Support with a Catch

New York's Persons in Need of Supervision and Parental Rights
November
2015
Mikayla K. Consalvo

When parents find they can no longer control their children—they are skipping school, staying out past curfew, and even getting in trouble with the police—what can they do? That answer depends, of course, on what types of resources are available to them. For unprivileged parents in New York State, the answer is often Persons in Need of Supervision (PINS). Intended to be a tool for parents in these situations that avoids exposing children to the criminal justice system, enlistment in PINS has become a “risky resource” to parents. In exchange for the support of county diversion programs offered by PINS, parents relinquish the control they have over their children’s lives. This is not required to happen through affirmative and fully informed waivers of their control, even though parents’ rights are afforded constitutional protection. Instead, parents are assumed to implicitly waive their right to raise their children by filing a request for PINS services. This Note argues that this system is out of line with Supreme Court precedent defining and outlining parents’ substantive due process rights and has serious consequences for children and their families. To remedy these constitutional and policy-based issues, this Note proposes that New York cease treating PINS petitions as implicit waivers of parental control. Though certainly not a complete fix for all concerns that arise from the PINS system, this solution would at least partially correct the imbalance between parents and the state under the PINS regime.

This article appears in the November 2015 Issue: Volume 90, Number 5