Adoption in West Virginia

The Children’s Home Society of West Virginia is a private, nonprofit multi-service agency established in 1896 with the mission of “finding homes for homeless and dependent children.”

What began as a dream of a group of Charleston ministers, the YMCA President and the Reverend D.W. Comstock, a retired minister and former Superintendent of the Children’s Home Society of Arkansas, evolved into an active children’s service agency providing adoption, shelter care and counseling. More detailed information about the Society, its founding and history can be found <here.>

Setting the Stage

In 1870, the West Virginia Legislature passed an act allowing orphan asylums to accept guardianship of children under the age of 14 under the following circumstances:

  1. Voluntarily surrendered by their father, or in the case of his death or long-continued or willful absence, by their mother, or by their guardians.
  2. Committed by a county circuit court judge due to vagrancy, exposure to want or suffering, neglect or abandonment by parents or guardians, or if the child was found begging.
  3. Request of the mother due to the conduct of the father.

Under the law, asylums would maintain guardianship of boys until age 21 and girls to age 18, unless they could be first placed in a suitable home. The state legislature would wait 12 more years to pass its first adoption guidelines.

In 1899, House Bill #68 made it legal for county courts to turn their wards over to organizations for the purpose of placing children in good homes.

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