As a hopeful adoptive parent or pregnant mother considering adoption in the Mountain State, you may feel overwhelmed by adoption processes, laws and qualifications. If you live in Charleston, Huntington, or anywhere else in the state, read on to learn how to adopt or place a child for adoption in West Virginia.
Laws, Rules and Qualifications for Adopting a Child in West Virginia
Every state has adoption laws regulating many aspects of the adoption process, from who can adopt to allowable adoption expenses. The following guidelines provide information on basic laws and guidelines for adopting in West Virginia.
What are the laws and qualifications for adopting a child in West Virginia?
Unmarried individuals may adopt in West Virginia. A married person may adopt jointly with his or her spouse or individually with his or her spouse’s consent.
What adoption expenses can be paid by adoptive families in West Virginia?
Hopeful adoptive parents may make reasonable and customary payments for legal, medical, hospital or other expenses incurred in connection with the pregnancy, as well as any other fees authorized or approved by the court. Adoptive families should submit an affidavit of any fees and expenses paid at the final adoption hearing.
What are the laws to become a foster parent in West Virginia?
To become a foster parent in West Virginia, a person must:
- Be at least 21 years old
- Have a stable and secure income
- Be physically and mentally healthy
- Complete a home safety and fire inspection
- Have no child abuse reports or a criminal background
- Have stable family relationships
- Have the ability to commit to a child
- Complete the PRIDE training course
- Complete a West Virginia home study
What are the requirements to finalize an international adoption in West Virginia?
Any time after the child has arrived in the United States, the adoptive parents may petition the court to recognize the foreign adoption decree. A copy of the visa or other documentation, the home study and the foreign adoption decree or other documents evidencing the finalization of the adoption, along with an English translation, should be submitted with the petition.
If the court finds the petition and documentation to be satisfactory, it will enter an order of adoption stating that the adoption must be recognized in West Virginia and will have the same force and effect as an adoption decree granted in West Virginia. A certificate of adoption will be certified by the clerk of the court upon receipt of the required documentation. The certificate will be labeled “Certificate of Foreign Birth” and will show the actual country of the child’s birth. The certificate is not evidence of U.S. citizenship.
Is it legal to use advertising or facilitators to adopt in West Virginia?
The use of advertisement is not addressed in West Virginia adoption statutes. Any person or agency that knowingly offers, gives, accepts or receive anything of value in exchange for locating, providing or procuring a child for adoption is guilty of a felony. This excludes fees paid for reasonable and customary services provided by the department or a licensed child-placing agency.
Laws, Rules and Qualifications for Placing a Baby for Adoption in West Virginia
West Virginia has several laws in place to protect birth parents’ rights throughout the adoption process. If you are considering adoption for your child, it is important to understand the basic rules and regulations of placing a baby for adoption in West Virginia
When and how can birth parents consent to the adoption?
In West Virginia, birth parents may execute consent 72 hours after the birth of the child. Consent must be signed and acknowledged by a judge, a person designated to take consents, a notary public, a commissioned officer on active duty if the person giving consent is in the military, or an officer of the foreign service or a consular office of the United States in another country if the consenting parent is in that country.
Who must consent to the adoption?
Consent is required from a child’s parents or surviving parent, if the child was born during marriage. For a non-marital child, the mother must consent, as well as the determined father or a man who has been adjudicated to be the father or who has filed a pending paternity action at the time of the filing for the adoption petition.
If all people having parental rights to the child are deceased or without legal custody of the child, consent or relinquishment is required of the child’s legal guardian or any other person having legal custody of the child. If the child being adopted is 12 or older, his or her consent is required unless the requirement of such consent is waived by the court.
When is parental consent not needed in West Virginia adoptions?
Consent is not required of any parent whose parental rights have been terminated, who has abandoned the child, or who, in a stepparent adoption, is the birth parent or adoptive parent of the child and is married to the adoptive parent.
When does the birth parents’ consent become irrevocable?
Consent may be irrevocable if another person whose consent is required does not execute consent within a specified time period, if a court decides not to terminate another person’s parental rights to the child, or if the prospective adoptive parents withdraw their adoption petition.
Consent may only be revoked if:
- The consenting parent and prospective adoptive parent or agency named in the consent agree to its revocation
- The consenting parent provides clear and convincing evidence within six months of the execution of consent that it was obtained by fraud or duress
- Prior to the entry of an adoption order, the consenting parent proves that a condition allowing revocation has occurred
- The consenting person proves, prior to the entry of the adoption order, that the consent does not comply with state requirements
What rights does the father of the baby have in West Virginia?
In West Virginia, a “birth father” is the biological father of a child. “Determined father” means that before adoption, a man:
- Who has been established paternity by adjudication or acknowledgment
- Who has been otherwise judicially determined to be the biological father of a child and is entitled to parental rights
- Who has asserted his paternity in an action that is pending at the time of filing the adoption petition
A “legal father” is a man with a legal relationship of parent to a child. A legal father may be married to the child’s mother at the time of conception or birth or who is the biological father and marries the mother before the child’s adoption.
An “outsider father” is the biological father of a child born to or conceived by the mother while she is married to another man who is not the child’s biological father. A “putative father” is a man named by the mother as a possible biological child of the father but who is not a legal or determined father.
A civil action to establish the paternity of a child may be instituted in the family court of the county where the child resides by the child’s mother, the state of West Virginia, any person having physical or legal custody of the child, the child’s guardian, the next friend of the child, the child if he or she is between ages 18 and 21, or a man who believes he is the father of a non-marital child when there has been no prior judicial determination of paternity. Blood or tissue samples may be ordered in a paternity proceeding.
A written, notarized acknowledgment of paternity executed lawfully establishes the man as the father of the child for all purposes.
Home Study and Post-Placement Requirements in West Virginia
One of the most important steps for prospective adoptive and foster parents in West Virginia is the home study. The home study determines whether prospective parents are able to provide a safe, nurturing home to a child. The following section answers common questions about the West Virginia home study process.
What is included in the West Virginia home study process?
The West Virginia home study includes at least one individual in-person interview for each prospective parent and two joint interviews. The study will also evaluate and describe aspects of the home and family, including composition of the household and family relationships, attitudes and understanding of child development, the manner in which the family handles conflict and stress, individual and family hobbies, community activities and social life, each parent’s personal history and values, the parents’ financial situation, motivation to adopt, and an assessment of the adoptive parents’ ability to make a lifetime commitment to the child and their understanding of the child’s legal rights.
Adoptive parents must provide at least four references from non-relatives. All adult household members will undergo criminal background checks and checks of child abuse and neglect records. The home study also includes an assessment of the physical facilities of an adoptive home to ensure
Who is included in the home study process?
The home study includes all adult family members.
Who will conduct the home study?
The home study is completed by the child-placing agency.
On what grounds will the home study not be approved in West Virginia?
The home study will not be approved if the adoptive parents have any health, behavior, emotional or psychological problems that would endanger a child’s wellbeing. The home study will also be denied if any household member has any convictions other than minor traffic violations or if any of the references are not positive in nature.
When should the home study be completed? When must the home study be renewed?
The home study must be completed prior to placement. The agency must evaluate adoptive families annually until they receive a placement. The annual review must include a summary of any biographical updates and changes in their circumstances or attitudes about adoption, as well as a recommendation for any changes in approval.
What is a post-placement study in the adoption process? What are the post-placement study requirements for West Virginia?
Within 72 hours of placement, the agency will make an initial post-placement phone call. Within one week, they will conduct an initial visit. The agency will provide at least six visits during the post-placement study period, at least four of which will be in the adoptive home. In a two-parent family, both parents must be involved in at least three visits. Additional visits may be made based on the needs of the child and adoptive parents. Visits will include all household members and an observation of the child during each visit. If the child is old enough, the caseworker must conduct a private interview with him or her during each visit.
The agency will continue to provide support services for at least six months until permanent placement is achieved. The agency will provide a final visit with the adoptive family to review the adoption process prior to finalization.
What are the home study requirements for stepparent or relative adoptions in West Virginia?
This issue is not addressed in West Virginia statutes.
What are the home study requirements to adopt a child from another state?
Any placement of a child outside of his or her birth state is subject to the Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children (ICPC).
What are the requirements to adopt a child that is currently in my care?
This issue is not addressed in West Virginia statutes.
To start the home study process, contact one of these trusted West Virginia home study providers:
- Opt to Adopt, LLC
Brenda Pizatella, ACSW is the founder of Opt to Adopt and provides services for international and domestic adoptions in the form of consultations, home study preparation and pre- and post-placement reports.
- Children’s Home Society of West Virginia
As a licensed child-placing agency in West Virginia, the Children’s Home Society provides assessment services including orientation and training and a complete home study.
West Virginia Adoption Professionals
For more information about adoption West Virginia or to begin the adoption process, contact one of these local adoption professionals:
- American Adoptions
- Burlington United Methodist Family Services
- Bethany Christian Services
- Children’s Home Society of West Virginia
- KVC West Virginia
For more information about foster care in West Virginia, visit the Bureau for Children and Families.
Things to do in West Virginia
Whether you find yourself in the Mountain State for visits with prospective birth parents or you’re waiting for ICPC approval, here are a few fun places for adoptive families to visit in West Virginia:
- New River Gorge Bridge (Fayetteville)
- Appalachian Glass (Weston)
- Harpers Ferry National Historic Park (Harpers Ferry)
- Blackwater Falls State Park (Davis)
- Beckley Exhibition Coal Mine and Youth Museum (Beckley)
- West Virginia State Museum (Charleston)
- State Capitol (Charleston)
More information about traveling to West Virginia is available at http://gotowv.com/.