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What Is a Child in Need of Assistance Case?

A Child in Need of Assistance (CINA) case is when a court must decide if the living situation around a child is not conducive to their ultimate wellbeing.

A court will find a CINA if:

  1. a child has been abused and/or neglected;
  2. a child has a developmental disability or mental disorder that isn’t being addressed by their guardian; or
  3. the child’s guardians don’t give proper care and/or attention to their needs.

The goal of the court in a CINA case is to find permanent placement for a child that will be in their best interest. The court will only separate a child from their parent(s) if it seems that doing so is the only option for the child’s welfare. If the court makes that decision, it will give priority to another family member in placement and/or custody over non-family members.

CINA Proceedings

Most CINA proceedings happen in 4 stages:

  1. Shelter Care

Once the Department of Social Services (DSS) files a CINA petition there will be a shelter care hearing. If the court believes the situation is an emergency and doesn’t believe they should stay in their home, the court could place the child in shelter care. Shelter care won’t last more than 30 days; typically, it only lasts for the duration of the hearing.

  1. Adjudication

If it’s deemed necessary for the child to be placed in shelter care, the adjudication hearing will begin within 30 days of the placement. If the child stays in their current home, the hearing will begin 60 days from the day the CINA petition was given to the guardian.

During the hearing, a court will determine if the facts in the CINA petition are true or not. If the court finds the local DSS has proven any accusations to be true, the case will move to the disposition stage.

  1. Disposition

When a case goes to disposition, the court will decide if the child is a CINA.

If the child is deemed to be a CINA, the court might:

  1. return the child to a guardian (under certain conditions);
  2. place the child in the foster system; or
  3. grant custody or guardianship to a relative (or non-relative) who can give the child proper care.

  1. Permanency Planning Hearing

If the child is out of their residence for 1 year or more, the court will hold a permanency planning hearing.

At the permanency planning hearing, the court could order any of the following:

  • return of the child to their legal guardian;
  • placement of the child with a relative (for guardianship or adoption);
  • placement of the child with a non-relative (for guardianship or adoption); or
  • alternative permanent placement plan that will benefit the child substantially.

If permanency wasn’t achieved at the initial hearing or circumstances change, the court will hold a hearing every 6 months until permanency is won. If it’s decided the child will be placed for adoption, the court will terminate parental rights of the current guardian.

The Law Offices of Mark R. Hinshaw Is Here to Help

If DSS has deemed your child to be a CINA and you are facing any of the above hearings, reach out to our CINA attorneys. We understand the delicate nature of this legal process and will do everything in our power to help you keep custody of your child.

Contact our firm online or give us a call at (515) 200-7571.

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