If a child is suspected to be at risk of abuse and/or neglect, any Maryland resident can report their suspicions to the Department of Social Service. There is even a special child abuse hotline that can be used for this purpose. Often, the individuals who report such information are therapists, doctors, nurses, teachers or anyone else who wishes to remain anonymous.

Following the report, the Department of Social services will investigate the case. The department will attempt to keep the family together through various assistance services and by having a meeting with family members and the parents. The department will then create a plan to assist the family in staying together.

That said, families are not always able to stay together, as the Department of Social Services could try to remove the child from his or her parents’ home. This happens when there is a suspicion of imminent risk to the child. In these situations, children are usually put in an emergency shelter, a foster home or with another relative.

After the child is removed, an emergency shelter hearing will be held in juvenile court. This is when a judge or magistrate will determine if the child may return to his or her guardians or parents, or if the child will stay in foster care or with a relative. It is during this hearing that a Department of Social Services lawyer will submit a petition to the court to demonstrate that the child at issue is a CINA, a Child in Need of Assistance.

Numerous Maryland parents have lost their parental rights and lost child custody of their children after their child has been identified as a CINA. However, it is not always the case that a child is appropriately identified as a CINA, and sometimes situations are misunderstandings that — with appropriate legal representation — parents can resolve in court. Parents of children that have been removed from their homes by the Maryland Department of Social Services may there for want to retain the assistance of an experienced family law attorney as quickly as possible.

Source: Maryland Courts, “Foster Care and Child Protection (CINA – Child in Need of Assistance),” accessed Dec. 07, 2016