West Virginia has jumped on the Safe Haven Baby Box train with HB3559, a barebones, poorly written bill, containing little protection for babies and their parents and vague procedures for implementation. The bill originated in AND passed the House Judiciary Committee on February 24,(Friday) and was placed on the House of Delegates’ “Special Calendar” immediately where it received a first reading. A second reading is scheduled for today, February 27. (Monday). I’ve never seen a bill speed through so fast–and apparently with no hearings.
What’s the rush?
It’s not like the state is stumbling in discarded newborns.
According to stats posted by SHBB Inc,,there are two reported discard cases in West Virginia since 2017. My own records, which I re-started after a hiatus of a few years, show one case last year. Brittany Hunt, 27, from Westover, was arrested on child neglect charges after a man found her newborn covered in feces in a backpack stashed in a crawlspace at his home where she apparently stayed. Hunt, reportedly gave birth in a bathroom. The umbilical cord showed “detectable amounts of Xanax, methamphetamine, suboxone, and cocaine,” according to court documents. I did an internet search today and am unable to discover the disposition of her case.
The Associated Press published a short article about the bill but gave no reason for its fast track.
Original Birth Certificates were sealed in West Virginia in 1941, a little before Pearl Harbor was bombed. Since then, adoptees have been forced to petition courts pleading “good cause” (undefined) to receive their own birth documents. Guess how successful they are.
For years West Virginia legislators have introduced weird OBC bills–some of the weirdest on record. The big deal for them is that adoptees prove that they are responsible and smart enough to receive their own birth certificates (if they are lucky) by requiring them to obtain certain Approved-by-Lawmakers education requirements. What these “credentials” have to do with the ability to own your own birth certificate is one those great AdoptionLand mysteries. The state’s Not-adopted, of course, are not hampered by such restrictions.
Here’s a general rundown of OBC bills taken from Bastard Nation legislative pages. Don’t worry if they make no sense:
- 2019-2023: Authorizes release of OBCs to West Virginia-born adoptees 18 years of age and older and their lineal descendants. Adoptees must have graduated from high school, completed the GED, or have legally withdrawn from school. Includes Contact Preference Form that does not affect the release of OBC, but also includes a redaction request form to allow parent(s) to request name be redacted from released OBC.
- 2022: Requires adoptees 21 years of age and older to first apply unsuccessfully to obtain their identifying information from the state’s mutual consent registry before they can apply for their OBCs. Contains petition process, “good cause” determination, and confusing language.
- 2021: Requires adoptees to use of state’s Mutual Consent Registry which also requires 1 hour of counseling before OBCs can be requested. If the adoptee isn’t successful in obtaining identifying information through the registry, the clerk of courts is required to provide the OBC, but the document is actually held by the WV Department of Health unless it is already managed by the registry. Does not apply to West Virginia-born adoptees who were adopted in another state.
- 2017: Permits access to the “adoption file.“It contains a Contact Preference Form and a Disclosure Veto. When an adoptee or lineal descendant requests a copy of the file, the state will place the birthparent(s) “on notice” to inform them of their “responsibilities and options ” before the file is released. The bill does not include what these procedures are or what happens if there is no birthparent response.
Now, in the spirit of fairness, I suggest the following amendments to box bill H3559:
- Surrendering parent(s) must be 18 years of age and be a high school graduate, acquired a GED, or have legally dropped out of school. (Age could be raised to 21 as a compromise)
- Surrendering parent(s) required to undergo 1 hour of counseling with a social worker employed by the West Virginia Department of Health before a permit to box their baby is issued.
- Surrendering parent(s) required to submit a petition to a court of competent jurisdiction to seek permission to box their newborn and show “good cause” for the request after completion of 1-hour counseling session.
- Surrendering parent(s) must present a “good cause” argument to the court when seeking permission to box their baby, but “good cause” will not be defined.
- Non-surrendering parent and other family members such as siblings and parents of newborn surrendering parent(s) will be informed by the West Virginia Department of Health or a competent court of jurisdiction regarding the baby boxing plan.
- Non-surrendering parent and other family members such as siblings or grandparents of surrendering parent(s) will be permitted to file a Baby Box Veto Form (BBVF) to register their objections to the plan, but this document has no legal authority to stop the boxing–unless it does.