Becca Bill & Truancy

Walla Walla/Columbia County
Becca Bill, ARY, CHINS & Truancy

At-Risk Youth (ARY Petition)
Downloadable Forms: At-Risk Youth Petition

In juvenile court, a parent or legal guardian may file a petition in the interest of a child who is alleged to be an at-risk youth. If the child is under 18 years of age, the department (Washington State Department of Children Youth and Families) shall, when requested, assist the parent in filing the petition. The petition is filed at the Clerk’s Office in the county where the petitioner lives. It must include the name, age, and residence of the child and the names of the child’s parents or legal guardians. 
The petition must show that the child:
  • Is absent from the home at least 72 consecutive hours without parental consent.
  • Is beyond parental control such that the child endangers the health, safety, or welfare of the child or any other person.
  • Has a substance use problem for which there are no pending criminal charges related to substance use; and
  • Court intervention and supervision are necessary to assist the parent to maintain the care, custody, and control of the child; and
  • Alternatives to court intervention have been attempted or there is good cause why such alternatives have not been attempted.
Juvenile court will not file an at-risk youth petition unless a family assessment has been completed by the department (DCYF). To schedule a family assessment, please contact DCYF: 1-855-420-5888.

When a proper at-risk youth petition is filed, juvenile court will schedule a fact-finding hearing. A lawyer will be appointed for the child. The parent of the child has the right to be represented by a lawyer at the parent’s own expense. All parties have the right to present evidence at the hearing.

If the petition is approved, a disposition hearing is scheduled. At disposition, the court considers recommendations by all parties, including DCYF, and may:
  • Enter an order that will assist the parent in maintaining the care, custody, and control of the child and assist the family to resolve family conflicts or problems.
  • Set conditions of supervision requiring that the child:
  • Attend school at the direction of the district.
  • Participate in counseling.
  • Participate in a substance use or mental health evaluation and follow treatment recommendations.
  • Report regularly to designated person or agency.
  • Order the parent(s) to participate in recommended services. (Parents will not be relieved of financial responsibility for costs related to the court-ordered plan, including costs of any out-of-home placement of the child).
  • Order the department to monitor compliance with the dispositional order, assist in coordinating the provision of court ordered services, and submit reports for subsequent review hearings regarding the status of the case.
  • A review hearing is held 30 days after disposition. If the child is found to be in contempt (willful disregard) for violating the court order established at disposition, they may receive a sanction from the court.
The petition expires 6 months after the 30-day review. However, a motion for dismissal may be filed at any point. The parent may request dismissal of an at-risk youth proceeding or out-of-home placement at any time. Upon such a request, the court shall dismiss the matter and cease supervision for the child unless:
  • A contempt action is pending in the case.
  • A petition has been filed and a hearing has not yet been held, or
  • An order has been entered and the court retains jurisdiction under that subsection.
Court supervision of the child may not continue past 180 days from the day the review hearing commenced unless the court finds, and the parent agrees, that there are compelling reasons for an extension of the supervision. Any extension shall not exceed 90 days.
Child in Need of Services (CHINS Petition)
  • A CHINS petition may be filed by a parent, child, or the department (Department of Children, Youth, and Families). A petition may be filed when a serious conflict exists between a parent and child; and
  • The petitioner has made a reasonable effort to resolve the conflict.
  • Reasonable efforts have been made to prevent or eliminate the need for removal of the child from the child’s home and to make it possible for the child to return home.
  • A suitable out-of-home placement resource is available.
The process starts when the petitioner calls the Department of Children, Youth, and Families’ Central Intake number (1-855-420-5888) and reports the concerning behavior in the home and a timeline of events.
If eligible, the case is referred to a local caseworker who completes a family assessment and refers the child and the parent(s) to the most appropriate program available.

Family reconciliation services may be offered to address the underlying reasons for the conflict. When matched with a family through the petition process, a professional therapist or service provider can facilitate skill-building sessions that teach family members pro-social communication skills and strategies to deal with stressful situations.

While a CHINS petition may begin with placing the child out-of-home, the goal is reunification and keeping the family intact. 
If appropriate, the caseworker recommends filing the petition and requests assistance from the Department of Court Services in making recommendations to the court.
If a parent or child has questions or needs assistance during any part of the process, they can contact:
Department of Court Services Manager, Jon Cassetto or
Probation Officer, Vance Norsworthy
At the Walla Walla Juvenile Justice Center, Phone 509-524-2800.

Once filed, a hearing (sometimes called a fact finding) will be scheduled. The purpose of the hearing is to hear and consider evidence on the petition. All parties have the right to present evidence at the hearing.

A lawyer will be appointed for the child. The parent (legal custodian) of the child has the right to be represented by a lawyer at the hearing. If a parent cannot afford one, the court will appoint a lawyer for the parent.
During the hearing, the Judge considers the evidence and approves the petition, dismisses it, or orders the case reviewed to determine whether a Dependency Petition should be filed. The Judge grants the petition if the following criteria is met:
  • The child is beyond the control of his/her parent(s) such that the child’s behavior
  • endangers the health, safety, or welfare of the child or other person.
  • The child has been reported as absent without consent for at least 24 consecutive hours on two or more separate occasions from the parent’s home, a crisis residential center, an out-of-home placement, or a court-ordered placement; and
  • has exhibited a serious substance abuse problem; or
  • has exhibited behaviors that create a risk of serious harm to the health, safety, or welfare of the child or any other person; or
The child is in need of necessary services (including food, shelter, health care, clothing, education, or services designed to maintain or reunite the family); and the child lacks access to, or has declined to utilize these services; and the child’s 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; or
The child is a “sexually exploited child.”
If the CHINS petition is approved, the Judge may order that the child shall be placed, or remain temporarily, outside of the home for a period not to exceed 14 days (from the date of the order).
The disposition hearing is also scheduled to be held within this 14-day period.
At disposition, the Judge considers recommendations from all parties, including the Department of Children, Youth, and Families, and makes findings based on the evidence. These findings may support continued out-of-home placement for a period not to exceed 90 days from the date of the order.  

Truancy Petition

Attendance and truancy in public schools are regulated in Washington state statute (RCW Chapter 28A.225) and the Washington administrative code (WAC Chapter 392-401).

“All parents in this state of any child eight years of age and under eighteen years of age shall cause such child to attend the public school of the district in which the child resides, and such child shall have the responsibility to and therefore shall attend for the full time when such school may be in session.” (Please refer to RCW 28A.225.010 for specific exceptions).
“If a parent enrolls a child who is six or seven years of age in a public school, the child is required to attend and that parent has the responsibility to ensure the child attends for the full time that school is in session.”
Each school within a school district shall inform the students and the parents of the students enrolled in the school about:
  • The benefits of regular school attendance.
  • The potential effects of excessive absenteeism, whether excused or unexcused, on academic achievement, and graduation and dropout rates.
  • The school's expectations of the parents and guardians to ensure regular school attendance by the child.
  • The resources available to assist the child and the parents and guardians.
  • The role and responsibilities of the school.
  • The consequences of truancy, including the compulsory education requirements.
Schools are responsible for communicating with students and their parents whenever absences occur. Support staff mail letters, schedule conferences, and track attendance according to school district policy. Schools must take steps to identify barriers to regular attendance and offer interventions to help eliminate or reduce the absences. Special education considerations allow accommodations, when appropriate. 

Parents are responsible for using reasonable diligence to ensure their child attends as required.
They are asked to excuse absences only if justified according to school attendance policy. Parents must communicate with school officials regarding their child’s unique circumstances. They may be required to appear in court and follow mandated conditions, such as participation in Community Engagement Boards and programming designed to improve their child’s attendance.
A Truancy Petition may be filed by a school district once a student reaches seven unexcused absences in any 30-day period or 15 in the school year. An unexcused absence means a child:
  • Has failed to attend the majority of hours or periods in an average school day or has failed to comply with a more restrictive school district policy; and
  • Has failed to meet the school district's policy for excused absences; or
  • Has failed to comply with alternative learning experience program attendance requirements as described by the superintendent of public instruction.
For students in elementary school, the proceedings begin with a “parent petition.” The student does not participate in Community Engagement Boards or appear in court; the intent is to engage parents in a collaborative process to identify barriers to attendance and offer solutions.

For students in middle and high school, it is considered a “student petition.” While parents still have primary responsibility in monitoring an attendance-improvement plan, their middle or high school student is required to attend Community Engagement Boards and appear in court in person, along with their parents.

Juvenile court uses a “graduated response” in holding truant students accountable. For example, if a student meets criteria for a petition, the first step is not issuing a formal Summons to appear in court in person. Instead, court proceedings are “stayed” (put on hold).

However, there are still consequences for disregarding the expectations of a filed truancy petition. They can include any or all of the following:
  • Formal communication from juvenile court.
  • Obligation to participate in Community Engagement Board to address absences.
  • Expectation that Community Engagement Board Agreement is followed.
  • If non-compliant, must engage in alternative intervention/program or appear in court.
  • If petition found to be valid, ordered to attend school as directed by district; may be ordered to complete substance use or mental health assessment and follow treatment recommendation.
  • If non-compliant with order, appear in court to address allegations.
  • If found to have willfully violated order, Judge may find student in contempt and impose certain conditions, such as meaningful community restitution and/or other services and interventions that the court deems appropriate.


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