CHAPTER 48. DOMESTIC RELATIONS.
WVC 48 - 23 -
ARTICLE 23. VOLUNTARY ADOPTION REGISTRY.
WVC 48 - 23 - 101
PART 1. GENERAL PROVISIONS.
§48-23-101. Policy regarding persons obtaining identifying
information after adoption.
(a) Adoption is based upon the legal termination of parental
rights and responsibilities of birth parents and the creation of
the legal relationship of parent and child between an adoptee and
his or her adoptive parents. These legal and social premises
underlying adoption must be maintained. The Legislature recognizes
that some adults who were adopted as children have a strong desire
to obtain identifying information about their birth parents while
other such adult adoptees have no such desire. The Legislature
further recognizes that some birth parents have a strong desire to
obtain identifying information about their biological children who
were surrendered for adoption, while other birth parents have no
(b) The Legislature fully recognizes the right to privacy and
(1) Birth parents whose children were adopted;
(2) The adoptees; and
(3) The adoptive parents.
WVC 48 - 23 - 102
§48-23-102. Legislative purpose.
The purpose of this article is to:
(1) Set up a mutual consent voluntary adoption registry where
birth parents and adult adoptees may register their willingness to
the release of identifying information to each other;
(2) To provide for the disclosure of such identifying
information to birth parents or adoptees, or both, through a social
worker employed by a licensed adoption agency, provided each birth
parent and the adult adoptee voluntarily registers on his or her
(3) To provide for the transmission of nonidentifying health
and social and genetic history to the adult adoptees, birth parents
and other specified persons; and
(4) To provide for disclosure of identifying information for
WVC 48 - 23 - 201
PART 2. DEFINITIONS
§48-23-201. Applicability of definitions.
For the purposes of this article the words or terms defined in
this article, and any variation of those words or terms required by
the context, have the meanings ascribed to them in this article.
These definitions are applicable unless a different meaning clearly
appears from the context.
WVC 48 - 23 - 202
§48-23-202. Adoptee defined.
"Adoptee" means a person who has been legally adopted in the
state of West Virginia.
WVC 48 - 23 - 203
§48-23-203. Adoption defined.
"Adoption" means the judicial act of creating the relationship
of parent and child where it did not exist previously.
WVC 48 - 23 - 204
§48-23-204. Adult defined.
"Adult" means a person who is eighteen years of age or more.
WVC 48 - 23 - 205
§48-23-205. Agency defined.
"Agency" means any public or voluntary organization licensed
or approved pursuant to the laws of any jurisdiction within the
United States to place children for adoption.
WVC 48 - 23 - 206
§48-23-206. Genetic and social history defined.
"Genetic and social history" means a comprehensive report,
when obtainable, on the birth parents, siblings to the birth
parents, if any, other children of either birth parent, if any, and
parents of the birth parents, which shall contain the following
(1) Medical history;
(2) Health status;
(3) Cause of and age at death;
(4) Height, weight, eye and hair color;
(5) Ethnic origins;
(6) Where appropriate, levels of educational and professional
(7) Religion, if any.
WVC 48 - 23 - 207
§48-23-207. Health history defined.
"Health history" means a comprehensive report of the child's
health status at the time of placement for adoption and medical
history, including neonatal, psychological, physiological and
medical care history.
WVC 48 - 23 - 208
§48-23-208. Mutual consent voluntary adoption registry or
"Mutual consent voluntary adoption registry" or "registry"
means a place provided for herein where eligible persons as
described in section 23-501 may indicate their willingness to have
their identity and whereabouts disclosed to each other under
conditions specified in this article.
WVC 48 - 23 - 209
§48-23-209. Putative father defined.
"Putative father" means any man not deemed or adjudicated
under the laws of a jurisdiction of the United States to be the
father of genetic origin of a child and who claims or is alleged to
be the father of genetic origin of such child.
WVC 48 - 23 - 301
PART 3. ESTABLISHMENT AND MAINTENANCE
OF VOLUNTARY ADOPTION REGISTRY.
§48-23-301. Division of human services to establish and maintain
mutual consent voluntary adoption registry.
The division of human services, as provided for in §9-2-1, et
seq. of this code, shall establish and maintain the mutual consent
voluntary adoption registry, except that the division may contract
out the function of establishing and maintaining the registry to a
licensed voluntary agency with expertise in providing post-legal
adoption services, in which case the agency shall establish and
maintain the registry that would otherwise be operated by the
The secretary of the department of health and human resources
shall promulgate and adopt such rules as are necessary for
implementing this article.
WVC 48 - 23 - 401
PART 4. USE OF THE VOLUNTARY ADOPTION REGISTRY.
§48-23-401. Persons to whom use of the mutual consent voluntary
adoption registry is available.
Use of the mutual consent voluntary adoption registry for
obtaining identifying information about birth parents and adult
adoptees is available to birth parents and adult adoptees, except
as otherwise limited by section 23-402.
WVC 48 - 23 - 402
§48-23-402. Age limitations on use of the mutual consent
voluntary adoption registry.
(a) A birth parent is not eligible to use the registry until
his or her child who was adopted is eighteen years of age or older.
(b) An adult adoptee is not eligible to use the registry if he
or she has a sibling in his or her adoptive family who is under the
age of eighteen years.
WVC 48 - 23 - 403
§48-23-403. Registration by a birth father.
A birth father may register if:
(1) He was named as the father in the original sealed birth
(2) He legitimated or formally acknowledged the child as
provided by law; or
(3) He signed a voluntary abandonment and release for the
child's adoption as provided by law.
WVC 48 - 23 - 404
§48-23-404. Registration by a birth parent who used an alias in
terminating parental rights.
If a birth parent used an alias name in terminating his or her
parental rights, and the alias is listed in the original sealed
birth record, that birth parent may register if the agency,
organization, entity or person that placed the child for adoption,
certifies to the court that the individual seeking to register used
the alias name set forth in the original sealed birth certificate.
WVC 48 - 23 - 501
PART 5. OPERATION OF THE VOLUNTARY ADOPTION REGISTRY.
§48-23-501. Prerequisites to disclosure of identifying
The adult adoptee and each birth parent may voluntarily,
without having been contacted by any employee or agent of the
entity operating the registry, place his or her name in the
appropriate registry before any disclosure or identifying
information can be made. A qualified person may register by
submitting a notarized affidavit to the appropriate registry
stating his or her name, address and telephone number and his or
her willingness to be identified solely to the other relevant
persons who register. No registration may be accepted until the
prospective registrant submits satisfactory proof of his or her
identity in accord with the provisions specified in section 23-601
of this article. The failure of any of the three above described
persons to file a notarized affidavit with the registry for any
reason, including death or disability, precludes the disclosure of
identifying information to those relevant persons who do register.
WVC 48 - 23 - 502
§48-23-502. Counseling of registrants.
Upon registering, the registrant shall participate in not less
than one hour of counseling with a social worker employed by the
entity that operates the registry, except if a birth parent or
adult adoptee is domiciled outside the state, he or she shall
obtain counseling from a social worker employed by a licensed
agency in that other state selected by the entity that operates the
registry. When an eligible person registers concerning an adoption
that was arranged through an agency which has not merged or
otherwise ceased operations, and that same agency is not operating
the registry, the entity operating the registry shall notify by
certified mail the agency which handled the adoption within ten
business days after the date of registration.
WVC 48 - 23 - 503
§48-23-503. Cases where disclosure of identifying information
In any case where the identity of the birth father was unknown
to the birth mother, or where the administrator learns that one or
both of the birth parents are deceased, this information shall be
shared with the adult adoptee. In these kinds of cases, the
adoptee will not be able to obtain identifying information through
the registry, and he or she would be told of his or her right to
pursue whatever right otherwise exists by law to petition a court
to release the identifying information.
WVC 48 - 23 - 504
§48-23-504. Matching and disclosure procedures.
(a) Each mutual consent voluntary adoption registry must be
operated under the direction of an administrator.
(b) A person eligible to register may request the
administrator to disclose identifying information by filing an
affidavit which sets forth the following:
(1) The current name and address of the affiant;
(2) Any previous name by which the affiant was known;
(3) The original and adopted names, if known, of the adopted
(4) The place and date of birth of the adopted child; or
(5) The name and address of the adoption agency or other
entity, organization or person placing the adopted child, if known.
(c) The affiant shall notify the registry of any change in
name or location which occurs subsequent to his or her filing the
affidavit. The registry has no duty to search for an affiant who
fails to register his or her most recent address.
(d) The administrator of the mutual consent voluntary adoption
registry shall process each affidavit in an attempt to match the
adult adoptee and the birth parents. Such processing shall include
research from agency records, when available, and when agency
records are not available, research from court records to determine
conclusively whether the affiants match.
(e) The administrator shall determine that there is a match
when the adult adoptee and the birth mother or the adult adoptee and the birth father have each filed affidavits with the mutual
consent voluntary adoption registry and have each received the
counseling required in section 23-502.
(f) When a match has taken place, the department shall
directly notify all parties through a direct and confidential
contact. The contact shall be made by an employee or agent of the
agency receiving the assignment and shall be made face to face,
rather than by mail, telephone or other indirect means. The
employee or agent shall be a trained social worker who has
expertise in post-legal adoption services.
WVC 48 - 23 - 505
§48-23-505. Retention of data by the registry.
Any affidavits filed and other information collected shall be
retained for ten years following the date of registration by any
qualified person to which the information pertains. Any qualified
person who registers may renew his or her registration for ten
additional years within one hundred eighty days prior to the last
day of ten years from the date of initial registration.
WVC 48 - 23 - 506
§48-23-506. Scope of information obtained by the mutual consent
voluntary adoption registry.
A mutual consent voluntary adoption registry shall obtain only
information necessary for identifying a birth parent or adult
adoptee and in no event shall obtain information of any kind
pertaining to the adoptive parents, any siblings to the adult
adoptee who are children of the adoptive parents, the income of
anyone and reasons for adoptive placement.
WVC 48 - 23 - 507
§48-23-507. Fees for operations of the mutual consent voluntary
All costs for establishing and maintaining a mutual consent
voluntary adoption registry shall be obtained through user's fees
charged to all persons who register.
WVC 48 - 23 - 601
PART 6. HEALTH HISTORY; SOCIAL AND GENETIC HISTORY.
§48-23-601. Compilation of nonidentifying information on health
history and social and genetic history.
(a) Prior to placement for adoption, the court shall require
that the licensed adoption agency or, where an agency is not
involved, the person, entity or organization handling the adoption,
shall compile and provide to the prospective adoptive parents a
detailed written health history and genetic and social history of
the child. These histories must exclude information that would
identify birth parents or members of a birth parent's family. The
histories must be set forth in a document that is separate from any
document containing such identifying information.
(b) The court, or an agency designated by the court, or judge
thereof, shall provide to an agency, person, or organization
handling the adoption the forms which must be utilized in the
acquisition of the above-described detailed nonidentifying written
health history and genetic and social history of the child. If the
records cannot be obtained, the court shall make specific findings
as to why the records are unobtainable.
(c) Records containing such nonidentifying information and
which are set forth on a document described in subsection (a)
above, separate from any document containing identifying data:
(1) Shall be retained by the clerk of the court for ninety-nine years; and
(2) Shall be available upon request, throughout the time
specified in subdivision (1) of this subsection together with any
additional nonidentifying information which may have been added on
health or on genetic and social history, but which excludes
information identifying any birth parent or member of a birth
parent's family, or the adoptee or any adoptive parent of the
adoptee, to the following persons only:
(A) The adoptive parents of the child or, in the event of
death of the adoptive parents, the child's guardian;
(B) The adoptee upon reaching the age of eighteen;
(C) In the event of the death of the adoptee, the adoptee's
spouse if he or she is the legal parent of the adoptee's child or
the guardian of any child of the adoptee;
(D) In the event of the death of the adoptee, any progeny of
the adoptee who is age eighteen or older; and
(E) The birth parent of the adoptee.
(d) The person requesting nonidentifying health history and
genetic and social history shall pay the actual and reasonable
costs of providing that information. This provision requiring
payment of costs is subject to sections of this article that
provide for the adoptee to obtain information by petitioning the
WVC 48 - 23 - 701
PART 7. PROHIBITED CONDUCT.
§48-23-701. Prohibited conduct.
(a) No person, agency, entity or organization of any kind,
including, but not limited to, any officer or employee of this
state and any employee, officer or judge of any court of this
state, may disclose any confidential information relating to an
adoption except as provided in this article or pursuant to a court
order. Any employer who knowingly or negligently allows any
employee to disclose information in violation of this article is
subject to the penalties provided in subsection (b) of this
section, together with the employee who made any disclosure
prohibited by this law.
(b) Any person, agency, entity or organization of any kind who
discloses information in violation of this law is liable to the
parties so injured in an action to recover damages in respect
WVC 48 - 23 - 801
PART 8. NONDISCLOSURE OF REGISTRY INFORMATION.
(a) Notwithstanding any other provision of law, the
information acquired by any registry may not be disclosed under any
sunshine or freedom of information legislation, rules or practice.
(b) Notwithstanding any other provision of law, no person,
group of persons, or entity, including an agency, may file a class
action to force the registry to disclose identifying information.
Note: WV Code updated with legislation passed through the 2013 1st Special Session
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