State ex rel. Department of Human Services v. Cheryl M
In State ex rel. Department of Human Services v. Cheryl M., 177 W. Va. 688, 356 S.E.2d 181 (1987) the lower court and the Department of Human Services had failed to formulate a family case plan.
The Court in Cheryl M. emphasized that a family case plan "is designed to foreclose a natural parent from being placed in an amphorous improvement period where there are no detailed standards by which the improvement steps can be measured." 177 W. Va. at 693-94, 356 S.E.2d at 186-87.
The Cheryl M. Court also noted that the family case plan "also provides a meaningful blueprint that the DHHR can monitor and which will also give the court specific information to determine whether the terms of the improvement period were met. Without such a plan, a court is then confronted with general testimony as to whether the natural parent has shown the requisite 'improvement.'" 177 W. Va. at 694, 356 S.E.2d at 187.
In Cheryl M, the Court provided the following explanation of the importance of the family case plan:
The point that bears emphasizing is that under W.Va. Code, 49-6-2(b), the family case plan is triggered when a court orders an improvement period. Here, the court took no formal action to order an improvement period and, as a consequence, there was never any court-approved family case plan as required by W.Va. Code, 49-6D-3(b).
It must be remembered that W.Va. Code, 49-6D-3, is a part of a larger enactment known as the West Virginia Child Protective Services Act (CPSA), W.Va. Code, 49-6D-1, et seq. Its purpose and intent are set out in W.Va. Code, 49-6D-2, which emphasizes that "the intention of the legislature is to provide for the removal of a child from the custody of the child's parents only when the child's welfare cannot be otherwise adequately safeguarded." .
(177 W. Va. at 694, 356 S.E.2d at 187.)