In re James G

In In re James G., 211 W.Va. 339, 566 S.E.2d 226 (2002), the Court considered the effect of a voluntary versus involuntary termination of parental rights on later-born children. In that case, the appellant mother argued that the circuit court had erred by refusing to accept her voluntarily relinquishment of parental rights. The DHHR would not agree to the voluntary termination suggesting that the mother only offered to relinquish her parental rights because she knew they were going to be terminated, and she wanted to limit the DHHR's ability to take action against her should she later have another child. Ultimately, the Court determined that "a circuit court has discretion in an abuse and neglect proceeding to accept a proffered voluntary termination of parental rights, or to reject it and proceed to a decision on involuntary termination." (Syllabus Point 4, in part, id.) However, the Court noted that while W.Va.Code 49-6-5b (1998) does not include the voluntary termination of parental rights as one of the factors triggering a new petition against a parent with additional children, the absence of one of these factors does not in any way prevent the Department from filing such a petition should conditions warrant. Nothing prevents the Department from conducting an investigation if it believes that a parent who has voluntarily terminated parental rights with respect to one child might be mistreating another child, or from providing such a parent with assistance or counseling where available. (Id., 211 W.Va. at 346, 566 S.E.2d at 233.)