Helping Families Navigate Through Divorce and Separation

Child in Need of Assistance Maryland


Child in need of assistance (CINA) cases can be the most difficult to deal with. A court will find a child "in need of assistance" (CINA) if the local Department of Social Services (DSS) proves:

  • that a child has been abused or neglected, or has a developmental disability or mental disorder; and

  • that the child’s parents, guardian, or custodian do not give proper care and attention to the child’s needs.


  1. Shelter care

  2. Adjudication (which is similar to a trial)

  3. Disposition (which is similar to sentencing)

  4. Permanency planning

In CINA matters, the local Department of Social Services files a CINA peittion and then a shelter care hearing is scheduled. If the court finds that there is an emergency situation making it against the child’s welfare to stay in the home, the court may place the child in shelter care. Shelter care is a temporary measure (usually no more than 30 days). A child may be placed in shelter care before a hearing in certain emergency situations. The second hearing after a CINA petition is filed is the adjudication hearing. If the child is in shelter care, the case moves to adjudication within 30 days.  If the child is not in shelter care, an adjudication hearing must be held within 60 days from the service of the CINA petition.

At the third phase of a CINA matter, the court may:

  • Return the child to a parent under specific conditions; or

  • Place the child in foster care; or

  • Award custody and guardianship to a person who can provide proper care for the child.

If a child is placed out of the home for at least one year after the initial removal, the court must hold a permanency planning hearing and may order:

  • the child be returned to the custody of the parent or guardian; or

  • the child be placed with a relative (for adoption, or custody and guardianship); or

  • the child be placed with a non-relative (for adoption, or custody and guardianship); or

  • another planned permanent living arrangement that meets the child’s needs.

CINA matters are complex and very serious in nature. At our firm, we have handled many CINA matters and are confident that we will assist you in this difficult time in your life. Contact us at 443-741-2567 to discuss your matter immediately.