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§49-2-17. Subsidized adoption and legal guardianship.

(a) From funds appropriated to the Department of Health and Human Resources, the secretary shall establish a system of assistance for facilitating the adoption or legal guardianship of children. An adoption subsidy shall be available for children who are legally free for adoption and who are dependents of the department or a child welfare agency licensed to place children for adoption. A legal guardianship subsidy shall not require the surrender or termination of parental rights. For either subsidy, the children must be in special circumstances because one or more of the following conditions inhibit their adoption or legal guardianship placement:

(1) They have a physical or mental disability;

(2) They are emotionally disturbed;

(3) They are older children;

(4) They are a part of a sibling group; or

(5) They are a member of a racial or ethnic minority.

(b) The department shall provide assistance in the form of subsidies or other services to parents who are found and approved for adoption or legal guardianship of a child certified as eligible for subsidy by the department, but before the final decree of adoption or order of legal guardianship is entered, there must be a written agreement between the family entering into the subsidized adoption or legal guardianship and the department. Adoption or legal guardianship subsidies in individual cases may commence with the adoption or legal guardianship placement, and will vary with the needs of the child as well as the availability of other resources to meet the child's needs. The subsidy may be for special services only, or for money payments, and either for a limited period, or for a long term, or for any combination of the foregoing. The specific financial terms of the subsidy shall be included in the agreement between the department and the adoptive parents or legal guardians. The agreement may recognize and provide for direct payment by the department of attorney's fees to an attorney representing the adoptive parent. The amount of the time-limited or long-term subsidy may in no case exceed that which would be allowable from time to time for such child under foster family care or, in the case of a special service, the reasonable fee for the service rendered. In addition, the department shall provide either Medicaid or other health insurance coverage for any special needs child for whom there is an adoption or legal guardianship assistance agreement between the department and the adoptive parent or legal guardian and who the department determines cannot be placed with an adoptive parent or legal guardian without medical assistance because the child has special needs for medical, mental health or rehabilitative care.

(c) After reasonable efforts have been made without the use of subsidy and no appropriate adoptive family or legal guardian has been found for the child, the department shall certify the child as eligible for a subsidy in the event of adoption or a legal guardianship: Provided, that reasonable efforts to place a child without a subsidy shall not be required if it is in the best interest of the child because of such factors as the existence of significant emotional ties developed between the child and the prospective parent or guardian while in care as a foster child.

(d) If the child is the dependent of a voluntary licensed child-placing agency, that agency shall present to the department evidence of the inability to place the child for adoption or legal guardianship without the use of subsidy or evidence that such efforts would not be in the best interests of the child. In no event shall the value of the services and assistance provided by the department under an agreement pursuant to this section exceed the value of assistance available to foster families in similar circumstances. All records regarding subsidized adoptions or legal guardianships shall be held in confidence; however, records regarding the payment of public funds for subsidized adoptions or legal guardianships shall be available for public inspection provided they do not directly or indirectly identify any child or persons receiving funds for such child.

Note: WV Code updated with legislation passed through the 2017 Regular Session
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