In re Carol B
In In re Carol B., 209 W. Va. 658, 550 S.E.2d 636 (2001), the 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.
The 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 parents 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.
The Court also explained in Carol. B. that "we 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., the Court found that the statute at issue therein provided guidance, and the Court concluded as follows:
"Because 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.)