CHARLESTON — A bill to make the adoption process easier is now heading to the governor’s desk for signature.
The West Virginia Senate on Wednesday unanimously approved House Bill 4129, which permits adoptions of children removed from a home for abuse and neglect to be held in the county in which their abuse and neglect case proceedings occurred. It also eliminates the 45-day waiting period before an adoption is finalized. Children still have to live with their adoptive parents for six months prior to adoption.
Because the Senate did not amend the House’s version, the bill heads to the governor.
The bill was requested by the state Supreme Court of Appeals as a way to improve the child welfare court system. During the interim session, the court presented a list of three recommendations to improve the state’s adoption law.
The one recommendation that is not in the bill is to allow foster care and adoption proceedings to occur simultaneously.
While West Virginia faces a child welfare crisis with nearly 7,000 children in the foster system, the state has a pretty good track record with getting children adopted. Adoptions have increased the past three years, from 1,075 in 2017 to 1,700 in 2019. So far in federal fiscal year 2020, which began in October, 345 youth have been adopted in West Virginia, as of the end of January.
Nationally, more than 60% of children in foster care spend two to five years in the system before being adopted. Almost 20% spend five or more years in foster care before being adopted.
The House of Delegates passed a bill relating to adoption subsidies to third reading Wednesday after amending it. House Bill 4551 clarifies who may receive an adoption subsidy and for how long. The House adopted an amendment from Del. Geoff Foster, R-Putnam, which clarifies that the subsidy also pays for attorney services that will be paid directly to the attorney. Foster said a constituent raised the concern, saying the family receives the subsidy directly and sometimes does not pay the attorney for their service.