Maryland courts are concerned with protecting the best interests of children, even if that means removing a child from the custody of one or both parents. Under Maryland law, a child is considered in need of assistance (CINA) of he or she:
- Has suffered physical, sexual or emotional abuse or has a developmental disability, and
- The child’s parent or guardian is unable or unwilling to provide proper care and upbringing
The CINA process in brief
In the first stage of a CINA case, the court will determine whether the child needs emergency shelter to protect him or her from the immediate danger of abuse or neglect.
During the next stage, the court determines if the findings in the DSS report are true. If the findings are confirmed, the case moves on to the next stage in which the court will either return the child to the parents under certain conditions, place the child in foster care, or place the child with a relative that can be trusted to provide proper care and support.
A difficult decision for courts
The law recognizes that children are almost always best served by maintaining a meaningful relationship with their parents. Only under extreme circumstances will a court order that parents will no longer be allowed contact with their children. These circumstances are rare, but they do happen.
An urgent legal crisis for parents
Parents may feel helpless in the face of a CINA proceeding, but they do have important rights, including the right to legal counsel. Parents who cannot afford to hire an attorney will have one appointed by the court. Parents may also hire an attorney privately to argue their side of the case, while a state-appointed attorney represents the child.
These are difficult, extremely sensitive proceedings under any circumstances. Whether you are a parent concerned with losing access to your child or have concerns over the well-being of a child you care about, discuss your legal needs with an attorney who has experience handling these complex issues.