Understanding Child in Need of Assistance (CINA) Cases

NOTE: If you have questions about your CINA case, call your social worker and/or lawyer.

First Steps in a CINA Case

Children and their families require court intervention in Child in Need of Assistance (CINA) cases because:

  • the child has been abused or neglected, or has a developmental disability or mental disorder; AND
  • the child’s parents, guardian, or custodian are unable or unwilling to give the child proper care and attention.

There are two types of CINA petitions filed in the court:

  1. Emergency - child is removed from the home. The parents receive a copy of Child Welfare Services, Montgomery County Department of Health and Human Services' Petition and written notification of why Child Welfare feels the court should become involved with your family. The first court hearing, called the Shelter Hearing, is held no later than the next business day that the Court is in session, at 1:30 pm. At this hearing, the Judge determines if the temporary placement outside the home is warranted.
  2. Non-emergency - Child Welfare Services, Montgomery County Department of Health and Human Services files a CINA Petition with the court, but the child is not removed from the home. The first hearing, called the Preliminary Inquiry Hearing, is typically held 14 days after the petition is filed.

Throughout the case, you will be asked to attend several hearings, including settlement conferences and planning and review hearings.

There are no jury trials in juvenile court.

Mediation is an informal, cooperative process for solving problems. It gives everyone involved a chance to work together to reach agreements and avoid the stress of court trials. A judge or any party to a case can request mediation at any stage of the case.

Download a Guide for Parents and Guardians in Child Protection Cases (PDF)

Watch a 3-part series for parents whose children have been removed from the family home.

Not understanding all this terminology? Visit the glossary.

What Happens if I do not attend court hearings?

You will always be notified of court hearing dates. It is very important that you go to all hearings. If you do not go to a hearing, the judge will still make decisions but without your ideas.

If there is an important reason why you can't go to a hearing, you must tell your lawyer immediately. If you do not have a lawyer, you must tell the court, in writing, why you cannot go to a hearing.

Participants in a CINA Case

The following individuals and agencies participate in CINA cases:

Circuit Court Judges assigned to the Juvenile Rotation preside over juvenile cases and make decisions based on the facts of the case and the applicable law.

Social Workers work with the children and their families in CINA cases in order resolve problems that brought the families to court.

The Office of the County Attorney files the petitions and represents the Department of Health and Human Services and its social workers.

The Respondent is the child in a CINA case.

The child’s attorney is an attorney appointed by the Court to represent the child. Children in CINA cases are entitled to representation at all stages of their proceedings. The Maryland Legal Services Program contracts with legal firms to provide representation for all children involved in CINA cases in Montgomery County. Attorneys are appointed at either the Shelter Hearing or the Preliminary Inquiry Hearing.

Download The Guidelines of Advocacy for Attorneys Representing Children in CINA and Related TPR and Adoption Proceedings

The parent’s attorney represents the parents in CINA cases. Parents are not entitled to representation but are strongly encouraged to retain counsel. A mother, father, or guardian may all have separate attorneys. You can hire a lawyer to represent you, or, if you cannot afford a lawyer, the Court will refer you to the The Maryland Office of the Public Defender.

Public Defender’s Office CINA Division
191 East Jefferson Street, 3rd Floor
Rockville, MD 20850
Phone: 301-563-8919

Parents who do not qualify may retain private counsel.

The Court may also appoint a Court Appointed Special Advocate(CASA), a trained volunteer who will meet with you, your child, and others involved in the case. The CASA reports to the court about how your child is doing and what the CASA believes to be in your child's best interest.

A Citizen Review Board is a group of trained volunteers who review cases and make written suggestions to the judge. Everyone involved in the case, including you, will be invited to talk with the CRB when they hold review sessions, but you are not required to attend.

Your Rights in a CINA Case

  • You have the right to a lawyer. Or, if you cannot afford a lawyer, the Court will refer you to the Maryland Office of the Public Defender.
  • You have the right to admit or deny the allegations made about you and your family, and to present evidence at court hearings.
  • You have the right to file an appeal of the judge's decision.
  • You have the right to be told of all court hearings and be present at them.
  • You have the right to an interpreter in court if you do not understand English. You have the right to other assistance if you have a disability.
  • You have the right to talk about your case with a lawyer, social worker, and if appointed, the CASA.
  • You have the right to be part of creating a treatment plan that is most helpful for you and your family.

Your Responsibilities in a CINA Case

  • Always attend your court hearings and scheduled appointments
  • Tell your lawyer, social worker, and the court if your address and/or telephone number changes.
  • Follow what the court orders you to do.

Community Resources

  • The following is a list of resources available in Montgomery County. Ask your lawyer and/or social worker about additional resources.
Agency Address Phone
Montgomery County Child Welfare Services (main office) 1301 Piccard Dr, 4th Floor, Rockville, MD 20850 240-777-3500
Montgomery County Child Welfare Services 7300 Calhoun Place, Suite 400, Rockville, MD 20855
Montgomery County Child Welfare Services (Up-County office) 12900 Middlebrook Rd, 2nd Floor, Germantown, MD 20876
Montgomery County Child Welfare Services (Down-County office) 8630 Fenton St, 10th Floor, Silver Spring, MD 20910
Montgomery County Circuit Court Juvenile Department 50 Maryland Ave, South Tower, 3rd Floor, Rm 3520, Rockville, MD 20850 240-777-9530
Montgomery County Circuit Court Family Division Services 50 Maryland Ave, South Tower, 1st Floor, Rm 1520, Rockville, MD 20850 240-777-9079
Visitation House 209 Monroe St, Rockville, MD 20850 301-279-5035

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