January 1997 Term
Ira Haught, Esq.
Harrisville, West Virginia
Guardian Ad Litem
Ernest M. Douglass, Esq. Joanna Bowles, Esq.
Douglass and Douglass Assistant Attorney General
Parkersburg, West Virginia Charleston, West Virginia
Attorney for the Appellant Attorney for the Appellee
JUSTICE MAYNARD delivered the Opinion of the Court.
1. "'"'"W.Va. Code, 49-6-2(c) , requires the State Department of Welfare [now the Department of Human Services], in a child abuse or neglect case, to prove 'conditions existing at the time of the filing of the petition ... by clear and convincing proof.' The statute, however, does not specify any particular manner or mode of testimony or evidence by which the State Department of Welfare is obligated to meet this burden." Syllabus Point 1, In Interest of S.C., 168 W.Va. 366, 284 S.E.2d 867 (1981).' Syllabus Point 1, West Virginia Department of Human Services v. Peggy F., 184 W.Va. 60, 399 S.E.2d 460 (1990)." Syllabus Point 1, In re Beth, 192 W.Va. 656, 453 S.E.2d 639 (1994).' Syl. Pt. 3, In re Christina L., 194 W.Va. 446, 460 S.E.2d 692 (1995)." Syllabus Point 1, West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources ex rel. Wright v. Brenda C., 197 W.Va. 468, 475 S.E.2d 560 (1996).
2. "'W.Va. Code, 49-6-2 (b) (1984), permits a parent to move the court for an improvement period which shall be allowed unless the court finds compelling circumstances to justify a denial.' Syllabus Point 2, State ex rel. W.Va. Dep't of Human Serv. v. Cheryl M.,  W.Va. , 356 S.E.2d 181 (1987)." Syllabus Point 2, Matter of Jonathan P., 182 W.Va. 302, 387 S.E.2d 537 (1989).
3. W.Va. Code, 49-6-2(c) (1996), provides parties having custodial or parental rights the opportunity to testify during abuse and neglect proceedings and to present and cross-examine witnesses. The requirement of cross-examination is fully met when counsel for the parent or guardian is present during the testimony of a child witness and is given the opportunity to fully cross-examine the witness.
4. Rule 8(b) of the Rules of Procedure for Child Abuse and Neglect
Proceedings, which were approved by this Court on December 5, 1996, controls the
procedure for taking testimony from children in abuse and neglect proceedings in future
This is an appeal by Glen A., Jr. from an order of the Circuit Court of Wood
County, West Virginia, entered on May 21, 1996, denying the father an improvement period
and continuing legal custody of Justin A. and Joseph (Joey) A.(1) in the Department of Health
and Human Resources (DHHR) for placement in long-term foster care. Glen A. contends
the trial court erred in: (1) finding abuse by clear and convincing evidence; (2) denying an
improvement period; and (3) excluding Glen A. during the testimony of Justin A. at the
adjudicatory hearing. We find no reversible error; therefore, the order of the Circuit Court
of Wood County is affirmed.
Appellant, Glen A., a widower, is the father of Justin A. and Joey A. At the
time the juvenile neglect petition was filed in January 1996, Justin was fourteen years old
and Joey was eight years old. The appellant is also the father of two older children, Stacy
and Scott, who have reached the age of majority and are emancipated.
According to the juvenile neglect petition, the appellant threw a glass ashtray
at Joey on January 17, 1996, resulting in a one to one and one-half inch laceration on the
back of Joey's head. At school, two days later, Joey was sent to the school nurse, Diane
Fuchs, who testified at the adjudicatory hearing and described a gaping and deep laceration
with dried blood that needed sutures. Since the family had no telephone, Ms. Fuchs took
Joey home. She explained Joey's medical needs to the appellant, including the possibility
of needing sutures. The appellant answered that his car had a flat tire, so Ms. Fuchs offered
to take the appellant and Joey to the emergency room. The appellant declined the offer. It
was obvious to Ms. Fuchs that the appellant was not going to take Joey to the emergency
room, so she offered advice on how to care for the laceration in lieu of medical treatment.
She told him to keep the area clean, shave around the cut, and pull it together with steri-strips
to promote faster healing.
Ms. Fuchs testified the appellant explained Joey's injury by stating the child fell against a box in the bedroom. Without any accusation from Ms. Fuchs, the appellant defensively and emphatically denied playing any role in Joey's injury.
The appellant recalled the visit somewhat differently. He testified at the
dispositional hearing that the nurse gave him the option of taking Joey to the hospital or
treating the wound himself with steri-strips. He informed Ms. Fuchs he had some steri-strips.(2)
The weekend passed, and on Monday, January 22, 1996, Joey had not yet
received medical attention for the deep cut on his head. A family member took Joey to the
DHHR and showed the laceration to Ms. Spiker, a Child Protective Service Worker with
whom the family was already involved. Ms. Spiker later testified the laceration was matted
with dried crusted blood and contained yellow areas suggesting that infection was present.
She also testified Joey's hair did not appear to have been washed since the nurse's visit, three
Ms. Spiker testified that she asked the family member to take Joey to the
hospital while she and another social worker went to the appellant's home. When asked if
he knew what had happened to Joey's head, the appellant told Ms. Spiker the child fell on
a wooden box while playing in his bedroom. When asked why he had not followed Ms.
Fuch's recommendations regarding treatment, the appellant answered "he didn't do anything
to the laceration because he didn't want his neighbors to call the welfare on him." When Ms.
Spiker informed the appellant that lack of medical attention could have caused medical
problems for Joey, he again responded "he didn't want the welfare to be called on him."
According to defense counsel, the appellant believed the referral in this case came about as
a result of his having had an affair with his neighbor and his neighbor's husband had reported
the abuse "to get back at him."
The referral regarding Joey and Justin also alleged the appellant owned a
number of pornographic movies, which were easily accessible to his sons. When the
appellant was questioned about having pornographic movies, he answered there were none
in the home. Ms. Spiker opened the television stand, and the first three movies she removed
were pornographic in nature. She recognized the movies as pornographic by the titles and
by the accompanying filing cards which described the contents of the films. The movies
were titled The First Nudie Musical, Hollywood Uncensored, and Slammer Girls. The
appellant informed the social workers that Slammer Girls was an R rated prison movie, so
Ms. Spiker insisted that they view a few moments of the movie. The social workers
witnessed four to five women having sex with one another. Ms. Spiker found at least one
tape which contained both children's cartoons and adult movies. When confronted with the
fact that he had not been truthful about owning these movies, the appellant responded that
his sons had been told they were not allowed to watch those movies.(4)
The petition filed by Ms. Spiker additionally alleged that the appellant stored
gunpowder in a can in the kitchen. The social worker noted during her testimony that the
appellant had shown her the can with gunpowder in it, while Justin testified the gunpowder
was kept in a cardboard peanuts can and stored in a cabinet by the refrigerator. He testified
he and Joey had played with the gunpowder by taking it outside and lighting it.
The petition also stated the appellant kept a loaded pistol in a location which
was accessible and known to the children. During Ms. Spiker's visit to the home, the
appellant led her to his padlocked bedroom and showed her the gun. When asked if the gun
was loaded, the appellant took the bullets from the gun and tossed both the gun and the
bullets on the bed. Justin testified his dad told him he kept some guns in his bedroom, but
Justin had never seen them. The appellant told Ms. Spiker the room was padlocked when
the children were home alone, and they were not allowed in the room.
During Justin's testimony, he further testified that his father had mood swings
and had threatened to kick him out of the house if he kept missing the bus after school and
walking home. The petition alleged the appellant had threatened on numerous occasions to
give Joey to the Department.
Justin was cross-examined regarding the events that happened the evening Joey
was injured. Justin stated their father wanted to see what Joey had in his hands. Joey
showed him the hand in which he was holding a piece of metal, but not the hand in which
he was holding a screwdriver. Justin then heard the ashtray hit Joey, who started crying.
Justin was asked by the appellant's counsel if the ashtray was thrown "overhand, underhand,
side-armed." He answered he was not watching when his father threw the ashtray because
he was watching television. He did not see it strike his brother except out of the corner of
his eye. He testified this was not the first time the appellant had thrown the ashtray at Joey.
The DHHR traced the history this family has had with the department,
beginning in May 1989, shortly after the death of the children's mother in November 1988.
The report prepared by Child Protective Service Worker, Joan George, states that initially
Justin exhibited behavioral and hygiene problems and concerns were raised regarding fifteen-month old Joey because there was no running water in the home. The appellant was
provided services regarding budgeting and was taught to utilize community resources. Justin
was provided counseling regarding his mother's death. In October 1989 social services were
In March 1991 the DHHR substantiated allegations of neglect and emotional
abuse. Stacy, only sixteen years old at the time, was caring for both her siblings and was
maintaining the house. Stacy was having suicidal thoughts and was afraid her father would
kill her. Counseling was initiated. A social worker assisted the appellant by offering
parenting skills education along with problem solving and discipline techniques. These
services were being provided when Stacy disclosed in April 1992 that the appellant had
sexually abused her.
Pursuant to the filing of a petition, the three children were adjudicated to be
abused and neglected, and the appellant was charged with criminal sexual abuse. The
appellant was acquitted of the criminal charges in March 1993. The court granted a post-adjudicatory improvement period beginning April 15, 1993. In August 1994 Stacy was
eighteen years old and emancipated. At that time, the boys were returned to the appellant's
home. Action Youth Care provided reunification services, which were closed in June 1995,
when it was believed that all possible progress with the appellant had been made.
The DHHR next received a referral regarding the physical abuse of Joey in
December 1995. Joey denied the abuse and there was no apparent physical evidence of
abuse. Then, in January 1996 the incident involving the cut on the back of Joey's head
precipitated the filing of the instant petition.
The trial court held an adjudicatory hearing on March 29, 1996. The court
adjudicated the children to have been abused. A dispositional hearing was held on May 16,
1996. In its final order, the court denied the appellant's motion for an improvement period
and placed the children in long-term foster care. It is from this order that the appellant
On appeal, the appellant contends the evidence in this case is legally
insufficient to find abuse by clear and convincing evidence. He argues the evidence is
insufficient because Justin did not actually see him throw the ashtray, and no medical
testimony was presented to invalidate the appellant's explanation that Joey fell against a
box. He also argues no evidence was presented to verify that the school nurse's suggested
treatment was necessary or that Joey's well-being was harmed by the lack of medical care.
The appellant further contends that no expert testimony was presented which showed that
the children's exposure to pornography harmed their safety and well being. The DHHR
argues the court properly found a long and substantial history of abuse and neglect by the
In Syllabus Point 1 of West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources ex rel. Wright v. Brenda C., 197 W.Va. 468, 475 S.E.2d 560 (1996), we said:
"'"W.Va. Code, 49-6-2(c), requires the State
Department of Welfare [now the Department of Human
Services], in a child abuse or neglect case, to prove 'conditions
existing at the time of the filing of the petition...by clear and
convincing proof.' The statute, however, does not specify any
particular manner or mode of testimony or evidence by which
the State Department of Welfare is obligated to meet this
burden." Syllabus Point 1, In Interest of S.C., 168 W.Va. 366,
284 S.E.2d 867 (1981).' Syllabus Point 1, West Virginia
Department of Human Services v. Peggy F., 184 W.Va. 60, 399
S.E.2d 460 (1990)." Syllabus Point 1, In re Beth, 192 W.Va.
656, 453 S.E.2d 639 (1994). Syl. Pt. 3, In re Christina L., 194
W.Va. 446, 460 S.E.2d 692 (1995).
Although W.Va. Code 49-6-2(c) was amended by the West Virginia Legislature in 1996
and the Department of Human Services is now known as the Department of Health and
Human Resources, these changes do not alter the fundamental holding that proof of abuse
and neglect must be by clear and convincing evidence. Here, not only was evidence
presented that the appellant seriously injured his son, Joey, but he then forced Joey to wipe
up his own blood. He clearly refused to give or to allow Joey to receive any medical
attention with the excuse that he did not want the welfare department to be called.
Appellant criticizes the DHHR for not presenting testimony by a psychologist
that the children were harmed by viewing pornographic movies. He claims he did not
encourage the children to watch the videos and they did not watch the movies with him or
with his knowledge. We do not believe it is necessary for the trial court to require the
DHHR to present the testimony of an expert in order to conclude that watching pornography
has harmful effects upon minor children. (5) Given the long history of this family and the
more recent events involving Joey's serious head injury, the lack of needed medical care, the
presence of gun powder in the home, and keeping and allowing the children to have access
to pornographic videos in the home, we believe the trial court properly found that this
appalling misconduct constituted clear and convincing proof of abuse and neglect.
The appellant next contends the trial court erred in denying his motion for an
improvement period. Even though the appellant acknowledges the court may deny parents
an improvement period if compelling circumstances justify denial, he argues that since he
achieved reunification once before, there is no reason to believe he could not do so again.
The appellant admits his temper is not under control, but seems to argue the DHHR should
offer him counseling. The guardian ad litem stated the appellant was given in excess of
three years to improve the situation in which he was raising these two boys, but failed to
make substantial improvements.
The DHHR asserts the lower court properly denied an improvement period
because of the appellant's history during the previous abuse and neglect proceeding. The
department also maintains that the appellant continues to exhibit behavior that is in sharp
contrast to the internalization of proper parenting skills and argues the lower court did not
err in failing to grant a post-adjudicatory improvement period on the basis that reunification
was previously achieved.
After Justin and Joey were adjudicated to be abused and neglected, the court
held a dispositional hearing where counsel for the children offered his opinion, by stating, Your Honor, I've discussed these matters
with Justin, who's the oldest (sic) of the two
boys, and it's my opinion that Mr. A. does, in
fact, throw things at the boys and he did inflict
this injury upon Joseph, as Justin testified to at
the adjudicatory hearing, and I do not believe that
there's any reason to grant him an additional
improvement period, don't believe it would be
beneficial. The boys don't have any interest in
visiting their father, let alone living with him.
In his argument to the court at the dispositional hearing, appellant's counsel stated, "I don't believe that this incident was so serious that it would constitute a compelling reason to deny the improvement period." The court pointed to behavior of the appellant which transcended the thrown ashtray, the child's injury, and the failure to seek or provide medical treatment. The court described as "pretty significant" the content of some letters the appellant wrote to his older son, Scott. The court stated:
What nobody's mentioned, of course, is one thing I think is pretty
significant, is these letters which he wrote to his children. Even though Mr.
A. says he didn't mean what they clearly say, I don't see how you can read
them any other way than being some kind of a veiled threat. And they clearly
state that the reason he wants them back is because he needs the money that
the State would pay him for having his children to be able to pay his own
These letters are a clear threat to do something, something pretty bad
obviously. He said, "I will have to turn from Doctor Jekyll to Mr. Hyde. All
I want is for you to come home and sit down like a man and talk to me face to
face. That's all I'm asking. What I am thinkin I will do --" underscored "--
as long as I have the kids back before the 29th of this month I will not do --"
I will not do, and it's underscored "-- what I already will do or thinking about.
It's all up to you, Scott." He even give a deadline. "You only have until this
weekend --" and he underscores that "-- for me not to do it."
And he says, " If you don't come this weekend, expect me to do
something. I will have to turn from Doctor Jekyll to Mr. Hyde." There's no
other way to read that than a threat to do something outrageous, because Mr.
Hyde was certainly an outrageous person, he did outrageous things, and this
is what he's threatening to do. Nothing specific, but something outrageous.
And he says, "This is your last warning." A warning. "I hope you
don't upset me by not showing up or not calling. This will be my last letter to
you until I see you or see or hear from you, and if you don't think I have
something to work by that, you'd better be prepared for the worst."
I don't see any reason to grant this man another improvement period.
He's had one before. He went through the motions and apparently pulled the
wool over the eyes of the department and they put the children back in his
care, which was probably a mistake, but, you know, everybody's human and
makes mistakes. The fact the department put them back with him and thought
he had completed the improvement period satisfactorily doesn't mean that he
did. And then this other abuse took place. It clearly was abuse. And these
letters are very revealing of the character of Mr. A.
I'm not going to grant him an improvement period. I'm going to follow
the recommendation of the department and the recommendation of Counsel for
the children and put these children in long-term foster care under the
jurisdiction of the department. That's all.
During the pendency of this action, W.Va. Code 49-6-2(b) (1992), stated in pertinent part:
In any proceeding under this article, any parent or custodian may, prior
to final hearing, move to be allowed an improvement period of three to twelve
months in order to remedy the circumstances or alleged circumstances upon
which the proceeding is based. The court shall allow one such improvement
period unless it finds compelling circumstances to justify a denial thereof[.](6)
This statute does not automatically require that a parent be granted an
improvement period. In Syllabus Point 2 of the Matter of Jonathan P., 182 W.Va. 302, 387
S.E.2d 537 (1989), this Court said, "'W.Va. Code, 49-6-2(b) (1984), permits a parent to
move the court for an improvement period which shall be allowed unless the court finds
compelling circumstances to justify a denial.' Syllabus Point 2, State ex rel. W.Va. Dep't of
Human Services v. Cheryl M.,  W.Va. , 356 S.E.2d 181 (1987)." We reiterated in
In re Lacey P., 189 W.Va. 580, 433 S.E.2d 518 (1993), that there is no absolute right to an
improvement period in this State.
In State ex rel. West Virginia Department of Human Services v. Cheryl M., 177
W.Va. 688, 356 S.E.2d 181 (1987), the trial court did not grant an improvement to Cheryl
M. As a result, the Department of Human Services (DHS) did not present a family case plan
to the court. The DHS took the position from the beginning of their involvement with Cheryl
M., prior to any parenting assistance being offered, that her parental rights should be
terminated. This Court found the DHS had provided little relevant assistance and had made
no good faith effort toward developing a rehabilitative plan. A counselor with the local
mental health agency testified that Cheryl M. cooperated during counseling sessions on
parenting skills and progressed in her skill level. The counselor testified that it was her
opinion that there was no imminent danger in reunifying Cheryl M. with her child. This
Court concluded that under these circumstances the mother was entitled to a meaningful
improvement period to demonstrate her ability to care for her child.
Obviously, the facts in the case at bar are very different. Apart from the abuse
and neglect discussed above, the appellant did not successfully complete the tasks
enumerated in the family case plan that was submitted when he was granted a prior
improvement period. There is no evidence in the record nor was any testimony presented
to establish the appellant's attendance at weekly therapy sessions or participation in a
substance abuse assessment. The appellant was provided with reunification and family
preservation services as well as individual social worker counseling and education, group
education and support, in-home modeling of appropriate parenting behavior, individual
therapy and psychological services, and intensive family education. Yet, all of these services
failed to prevent the incidents which gave rise to these proceedings. There is also evidence
Justin and Joey were deliberately socially isolated from outside influences and peer
relationships, possibly to protect family secrets of abuse. Therefore, we cannot say the trial
court in this case improperly found compelling circumstances existed that justified denying
an improvement period.
After being removed from the home, the children had three supervised visits with their father. Ms. George concluded after the third visit:
Each of these visits with Mr. A. was emotionally stressful and of no
benefit to the children. Justin has stated that he has no particular interest in
visiting his father. Joey has been disappointed and hurt with each contact. In
consideration of the affect (sic) visits with Mr. A. have had on these children,
visits are arranged only upon request from the children.
Evidence was also presented that there was no indication the children lived in
their father's trailer; the toys and the children's clothes had been locked away in an
"irrational attempt to disguise a rather sadistic ploy to control[.]" Apparently no further
visits were requested, because the appellant testified that he had visited with his sons on
three occasions since their removal. In view of the circumstances listed above, we find the
trial court did not err in refusing to grant to this appellant a second improvement period.
On appeal, the appellant also alleges the trial court erred in excluding him from
the in camera adjudicatory hearing when his son, Justin, testified. The DHHR requested
that Justin be permitted to testify out of the presence of his father. The court granted the
motion, and the appellant appeared to acquiescence and only asked if he could use the
restroom. However, appellant's counsel "object[ed] to the procedure, just for the record."
There was no request for appellant's counsel to leave the room. Appellant's counsel was
present during all of Justin's testimony and was afforded the opportunity to fully cross-
examine Justin. In fact, the attorney exercised this opportunity and did indeed fully and
completely cross-examine Justin.
W.Va. Code 49-6-2(c)(1996), is controlling on this issue and states in pertinent part:
In any proceeding pursuant to the provisions of this article, the party or
parties having custodial or other parental rights or responsibilities to the child
shall be afforded a meaningful opportunity to be heard, including the
opportunity to testify and to present and cross-examine witnesses.
The requirement of cross-examination was satisfied by the presence of the appellant's
counsel and the meaningful cross-examination which ensued after Justin was questioned by
the DHHR. The approach used here is permissible under the new Rules of Procedure for
Child Abuse and Neglect Proceedings, which were not yet in effect when this case was tried,
but which this Court approved on December 5, 1996. Rule 8(b)(7) controls the procedure for
taking testimony from children in abuse and neglect proceedings in future cases. The result
we reach today would be reached under the new rules; thus, we find no reversible error.
Lastly, the appellant argues the permanency plan, also called the child's case
plan or the family case plan, is inadequate because the plan fails to state how or when a
permanent home will be achieved for these children. The DHHR states the case plan is
adequate in that permanency has not yet been determined and the plan specifically addresses
the long-term foster care in which the children currently are placed.
W.Va. Code 49-6-5(a)(1996), states in pertinent part,
The term permanency plan refers to that part of the case plan which is
designed to achieve a permanent home for the child in the lease restrictive
setting available....If reunification is not the permanency plan for the child, the
plan must state why reunification is not appropriate and detail the alternative
placement for the child to include approximate time lines for when such
placement is expected to become a permanent placement.
At the time of the writing of the children's case plan on May 13, 1996, Justin
and Joey were living with their sister, Stacy, and her family. The plan recites the inadequacy
of the placement as a long-term arrangement. However, the plan also addresses the
alternative placement of the children by noting that "long term foster care with optimal
contact between these siblings will be in the best interest of all family members." The plan
goes on to state "[l]ong term foster care with a permanent placement commitment from a
foster family is the permanency plan ... in the event custody remains with the Department."
The department reports the children are no longer living with their sister, who is now married
with two children of her own, but have been placed together in a foster home with the
anticipation that the foster parents will welcome Justin and Joey as permanent placements.
The plan specifically states in detail why reunification with the appellant is not
appropriate, most notably the appellant's failure to maintain any gains in coping skills or in
his beliefs and attitudes about parenting during the three years he was given to improve.
When we look at the facts of this case and the procedural status of this action at the time the
permanency plan was written, we believe placement with a family member and later in a
foster home by long-term foster care is the least restrictive alternative available. Given that
custody and permanency still remain unresolved at this time, we cannot say the plan is
For the above stated reasons, the judgment of the Circuit Court of Wood County is affirmed.
1. We follow our traditional practice in cases involving sensitive facts and use initials to identify the parties rather than their full names. See In re Jeffrey R. L., 190 W.Va. 24, 435 S.E.2d 162 (1993).
2. The appellant finally found the steri-strips, to use in treating Joey's wound, on Monday, January 22, 1996, after he found out "the kids were not coming home from school."
3. During a prior abuse and neglect proceeding, the appellant had been granted a post-adjudicatory improvement period. At that time, Christine Spiker, a Child Protective Service worker, became involved with the family. She worked with the appellant for approximately one and one-half to two years as overseer of the improvement period.
4. Justin testified during the adjudicatory hearing that his father kept adult movies in their
Q Does your dad keep dirty movies in the house?
A Yeah, he has a couple.
Q Have you seen some of those movies yourself?
A A couple of them.
Q Does he keep them in a place that you have access to; I mean, can you get them pretty easy if you want to see them.
A Yeah, most of them.
5. In her report to the court, Joan George, a Child Protective Service Worker, wrote to the
In the Department's five years of service to this family Mr. A. has consistently
maintained a very closed family system. Mr. A. expected all the needs of the
individuals to be met by the family. Influence from outside the family was not
desirable. The children were restricted from developing peer relationships,
confined to the home and socially isolated in part to protect family secrets of
abuse. This manner of relating remains unchanged.
It is difficult to know to what degree the children are abused and neglected in this system of rigid control where secrecy is valued above all else. We have known, however, since 1992, with Stacey's disclosure, that she was being sexually abused from at least as far back as 1989. We also know, that there have been numerous incidents of unreported physical abuse to Justin and Joey. Sexually explicit videos remain in the
home, easily accessible to these children. Exposure to adult sexual activities can have far
reaching effects on the personality and behavior of child victims. To assume that Justin and
Joey because of their gender, are not at risk of sexual abuse may be at their peril. It is
obvious from their history that neither would be readily able to protect themselves by
requesting help with a secret of such magnitude.
Mr. A. has continued to deny any abusive behavior towards his children, while presenting a very descriptive scenario of events in stark contrast to reality. Additionally, Mr. A. has written several letters to his son, Scott A., attempting to bribe, intimidate, and threaten him into lying about the abuse so he, Mr. A., could have his children returned and be eligible for AFDC.
6. This Code section was amended by the West Virginia Legislature in 1996.
7. Rule 8(b) of the Rules of Procedure for Child Abuse and Neglect Proceedings states:
(b) Procedure for taking testimony from children. The presiding judicial officer may conduct in camera interviews of a minor child, outside the presence of the parent(s). The parties' attorneys shall be allowed to attend such interviews, except when the presiding judicial officer determines that the presence of attorneys will be especially intimidating to the child witness. When attorneys are not allowed to be present for in camera interviews of a child, the presiding judicial officer shall, unless otherwise agreed by the parties, have the interview electronically or
stenographically recorded and make the recording available to the attorneys before the evidentiary hearing resumes. Under exceptional circumstances, the presiding judicial officer may elect not to make the recording available to the attorneys but must place the basis for a finding of exceptional circumstances on the record. Under these exceptional circumstances, the recording only will be available for review by the Supreme Court of Appeals. When attorneys are present for an in camera interview of a child, the presiding judicial officer may, before the interview, require the attorneys to submit questions for the presiding judicial officer to ask the child witness rather than allow the attorneys to question the child directly, and the presiding judicial officer may require the attorney to sit in an unobtrusive manner during the in camera interview.