WEST VIRGINIA LEGISLATURE
2023 REGULAR SESSION
Committee Substitute for House Bill 2016
BY DELEGATES SUMMERS, TULLY, ROHRBACH AND ESPINOSA
[Passed March 10, 2023; in effect ninety days from passage.]
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1 AN ACT to amend and reenact §16-5-28 of the Code of West Virginia, 1931, as amended; to
2 amend and reenact §49-4-608 of said code; and to amend and reenact §49-5-101 of said
3 code, all relating to releasing information to facilitate care of a child; providing for qualified
4 disclosure of confidential information between certain entities; requiring court notices be
5 sent to child placement agencies in adoption cases; requiring State Registrar to issue copy
6 of vital record to child placement agency; requiring the disclosed records to be maintained
7 in compliance with code; and requiring the department to provide electronic access to
8 certain information.
Be it enacted by the Legislature of West Virginia:
CHAPTER 16. PUBLIC HEALTH.
ARTICLE 5. VITAL STATISTICS.
§16-5-28. Copies from the system of vital statistics.
1 In accordance with §16-5-27 of this code and the legislative rules promulgated thereunder:
2 (a) The State Registrar and other custodians of vital records authorized to issue certified
3 copies shall upon receipt of an application, issue a certified copy of a vital record in his or her
4 custody to the registrant, his or her parents, spouse, adult children, grandchildren or great-
5 grandchildren, legal guardian, or their respective authorized representative. Additionally, the State
6 Registrar and other custodians of vital records, upon receipt of an application, shall issue a
7 certified copy of a vital record in his or her custody to a child placing agency completing adoption
8 on behalf of the department. Others may be authorized to obtain certified copies when they
9 demonstrate that the record is needed for the determination or protection of his or her personal
10 or property right. The department may promulgate rules to further define others who may obtain
11 copies of vital records filed under this article.
12 (b) All forms and procedures used in the issuance of certified copies of vital records in the
13 state shall be approved by the State Registrar. All certified copies of certificates of birth issued
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14 shall have security features that deter the document from being altered, counterfeited, duplicated,
15 or simulated without ready detection in compliance with regulations issued by the federal
17 (c) Each copy or abstract issued shall show the date of registration, and copies or
18 abstracts issued from records marked “Amended” shall be similarly marked and, when possible,
19 show the effective date of the amendment. Copies issued from records marked “Delayed” shall
20 be similarly marked and shall include the date of registration and a description of the evidence
21 used to establish the delayed certificate. Any copy issued of a “Certificate of Foreign Birth” shall
22 indicate the foreign birth and show the actual place of birth and the statement that the certificate
23 is not proof of United States citizenship for the person for whom it is issued.
24 (d) A certified copy of a vital record issued in accordance with this section shall be
25 considered for all purposes the same as the original, and shall be prima facie evidence of the
26 facts stated in the record: Provided, That the evidentiary value of a certificate or record filed more
27 than one year after the event, or a record which has been amended, or a certificate of foreign
28 birth, shall be determined by the judicial or administrative body or official before whom the
29 certificate is offered as evidence.
30 (e) Nothing in this section shall be construed to permit disclosure of information contained
31 in the “Information for Medical and Health Use Only” section of the certificate of birth or the
32 “Information for Statistical Purposes Only” section of the certificate of marriage or certificate of
33 divorce or annulment unless specifically authorized by the State Registrar for statistical or
34 research purposes. This information is not subject to subpoena or court order and is not
35 admissible before any court, tribunal, or judicial body. Information collected for administrative use
36 may not be included on certified copies of records, and may be disclosed only for administrative,
37 statistical, or research purposes authorized by state or federal law and legislative rule.
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38 (f) When the State Registrar receives information that a certificate may have been
39 registered through fraud or misrepresentation, he or she may withhold issuance of any copy of
40 that certificate.
41 (1) The State Registrar shall inform the registrant or the registrant's authorized
42 representative of the right to request a hearing by the commissioner.
43 (2) The secretary of the department may authorize the State Registrar or another person
44 to hold an investigation or hearing to determine if fraud or misrepresentation has occurred.
45 (3) If upon conclusion of a hearing or investigation no fraud or misrepresentation is found,
46 copies may be issued.
47 (4) If fraud or misrepresentation is found by a preponderance of the evidence, the State
48 Registrar shall remove the certificate from the file. The certificate and evidence will be retained
49 but will not be subject to inspection or copying except upon order of a court of competent
50 jurisdiction or by the State Registrar for purposes of prosecution or administration of the system
51 of vital statistics.
52 (g) No person may prepare or issue any certificate which purports to be an original,
53 certified copy, or copy of a vital record, except as authorized by this article, or by legislative rule.
CHAPTER 49. CHILD WELFARE.
ARTICLE 4. COURT ACTIONS.
§49-4-608. Permanency hearing; frequency; transitional planning; out-of-state placement;
findings; notice; permanent placement review.
1 (a) Permanency hearing when reasonable efforts are not required. — If the court finds
2 pursuant to this article that the department is not required to make reasonable efforts to preserve
3 the family, then notwithstanding any other provision a permanency hearing must be held within
4 30 days following the entry of the court order so finding, and a permanent placement review
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5 hearing must be conducted at least once every 90 days thereafter until a permanent placement
6 is achieved.
7 (b) Permanency hearing every 12 months until permanency is achieved. — If 12 months
8 after receipt by the department or its authorized agent of physical care, custody, and control of a
9 child either by a court-ordered placement or by a voluntary agreement the department has not
10 placed a child in an adoptive home, placed the child with a natural parent, placed the child in legal
11 guardianship, or permanently placed the child with a fit and willing relative, the court shall hold a
12 permanency hearing. The department shall file a progress report with the court detailing the efforts
13 that have been made to place the child in a permanent home and copies of the child's case plan,
14 which shall include the permanency plan as defined in §49-1-201 and §49-4-604 of this code.
15 Copies of the report shall be sent to the parties and all persons entitled to notice and the right to
16 be heard. The court shall schedule a hearing giving notice and the right to be present to the child's
17 attorney; the child; the child's parents; the child's guardians; the child's foster parents; any
18 preadoptive parent, or any relative providing care for the child; any person entitled to notice and
19 the right to be heard; and other persons as the court may, in its discretion, direct. The child's
20 presence may be waived by the child's attorney at the request of the child or if the child is younger
21 than 12 years-of-age and would suffer emotional harm. The purpose of the hearing is to review
22 the child's case, to determine whether and under what conditions the child's commitment to the
23 department shall continue, to determine what efforts are necessary to provide the child with a
24 permanent home, and to determine if the department has made reasonable efforts to finalize the
25 permanency plan. The court shall conduct another permanency hearing within 12 months
26 thereafter for each child who remains in the care, custody, and control of the department until the
27 child is placed in an adoptive home, returned to his or her parents, placed in legal guardianship,
28 or permanently placed with a fit and willing relative.
29 (c) Transitional planning for older children. — In the case of a child who has attained 16
30 years of age, the court shall determine the services needed to assist the child to make the
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31 transition from foster care to independent living. The child's case plan should specify services
32 aimed at transitioning the child into adulthood. When a child turns 17, or as soon as a child aged
33 17 comes into a case, the department must immediately provide the child with assistance and
34 support in developing a transition plan that is personalized at the direction of the child. The plan
35 must include specific options on housing, health insurance, education, local opportunities for
36 mentors, continuing support services, work force support, and employment services, and the plan
37 should be as detailed as the child may elect. In addition to these requirements, when a child with
38 special needs turns 17, or as soon as a child aged 17 with special needs comes into a case, he
39 or she is entitled to the appointment of a department adult services worker to the multidisciplinary
40 treatment team, and coordination between the multidisciplinary treatment team and other
41 transition planning teams, such as special education individualized education planning (IEP)
43 (d) Out-of-state placements. — A court may not order a child to be placed in an out-of-
44 state facility unless the child is diagnosed with a health issue that no in-state facility or program
45 serves unless a placement out of state is in closer proximity to the child's family for the necessary
46 care or the services are able to be provided more timely. If the child is to be placed with a relative
47 or other responsible person out of state, the court shall use judicial leadership to help expedite
48 the process under the Interstate Compact for the Placement of Children provided in §49-7-
49 101 and §49-7-102 of this code and the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act
50 provided in §48-20-101 et seq. of this code.
51 (e) Findings in order. — At the conclusion of the hearing the court shall, in accordance
52 with the best interests of the child, enter an order containing all the appropriate findings. The court
53 order shall state:
54 (1) Whether or not the department made reasonable efforts to preserve the family and to
55 prevent out-of-home placement or that the specific situation made the effort unreasonable;
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56 (2) Whether or not the department made reasonable efforts to finalize the permanency
57 plan and concurrent plan for the child;
58 (3) The appropriateness of the child's current placement, including its distance from the
59 child's home and whether or not it is the least restrictive one (or most family-like one) available;
60 (4) The appropriateness of the current educational setting and the proximity to the school
61 in which the child is enrolled at the time of placement;
62 (5) Services required to meet the child's needs and achieve permanency; and
63 (6) In addition, in the case of any child for whom another planned permanent living
64 arrangement is the permanency plan the court shall: (A) Inquire of the child about the desired
65 permanency outcome for the child; (B) make a judicial determination explaining why, as of the
66 date of the hearing, another planned permanent living arrangement is the best permanency plan
67 for the child; and (C) provide in the court order compelling reasons why it continues to not be in
68 the best interest of the child to: (i) return home, (ii) be placed for adoption, (iii) be placed with a
69 legal guardian, or (iv) be placed with a fit and willing relative.
70 (f) The department shall annually report to the court the current status of the placements
71 of children in the care, custody, and control of the state department who have not been adopted.
72 (g) The department shall file a report with the court in any case where any child in the
73 custody of the state receives more than three placements in one year no later than 30 days after
74 the third placement. This report shall be provided to all parties and persons entitled to notice and
75 the right to be heard. Upon motion by any party, the court shall review these placements and
76 determine what efforts are necessary to provide the child with a permanent home. No report may
77 be provided to any parent or parent's attorney whose parental rights have been terminated
78 pursuant to this article.
79 (h) The department shall give actual notice, in writing, to the court, the child, the child's
80 attorney, the parents, and the parents' attorney at least 48 hours prior to the move if this is a
81 planned move, or within 48 hours of the next business day after the move if the child is in imminent
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82 danger in the child's current placement, except where the notification would endanger the child or
83 the foster family. A multidisciplinary treatment team shall convene as soon as practicable after
84 notice to explore placement options. This requirement is not waived by placement of the child in
85 a home or other residence maintained by a private provider. No notice may be provided pursuant
86 to this provision to any parent or parent's attorney whose parental rights have been terminated
87 pursuant to this article.
88 (i) Nothing in this article precludes any party from petitioning the court for review of the
89 child's case at any time. The court shall grant the petition upon a showing that there is a change
90 in circumstance or needs of the child that warrants court review.
91 (j) Any foster parent, preadoptive parent or relative providing care for the child shall be
92 given notice of and the right to be heard at the permanency hearing provided in this section.
93 (k) Once an adoption case is assigned to a child placing agency, all related court hearing
94 notices shall be sent to the child placing agency as an interested party.
ARTICLE 5. RECORD KEEPING AND DATABASE.
§49-5-101. Confidentiality of records; non-release of records; exceptions; penalties.
1 (a) Except as otherwise provided in this chapter or by order of the court, all records and
2 information concerning a child or juvenile which are maintained by the Division of Corrections and
3 Rehabilitation, the Department of Health and Human Resources, a child agency or facility, or court
4 or law-enforcement agency, are confidential and may not be released or disclosed to anyone,
5 including any federal or state agency.
6 (b) Notwithstanding the provisions of subsection (a) of this section or any other provision
7 of this code to the contrary, records concerning a child or juvenile, except adoption records and
8 records disclosing the identity of a person making a complaint of child abuse or neglect, may be
9 made available:
10 (1) Where otherwise authorized by this chapter;
11 (2) To:
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12 (A) The child;
13 (B) A parent whose parental rights have not been terminated;
14 (C) The attorney of the child or parent; and
15 (D) The Juvenile Justice Commission and its' designees acting in the course of their official
17 (3) With the written consent of the child or of someone authorized to act on the child's
18 behalf; and
19 (4) Pursuant to an order of a court of record: Provided, That the court shall review the
20 record or records for relevancy and materiality to the issues in the proceeding and safety and may
21 issue an order to limit the examination and use of the records or any part thereof.
22 (c) In addition to those persons or entities to whom information may be disclosed under
23 subsection (b) of this section, information related to child abuse or neglect proceedings, except
24 information relating to the identity of the person reporting or making a complaint of child abuse or
25 neglect, shall be made available upon request to:
26 (1) Federal, state, or local government entities, or any agent of those entities, including
27 law-enforcement agencies and prosecuting attorneys, having a need for that information in order
28 to carry out its responsibilities under law to protect children from abuse and neglect;
29 (2) The child fatality review team;
30 (3) Child abuse citizen review panels;
31 (4) Multidisciplinary investigative and treatment teams; or
32 (5) A grand jury, circuit court, or family court, upon a finding that information in the records
33 is necessary for the determination of an issue before the grand jury, circuit court, or family