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IN THE SUPREME COURT OF APPEALS OF WEST VIRGINIA
January 2005 Term
NAPOLEON S. and LINDA S.,
Plaintiffs Below, Appellants
MARTHA YEAGER WALKER, SECRETARY
OF WEST VIRGINIA DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH
AND HUMAN RESOURCES,
Defendant Below, Appellee
Appeal from the Circuit Court of Kanawha County
The Honorable Jennifer Bailey Walker, Judge
Case No. 02-AA-119
AND REMANDED WITH DIRECTIONS
Submitted: April 6, 2005
Filed: June 10, 2005
George F. Fordham
V. McGraw, Jr.
Clarksburg, West Virginia Attorney
Attorney for the Appellants Rocco
for the Appellee
CHIEF JUSTICE ALBRIGHT delivered the Opinion of the Court.
JUSTICE MAYNARD dissents and reserves the right to file a dissenting opinion.
JUSTICE STARCHER concurs and reserves the right to file a concurring opinion.
SYLLABUS BY THE COURT
1. This Court reviews the circuit court's
final order and ultimate disposition under an abuse of discretion standard. We
review challenges to findings of fact under a clearly erroneous standard; conclusions
of law are reviewed de novo
. Syl. Pt. 4, Burgess v. Porterfield
196 W.Va. 178, 469 S.E.2d 114 (1996).
2. Although parents have substantial
rights that must be protected, the primary goal in cases involving abuse and
neglect, as in all family law matters, must be the health and welfare of the
children. Syl. Pt. 3, In re Katie S
., 198 W.Va. 79, 479 S.E.2d 589
3. W.Va.Code § 49-2-14(e) (1995)
provides for a 'sibling preference' wherein the West Virginia Department of Health
and Human Resources is to place a child who is in the department's custody with
the foster or adoptive parent(s) of the child's sibling or siblings, where the
foster or adoptive parents seek the care and custody of the child, and the department
determines (1) the fitness of the persons seeking to enter into a foster care
or adoption arrangement which would unite or reunite the siblings, and
placement of the child with his or her siblings is in the best interests of the
children. In any proceeding brought by the department to maintain separation
of siblings, such separation may be
ordered only if the circuit court determines that clear and convincing evidence
supports the department's determination. Upon review by the circuit court of
the department's determination to unite a child with his or her siblings, such
determination shall be disregarded only
where the circuit court finds,
by clear and convincing evidence, that the persons with whom the department
seeks to place the child are unfit or
that placement of the child with
his or her siblings is not in the best interests of one or all of the children. Syl.
Pt. 4, In re Carol B
., 209 W.Va. 658, 550 S.E.2d 636 (2001).
4. West Virginia Code § 49-3-1(a) provides
for grandparent preference in determining adoptive placement for a child where
parental rights have been terminated and also incorporates a best interests analysis
within that determination by including the requirement that the DHHR find that
the grandparents would be suitable adoptive parents prior to granting custody
to the grandparents. The statute contemplates that placement with grandparents
is presumptively in the best interests of the child, and the preference for grandparent
placement may be overcome only where the record reviewed in its entirety establishes
that such placement is not in the best interests of the child.
5. By specifying in West Virginia Code § 49-3-1(a)(3)
that the home study must show that the grandparents would be suitable adoptive
parents, the Legislature has implicitly included the requirement for an
analysis by the Department of Health and Human
Resources and circuit courts of the best interests of the child, given all
circumstances of the case.
6. It is a traumatic experience for
children to undergo sudden and dramatic changes in their permanent custodians.
Lower courts in cases such as these should provide, whenever possible, for a
gradual transition period, especially where young children are involved. Further,
such gradual transition periods should be developed in a manner intended to foster
the emotional adjustment of the children to this change and to maintain as much
stability as possible in their lives. Syl. Pt. 3, James M. v. Maynard
185 W.Va. 648, 408 S.E.2d 400 (1991).
Albright, Chief Justice:
This is an appeal by Napoleon and Linda S.
(hereinafter Appellants) (See
from an order of the Circuit Court of Kanawha County
affirming a decision of the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources
Board of Review (hereinafter DHHR) determining that the Appellants
could not become the adoptive parents of their grandson, Tyler S. The Appellants
contend that the lower court erred in failing to apply a statutory and DHHR policy
preference for grandparent adoption. Based upon a thorough review of the record,
briefs, and applicable precedent, this Court finds that the lower court abused
its discretion in affirming the DHHR decision refusing to permit the Appellants
to adopt Tyler S. We therefore reverse and remand for entry of an order requiring
that Tyler be placed with the Appellants for adoption, with the additional conditions
I. Factual and Procedural History
On December 27, 2000, at
the age of two months, (See
Tyler S. suffered a spiral fracture of the left femur
and over twenty bruises on his body. He was placed in foster care on January
1, 2001, upon discharge from the hospital, due to the serious injuries which
were later determined to have been inflicted upon him by his biological parents,
Ryan and Nicole
S. In April 2001, the parental rights of the biological parents were terminated
by the Circuit Court of Harrison County based upon this abuse. The Circuit
Court of Harrison County found that Ryan S. had inflicted the spiral fracture
to Tyler's left femur due to Ryan's frustration with Tyler while trying to
give Tyler a bath. At the time of termination of parental rights, the CASA
representative, Ms. Jeanne Pote, recommended that Tyler be placed for adoption
with the Appellants, parents of Ryan S. and paternal grandparents of Tyler. (See
The Circuit Court of Harrison County did not address
Ms. Pote's recommendation in the termination order.
Prior to the termination of parental rights,
the Appellants had notified the DHHR of their desire to adopt Tyler. A social
assessment and home study of the Appellants' home in Florida was completed on
May 16, 2001, by the Florida Department of Children and Families. The home study
concluded that the Appellants could provide a safe and loving home, despite their
difficulty accepting the fact that their son would have
intentionally harmed Tyler. (See
The Florida home study determined that such opinions
would not interfere with the Appellants' ability to provide proper care and
protection to Tyler.
The adoption review committee thereafter
requested psychological evaluations of the Appellants. These evaluations were
conducted on January 21, 2002, by Dr. William Fremouw, a licensed psychologist.
His report was favorable toward both Appellants and included observations that
they would protect their grandson and would not allow Tyler to be alone with
his biological father, Ryan. Specifically, Dr. Fremouw concluded that [w]hile
she [Appellant Linda S.] does not believe that her son physically abused her
grandson, she is willing to accept the requirement that he have no direct contact
with Tyler if she were to adopt him. The report also indicated that Ryan
lives approximately 1,000 miles from his parents and would not be expected to
be a frequent visitor.
By letter dated February 25, 2002, the Appellants
were notified by the DHHR that they had not been selected for the permanent placement
of Tyler. The adoption review
committee had determined that the best interests of Tyler would not be served
by placing him with the Appellants since the Appellants had failed to acknowledge
their son's involvement in inflicting injuries upon Tyler. The guardian ad
litem, Ms. Meredith McCarthy, stated the her main concern was Tyler's protection
and that the Appellants had continually refused to accept the fact that their
son inflicted Tyler's injuries.
The Appellants requested a review of the
decision of the DHHR, and an initial grievance hearing was held on July 10, 2002.
The original decision was upheld, and the Appellants appealed to the Board of
Review of the DHHR. On August 30, 2002, the Chairman of the Board of Review notified
the Appellants that their appeal had been denied.
The Appellants appealed to the Circuit Court
of Kanawha County, and a hearing was held on November 15, 2002. On February 9,
2004, the lower court entered an order affirming the DHHR decision. The lower
court observed that [b]ecause of the rulings made by the Circuit Court
of Harrison County during the pendency of the abuse and neglect hearings, and
further because of the distance they must travel from their home in Florida to
West Virginia, the [Appellants] have had very little physical contact or opportunity
to bond with Tyler since his birth. The Circuit Court of Kanawha County
addressed the Appellants' allegations that the grandparent preference had not
been properly applied but ultimately found that the DHHR and adoption review
committee had not erred in finding that the best
interests of the child would not be served by placing him with the Appellants.
The court noted that [t]his decision was based upon significant concerns
that Petitioners could not ensure the safety of the child and the lack of a
bond between Petitioners and their grandson. The Appellants appealed
to this Court.
The Appellants' affidavits stated that the
Appellants were aware that their son, Ryan, admitted to the Circuit Court
of Harrison County at the underlying abuse and neglect hearing that he was responsible
for the injury or injuries caused to his son Tyler and that this admission was
made under oath. The Appellants also stated: That I accept our son's
admission of responsibility for all of Tyler's injury or injuries. The
Appellants each further explain:
in the event my spouse and I are given the opportunity to adopt and do adopt
our grandson, Tyler, I would, under no circumstances whatsoever, allow any contact,
direct or indirect, between Ryan and our adopted son, Tyler. Further, I would
make certain that our son Ryan was aware that I would permit no contact.
With regard to any attempts by Ryan to contact Tyler, the Appellants both assert
in the event, that our son Ryan would approach us when Tyler was with either
one of us at or outside our home, or if he would contact or attempt to contact
Tyler when he was at school or some other activity when I was not present, that
I would immediately contact law enforcement authorities and advise them of the
situation and request whatever action that would be necessary to protect Tyler
and keep Ryan away from him. Further, I would apply to the court for an injunction
or protective order to be served against Ryan and do everything in
my power to see that the injunction or protective order was fully enforced.
II. Standard of Review
This Court reviews
the circuit court's final order and ultimate disposition under an abuse of
discretion standard. We review challenges to findings of fact under a clearly
erroneous standard; conclusions of law are reviewed de novo. Syl.
Pt. 4, Burgess v. Porterfield, 196 W.Va. 178, 469 S.E.2d 114 (1996).
The guidance for consideration
of this matter is primarily provided by statute and a DHHR policy reflecting
the intent of the statute. West Virginia Code § 49-3-1(a) (2001) (Repl.
Vol. 2004) provides, in pertinent part, as follows:
Whenever a child welfare agency licensed to place children for adoption or the
department of health and human resources has been given the permanent legal and
physical custody of any child and the rights of the mother and the rights of
the legal, determined, putative, outside or unknown father of the child have
been terminated by order of a court of competent jurisdiction or by a legally
executed relinquishment of parental rights, the child welfare agency or the department
may consent to the adoption of the child pursuant to the provisions of article
twenty-two [§§ 48-22-101 et seq.], chapter forty-eight of this code.
Relinquishment for an adoption to an agency or to the department is required
of the same persons whose consent or relinquishment is required under the provisions
of section three
hundred one [§ 48-22-301], article twenty-two, chapter forty-eight of
this code. The form of any relinquishment so required shall conform as nearly
as practicable to the requirements established in section three hundred three
[§ 48- 22-303], article twenty-two, chapter forty-eight, and all other
provisions of that article providing for relinquishment for adoption shall
govern the proceedings herein.
For purposes of any placement of a child for adoption by the department, the
department shall first consider the suitability and willingness of any known
grandparent or grandparents to adopt the child. Once any such grandparents
who are interested in adopting the child have been identified, the department
shall conduct a home study evaluation, including home visits and individual interviews
by a licensed social worker. If the department determines, based on the home
study evaluation, that the grandparents would be suitable adoptive parents,
it shall assure that the grandparents are offered the placement of the child
prior to the consideration of any other prospective adoptive parents.
W. Va. Code § 49-3-1(a) (emphasis supplied).
The Adoption Services Manual utilized by
the DHHR mirrors the design of that statute, providing as follows in pertinent
part of Section 15510A: If the home study indicates that the grandparents
would be suitable adoptive parents then they must be offered the placement of
the child prior to the consideration of any other prospective adoptive parents.
A. Best Interests Analysis
A fundamental mandate,
recognized consistently by this Court, is that the ultimate determination of
child placement must be premised upon an analysis of the best interests of
the child. As this Court has repeatedly stated, Although parents have
substantial rights that must be protected, the primary goal in cases involving
abuse and neglect, as in all family law matters, must be the health and welfare
of the children. Syl. Pt. 3, In re Katie S
., 198 W.Va. 79, 479
S.E.2d 589 (1996). [T]he best interests of the child is the polar star
by which decisions must be made which affect children. Michael K.T.
v. Tina L.T.
, 182 W.Va. 399, 405, 387 S.E.2d 866, 872 (1989) (citation
West Virginia Code § 49-1-1(b)
(1999) (Repl. Vol. 2004) also addresses this best interests requirement, providing
in pertinent part as follows:
pursuit of these goals it is the intention of the Legislature to provide for
removing the child from the custody of his or her parents only when the child's
welfare or the safety and protection of the public cannot be adequately safeguarded
without removal; and, when the child has to be removed from his or her family,
to secure for the child custody, care and discipline consistent with the child's
best interests and other goals herein set out. It is further the intention
of the Legislature to require that any reunification, permanency or preplacement
preventative services address the safety of the child.
This Court examined that statute in State v. Michael M., 202 W.Va. 350, 504
S.E.2d 177 (1998), and explained as follows:
order to effectuate the legislative intent expressed in W.Va.Code § 49-1-1(a)
, a circuit court must endeavor to secure for a child who has been removed
from his or her family a permanent placement with the level of custody, care,
commitment, nurturing and discipline that is consistent with the child's best
202 W.Va. at 358, 504 S.E.2d at 185.
This Court has not had the opportunity to
address the interplay between the statute affording grandparents a preference
for the placement of a child such as Tyler and the overriding standard of the
best interests of the child. In In re Carol B., 209 W. Va. 658, 550 S.E.2d
636 (2001), however, this Court encountered a similar issue regrading sibling
placement. In that case, this Court specified that the best interests analysis
is to be addressed in conjunction with the statutory preference for placement
of a child with his or her siblings. This Court explained as follows at syllabus
point four of Carol B.:
W.Va.Code § 49-2-14(e)
(1995) provides for a sibling preference wherein the West Virginia
Department of Health and Human Resources is to place a child who is in the department's
custody with the foster or adoptive parent(s) of the child's sibling or siblings,
where the foster or adoptive parents seek the care and custody of the child,
and the department determines (1) the fitness of the persons seeking to enter
into a foster care or adoption arrangement which would unite or reunite the siblings, and (2)
placement of the child with his or her siblings is in the best interests of the
children. In any proceeding brought by the department to maintain separation
of siblings, such separation may be ordered only if the circuit court determines
that clear and convincing evidence supports the department's determination. Upon
review by the circuit court of the department's determination to unite a child
with his or
her siblings, such determination shall be disregarded only where the
circuit court finds, by clear and convincing evidence, that the persons with
whom the department seeks to place the child are unfit or that placement
of the child with his or her siblings is not in the best interests of one or
all of the children.
We also explained in Carol B. that [w]e believe that both sibling
preference and best interests of the child considerations are incorporated
in W.Va.Code § 49-2-14(e). In order to determine how these considerations
interact, we look to the clear provisions of the statute. 209 W.Va. at
665, 550 S.E.2d at 643. In Carol B., this Court found that the statute
at issue therein provided guidance, and this Court concluded as follows:
[B]ecause the statute provides
that the circuit court is not to order separation, when recommended by the DHHR,
in the absence of clear and convincing evidence supporting the DHHR's determination,
we believe that it follows that the circuit court is not to disregard the DHHR's
recommendation that siblings should be united, unless it finds that clear and
convincing evidence indicates to the contrary.
209 W. Va. at 665-66, 550 S.E.2d at 643-44.
Other jurisdictions have struggled with the
manner in which relative preference should be implemented in conjunction with
the best interests of the child analysis. Under the Minnesota framework for this
type of examination, the preference for placement with relatives may be overcome
only where the best interests of the child will be jeopardized by placement with
relatives. Findings regarding the best interests of the child may support a decision
to place the children with the unrelated individuals if those findings
either the detriment or good cause necessary to defeat the relative preference. In
re Adoption of C.H., 548 N.W.2d 292, 298 (Minn. App. 1996). Thus, the preference
typically mandates that adoptive placement with relatives is presumptively
in a child's best interests, absent a showing of detriment to the child or
other good cause to the contrary. In re Welfare of D.L., 486 N.W.2d
375, 380 (Minn.1992), cert. denied, Sharp v. Hennepin County Bureau
of Social Services, 506 U.S. 1000. Courts have been swift to emphasize
that the existence of a preference does not translate into a perfunctory grant
of custody. In Welfare of D.L., for instance, the Supreme Court of Minnesota
holding does not mean that relatives' adoption petitions must be granted automatically.
The terms best interests, good cause to the contrary and detriment do
not lend themselves to standardized definitions. The best interests of potential
adoptees will vary from case to case, and the trial court retains broad discretion
because of its opportunity to observe the parties and hear the witnesses.
Id. (citation omitted).
In the present case, the governing statute,
West Virginia Code § 49-3-1(a), provides guidance on the standard to be
employed regarding grandparent preference. As quoted above, the statute provides
that the DHHR shall offer placement to the grandparents [i]f
the department determines, based on the home study evaluation, that the grandparents
would be suitable adoptive parents. W. Va. Code § 49-3-1(a)(3). Thus,
in the view of this Court, West Virginia Code § 49-3-1(a) provides for grandparent
in determining adoptive placement for a child where parental rights have been
terminated and also incorporates a best interests analysis within that determination
by including the requirement that the DHHR find that the grandparents would
be suitable adoptive parents prior to granting custody to the grandparents.
The statute contemplates that placement with grandparents is presumptively
in the best interests of the child, and the preference for grandparent placement
may be overcome only where the record reviewed in its entirety establishes
that such placement is not in the best interests of the child. By specifying
in West Virginia Code § 49-3-1(a)(3) that the home study must show that
the grandparents would be suitable adoptive parents, the Legislature
has implicitly included the requirement for an analysis by the DHHR and circuit
courts of the best interests of the child, given all circumstances of the case.
B. Significance of Statutory Grandparent Preference
The concept of placement with relatives,
where appropriate, has long been included in the jurisprudence of this and other
states. The Legislature of this state has clearly expressed a preference for
placement with grandparents, and the policies of the DHHR properly reflect that
In this Court's evaluation of the matter
presently before us, we note that the DHHR initially discouraged permanency planning
focused upon grandparent placement due
to the perceived potential for family reunification. When such reunification
became impossible, however, the DHHR provided only limited assistance to the
grandparents, either maternal or paternal, in developing a plan for adoption
of Tyler. Moreover, despite a positive home study and a favorable psychological
evaluation, the adoption review committee chose to place Tyler with his foster
parents rather than his paternal grandparents, the Appellants. While several
participants in the review committee indicated that they had not been convinced,
through the home study and psychological report, that the Appellants would
adequately protect Tyler, the committee failed to request additional information
or evaluation regarding those areas of concern. The members asserted only their
trepidation concerning the Appellants' willingness to prevent Tyler from being
exclusively in the presence of his father, Ryan. Thus, while perceived deficiencies
in the home study and psychological evaluations were claimed, the committee
failed to address those issues or attempt, in any meaningful manner, to rectify
them. The grandparent preference articulated in West Virginia Code § 49-3-1(a)
must be recognized as essential guidance in the determination of child placement.
The DHHR failed to observe the directives of that preference or apply it in
an appropriate manner in this case. (See
While this Court
appreciates the heightened level of scrutiny employed by the committee in this
case of extreme abuse and tender age, the evidence furnished concerning the
Appellants, through the home study and psychological examinations, does not
appear to provide a rational basis for the expressed fears of the committee.
The Appellants specifically articulated their earnest commitment to the protection
of their grandson Tyler. This was communicated not only by the Appellants themselves
but was also the expressed view of the psychologist who interviewed and evaluated
the Appellants, with specific
emphasis upon the need for protection of young Tyler. In his evaluation of
Appellant Mrs. Linda S., Dr. Fremouw found that she was emotionally stable
and would follow the directives of the court regarding the limitations of contact
between Tyler and his biological father. Additionally, Dr. Fremouw found that
Appellant Mr. Napoleon S. was clear that if he had custody of Tyler,
Ryan would not be allowed to be alone with him. Dr. Fremouw concluded, Overall,
Mr. [S.] appears clear and committed to not let Ryan have direct contact with
Tyler without supervision. Further, Dr. Fremouw found that Mr. S. was aware
of the requirement that Ryan have no contact with Tyler and would enforce that. Both
Appellants were also evaluated through the use of MMPI testing, (See
footnote 6) indicating that the Appellants were not distorting
their responses to minimize or maximize problems.
While the lower tribunals did not have the
benefit of the specific statements made by the Appellants in the affidavits submitted
in this Court, such affidavits, as quoted above, support the ultimate conclusion
that Tyler's best interests will be served and that he will be competently protected
by placement with the Appellants.
C. Tyler's Bonding With Grandparents
In the underlying abuse
and neglect case, the Circuit Court of Harrison County granted intervener status
to both maternal and paternal grandparents on November 14, 2001. According
to the record, all grandparents exercised visitation privileges with Tyler
until the Circuit Court of Harrison County terminated visitation between the
grandparents and Tyler on May 31, 2002. The record reflects that the absence
or limitation of bonding was asserted as one factor relevant in the determination
that Tyler should not be placed with the Appellants. It is unreasonable to
contend that the absence of bonding should be a legitimate basis for denying
the grandparents an opportunity to adopt when the court system itself eliminated
any potential for bonding when it terminated visitation rights on May 31, 2002,
months prior to the first grievance hearing and almost two years prior to the
lower court order from which the Appellants now appeal. Given Tyler's young
age, we believe that it is likely that he will bond easily with his grandparents
in a relatively short period of time.
Based upon this Court's
analysis of this case, we find that the lower court abused its discretion in
affirming the conclusion of the review committee and DHHR and erred in failing
to permit the Appellants to adopt Tyler S. We consequently remand for the entry
of an order requiring that Tyler be placed with the Appellants for adoption.
We further direct the lower court to fashion an order which explicitly prohibits
contact between Tyler
and Ryan, in accord with the representations of the Appellants in their affidavits
filed with this Court.
We further find that a gradual transition
period for Tyler would be preferable to an immediate custody change. We have
previously encouraged such gradual changes in the custody of children. For example,
in Honaker v. Burnside
, 182 W.Va. 448, 388 S.E.2d 322 (1989), a gradual,
six-month transition of custody was approved. 182 W.Va. at 450, 388 S.E.2d at
324. Similarly, in James M. v. Maynard
, 185 W.Va. 648, 408 S.E.2d 400
(1991), this Court required the circuit court to establish a plan for a gradual
shift of custody. In syllabus point three of James M
., this Court held
is a traumatic experience for children to undergo sudden and dramatic changes
in their permanent custodians. Lower courts in cases such as these should provide,
whenever possible, for a gradual transition period, especially where young children
are involved. Further, such gradual transition periods should be developed in
a manner intended to foster the emotional adjustment of the children to this
change and to maintain as much stability as possible in their lives.
Thus, upon remand in this case, the lower court should craft a plan for the
gradual transition of custody of Tyler. Given the Appellants' intention to
reside permanently in Florida, we believe that the transition period should
be as short as is practicable, but long enough to assuage reasonable concerns
that would arise from an abrupt change of custody and permit the restarting
of the bonding process with the Appellants. We respectfully suggest that
Appellants should take up temporary residence here in West Virginia during
the transition period.
As is our practice in
cases involving sensitive matters, we use initials to identify the parties'
last names. See In re Scottie D
., 185 W.Va. 191, 406 S.E.2d 214 (1991).
Tyler was born on October
23, 2000. He is currently four years of age.
In her report, Ms. Pote
noted that the Appellants had been very supportive and had made
numerous trips to visit Tyler. Somewhat ironically, Ms. Pote later
changed her opinion and became convinced through her involvement with the
adoption review committee that the Appellants were not an appropriate placement
The home study report
explained as follows regarding the Appellants:
[They] report that they love
their own son very much and will not turn their back on him, but are very serious
about protecting Tyler and would never let anything happen to him. They report
that they do not believe that their son would intentionally hurt Tyler, but that
they would abide by any court orders that they need to.
According to a July 31,
2002, letter written by Thomas Arnett, State Hearing Officer for the DHHR,
the guardian ad litem, Ms. McCarthy, had explained during the grievance hearing
that protection of Tyler was her primary concern in not selecting the Appellants
to be Tyler's adoptive parents. She had apparently not personally interviewed
the Appellants. This Court emphasized the need for guardians ad litem to conduct
a full and independent investigation in syllabus point five of In
Re Jeffrey R.L.
, 190 W.Va. 24, 435 S.E.2d 162 (1993), explaining as follows:
child in an abuse and neglect case is entitled to effective representation of
counsel. To further that goal, W.Va.Code, 49-6-2(a)  mandates that
a child has a right to be represented by counsel in every stage of abuse and
neglect proceedings. Furthermore, Rule XIII of the West Virginia Rules for
Trial Courts of Record provides that a guardian ad litem shall make
a full and independent investigation of the facts involved in the proceeding,
and shall make his or her recommendations known to the court. Rules 1.1 and 1.3
of the West Virginia Rules of Professional Conduct, respectively, require
an attorney to provide competent representation to a client, and to act with
reasonable diligence and promptness in representing a client. The Guidelines
for Guardians Ad Litem in Abuse and Neglect cases, which are adopted in
this opinion and attached as Appendix A, are in harmony with the applicable provisions
of the West Virginia Code, the West Virginia Rules for Trial Courts
of Record, and the West Virginia Rules of Professional Conduct, and
provide attorneys who serve as guardians ad litem with direction as to
their duties in representing the best interests of the children for whom they
Elaborating upon the Jeffrey requirements in Carol B., this Court
specified that A full and independent investigation includes interviewing
all prospective parents when a child's placement is at issue. 209 W.Va.
at 668 n. 6, 550 S.E.2d at 646 n. 6.
MMPI is an acronym for
Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory. It is a frequently utlized clinical
testing mechanism typically employed to provide personality information and
to assess psychological adjustment factors.