West Virginia Judiciary

Rules of Procedure for Child Abuse and Neglect Proceedings



The following directions provide guidance to guardians ad litem (GAL) in preparing a report in an abuse and neglect proceeding pursuant to Rule 18a of the Rules of Procedure for Child Abuse and Neglect Proceedings. A GAL must submit a written report to the court and provide a copy to all parties at least five (5) days prior to the disposition hearing. It is the duty of the GAL to determine if the information contained in the report should be sealed or redacted. The GAL is to submit an updated report if necessary to notify the court of any changes in the child’s circumstances. The contents of each section and subsection of the report are discussed below.

I. General Information

This section is intended to provide general information regarding the parties involved in the abuse and neglect petition including the following:

  1. Child’s full name and date of birth;
  2. Parents’ full names;
  3. If applicable, the names and ages of any siblings or half-siblings; information regarding the sibling’s parents, and the sibling’s current placement.
  4. Provide the names of any other parties involved in the abuse and neglect petition such as step-parents, relatives, or a parent’s boyfriend or girlfriend. If the child is currently in foster care, list the names of foster parents and any other individuals residing in the child’s current placement.

II. History

Briefly describe the procedural posture of the case. Did a parent or parents voluntarily relinquish rights to any other children? Have parental rights been involuntarily terminated to any other children of either parent previously? If so, provide the date, case number, and facts with regard to the previous relinquishment. It is the duty of the GAL to determine what parental information is pertinent to a decision regarding the welfare of the child or children involved in the petition. What circumstances led to the filing of the instant petition? What essential issues need to be addressed by the Court in this proceeding?

III. GAL's Contact with Child

Indicate the dates of contact with the child, the purpose of the contact, and the duration of the visit. Was the child alone during the visit? If not, who was present? Did the GAL conduct in-home visits and observe the respective living environments of the child’s parents or caretakers and their interaction with the child?

IV. Persons Interviewed

List the name of each person interviewed and their relationship to the child. Such persons may include parents or caregivers, caseworkers, therapists, school personnel, medical providers, relatives, and siblings. Also list the date and manner in which the interviews were conducted (e.g., by phone, in person).

V. Summary of Information Obtained from Interviews/Observations

Provide an objective summary of the information obtained from the interviews and observations obtained from the investigation. Observations may include information regarding the parties’ respective living environments, the child’s behavior, and the child’s interaction with parents, siblings, relatives, peers or others.

VI. Summary of Documents Reviewed

List and summarize the documents reviewed during the course of the investigation. Documents may include medical records, school records, police reports, psychological reports, psychiatric reports, and other documents. Attach any necessary documents.

VII. Child's Current Status

Provide the court with information regarding the current status of the child including information regarding the child’s placement, visitation, education, medical needs, services, and contact with siblings and relatives.

  1. Placement. Describe any observations regarding the child’s current placement. Is this environment satisfying the needs of the child? What are the plans for the child’s permanency?
  2. Visitation. What is the status of parental visitation? Are the child’s needs being met with regard to visitation?
  3. Education. What is the child’s current grade level? What school does the child attend? What are the child’s current grades? What is the child’s attendance record? Does the child have any special needs that need to be addressed?
  4. Medical. Does the child have any medical needs that need to be addressed?
  5. Services. Does the child need counseling, tutoring, or any other types of services?
  6. Contact with Siblings/Relatives. Are the child’s needs being met with regard to contact with siblings and/or relatives?

VIII. Parent's Current Situation

Provide information regarding the fitness of each of the parents and their ability to care for the child including: the parents’ work schedules/time available to spend with the child; parents’ educational levels; financial resources; family support; home studies/living arrangements; domestic violence issues; substance abuse problems; criminal history; medical, emotional or psychological matters; and the parents’ compliance with services and court orders. Include any other information that the GAL determines is pertinent to a decision regarding the welfare of the child or children involved in the petition.

IX. Child's Expressed Wishes

Discuss the child’s wishes when appropriate and any issues that the child requests the court to consider.

X. Recommendation

Analyze the factors that are essential for the court to consider when making a determination regarding the allegations of abuse and neglect and custody, visitation, and permanent placement of the child. Discuss the child’s case plan as well as the family case plan including the services to be made available to the child and family. Address any other issues that are necessary in order for the court to protect the best interests of the child.

XI. Conclusion

Summarize the most important factors for the court to consider in making its decision, noting all aspects requiring special court direction and indicate any other action that is necessary to further the best interests of the child.