Senate Bill No. 590
(By Senators Palumbo, Wills, Klempa and Stollings)
[Introduced February 15, 2012; referred to the Committee on the Judiciary.]
A BILL to amend and reenact §48-23-101, §48-23-102, §48-23-401, §48-23-402, §48-23-501, §48-23-502, §48-23-503, §48-23-504 and §48-23-506 of the Code of West Virginia, 1931, as amended, all relating to including adult siblings of an adoptee in the mutual consent voluntary adoption registry.
Be it enacted by the Legislature of West Virginia:
That §48-23-101, §48-23-102, §48-23-401, §48-23-402, §48-23-501, §48-23-502, §48-23-503, §48-23-504 and §48-23-506 of the Code of West Virginia, 1931, as amended, be amended and reenacted, all to read as follows:
ARTICLE 23. VOLUNTARY ADOPTION REGISTRY.
Part I. 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 such desire. The Legislature also recognizes that some adults who were adopted as children have a strong desire to obtain identifying information about their natural siblings.
(b) The Legislature fully recognizes the right to privacy and confidentiality of:
(1) Birth parents whose children were adopted;
(2) The adoptees; and
(3) The adoptive parents; and
(4) The siblings of the adoptee.
§48-23-102. Legislative purpose.
The purpose of this article is to:
(1) Set up a mutual consent voluntary adoption registry where birth parents, adult siblings 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, adult siblings 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 own; and
(3) To provide for the transmission of non-identifying health and social and genetic history to the adult adoptees, adult siblings, birth parents and other specified persons; and
(4) To provide for disclosure of identifying information for cause shown.
Part IV. 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, adult siblings and adult adoptees is available to birth parents, adult siblings and adult adoptees, except as otherwise limited by section 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.
(c) An adult sibling is not eligible to use the registry until he or she is eighteen years of age or older.
Part V. Operation of the Voluntary Adoption Registry.
§48-23-501. Prerequisites to disclosure of identifying information.
The adult adoptee, adult sibling 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 four 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.
§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 or adult sibling 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.
§48-23-503. Cases where disclosure of identifying information cannot occur.
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 or one or more adult siblings of the adoptee 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.
§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 child;
(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, or the adult adoptee and the adult siblings 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.
§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, adult sibling 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.
NOTE: The purpose of this bill is to add adult siblings of an adoptee as an individual who can place his or her name on the voluntary adoption registry.
Strike-throughs indicate language that would be stricken from the present law and underscoring indicates new language that would be added.