In re J.S. (Signed Opinion)Annotate this Case
Following allegations of sexual abuse and failure to protect, the Department of Health and Human Resources (DHHR) brought a child abuse and neglect proceeding against Father and Mother (Petitioners). After an adjudicatory hearing, the circuit court found that the children were abused and neglected, and, after a dispositional hearing, terminated the parental rights of Petitioners. Petitioners appealed, arguing that their procedural due process rights were violated when the out-of-court statements of two children were admitted to prove allegations of sexual abuse when Petitioners were not given an opportunity to confront and cross-examine the children. The Supreme Court affirmed the termination of Petitioners’ parental rights, holding (1) in a child abuse and neglect civil proceeding held pursuant to W. Va. Code 29-6-2, a party does not have a procedural due process right to confront and cross-examine a child, and the circuit court shall exclude this testimony if it finds the potential psychological harm to the child outweighs the necessity of the child’s testimony; and (2) the circuit court adequately safeguarded Petitioners’ procedural due process rights in this case.