child. FINS goals are to promote early intervention and help facilitate the receipt of needed services, rather than imposing a punishment.
Every parent, every grandparent, every teacher, preacher, leader, and citizen must commit to save our children. If our children thrive, the nation thrives. If our children fall, America falls with them. - Marian Wright Edelman
For more information about the FINS program, please contact:
Lynette Adams, JD
FINS-AP Judicial Program Manager
District FINS Directory
Truancy and Assessment
Service Centers (TASC) Information