Department of Health and Human Resources adoptions, or DHHR adoptions, are ones in which there has been an abuse and neglect proceeding. After there is an abuse and neglect proceeding, you often have two parents who have had their parental rights terminated or they will relinquish their rights. When they relinquish their rights this means they agree to give up their rights.
The other type of adoption is what we call either a stepparent adoption or a guardianship adoption. There is a little bit of a difference between the two. Stepparent adoptions are ones in which you may have a stepparent who steps in to adopt a child. Another example may be the mother or the father are out of the picture, the parents do not want to be involved in the child’s life, or they may just want to relinquish their rights. That would be another example of this type of adoption. One last example could be, let’s say, the parents cannot be found and they haven’t been involved in the child’s life for years. This would also be a type of stepparent adoption.
A guardianship adoption is one where you have two people who have guardianship over a child. This means they have the basic legal rights over the child or the children, but at the same time, the parental rights of the biological parents have not been terminated. Those two people could, under certain circumstances, go ahead and adopt the child. The easiest way for that to happen is for the parents to sign over their parental rights. Alternatively, you could have a contested adoption as well.
There is one other key difference between DHHR adoptions and adoptions that are involving either a stepparent or a guardianship situation. This is, during DHHR adoptions the Department of Health and Human Resources will often pay your legal fees if there has been some sort of abuse, neglect, a petition filed, and/or somebody’s rights have been terminated.
In many instances, if you are going through the adoption process and the Department of Health and Human Resources has never been involved, then they are most likely not going to get involved in the adoption proceedings whatsoever. That is very, very common in West Virginia. We’ve done a lot of those kinds of adoptions over the years in particular involving stepparents. However, the court will in some instances bring in the Department of Health and Human Resources. They will appoint a guardian ad litem, which is a person who is charged with overseeing and speaking with the child. They will also make sure that everything is consistent with the best interest of the child that may or may not happen. It’s largely based on the circumstances.
Those are some key differences between DHHR adoptions and private party adoptions that involve either guardianships or stepparents. If you have any questions at all feel free to give me a call at (304) 720 4412. You can also send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.