In re Katie S

In In re Katie S., 198 W. Va. 79, 479 S.E.2d 589 (1996), the Court reiterated its concern for resolution of the status of the father's parental rights as part of the abuse and neglect proceeding. The abuse and neglect petition filed by the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources (DHHR") in Katie S. sought termination of the parental rights of both parents of two children. The father was named in the petition; his address was listed as "unknown;" and the evidence strongly suggested that he had abandoned his children. At the end of the disposition hearing, the circuit court terminated the mother's parental rights, but found that the father was not a proper party and dismissed him. On review, the Court was critical of the fact that "no action was taken by the circuit court concerning the parental rights of the children's father": "We again emphasize that the practice of waiting until adoption proceedings to determine the status of such a parent's parental rights, leaves "the children in 'No Man's Land' with regard to any resolution in their lives," may discourage persons who want to adopt the children, and leaves "the validity of a future adoption subject to challenge" (when due process has not been afforded to a natural parent). In re Christina L., 194 W. Va. at 455-56, 460 S.E.2d at 701-2." (198 W. Va. at 85-86, 479 S.E.2d at 595-96.) The Court concluded in Katie S. that "the circuit court should have considered the allegation that the father had abandoned his children when the abuse and neglect petition was presented." Id. at 87, 479 S.E.2d at 597. Therefore, the Court directed the circuit court to consider upon remand the issue of the father's parental rights. Id.