FISCAL NOTE

Date Requested: January 10, 2018
Time Requested: 02:45 PM
Agency: Health and Human Resources, WV Department of
CBD Number: Version: Bill Number: Resolution Number:
1195 Introduced SB79
CBD Subject: Domestic Relations


FUND(S):

5144 - VITAL STATISTICS ACCOUNT

Sources of Revenue:

Special Fund

Legislation creates:

Creates New Revenue, Creates New Expense, Creates New Program



Fiscal Note Summary


Effect this measure will have on costs and revenues of state government.


    The purpose of this bill is to allow adult adoptees and their lineal descendants to access adoption records regarding the biological parents and to repeal the voluntary adoption registry.
    This proposed legislation will require Vital Statistics to develop a new program for accepting applications and providing adoption file information which will include locating and notifying biological parents. The Department estimates the fiscal impact related to this legislation to be $124,007 the first year and $115,571 each subsequent year.
    



Fiscal Note Detail


Effect of Proposal Fiscal Year
2018
Increase/Decrease
(use"-")
2019
Increase/Decrease
(use"-")
Fiscal Year
(Upon Full
Implementation)
1. Estmated Total Cost 0 124,007 115,571
Personal Services 0 110,371 110,371
Current Expenses 0 5,200 5,200
Repairs and Alterations 0 0 0
Assets 0 0 0
Other 0 8,436 0
2. Estimated Total Revenues 0 50,000 50,000


Explanation of above estimates (including long-range effect):


    The estimated $110,371 in Personal Services for FY2019 and on going for a Health and Human Resources Specialist Senior to operate the Adoption Registry and an Office Assist III to provide clerical assistance. It is important to note that this proposed legislation will also require assistance from existing Vital Registration staff at no additional cost. Included in this estimated Personal Services cost are salaries in the amount of $73,590 for 1.00 FTE HHR Specialist Senior ($44,412) and 1.00 FTE Office Assistant III ($29,178); and Fringes and Benefits in the amount of $36,781. Fringes and Benefits include Public Employees Health Insurance Administrative Fees of $100 ($50 per employee x 2 FTEs); Personnel Administrative Fee of $360 ($180 per FTE x 2 FTE); Health Insurance of $18,456 ($9,228 per FTE x 2 FTEs); Social Security of $5,630 ($73,590 x .0765); Retirement of $7,359 ($73,590 x .10); Workers Compensation of $274 ($73,590 x .00372); and WV OPEB Contribution of $4,602 ($2,301 per FTE x 2 FTEs).
    The estimated $5,200 for Current Expenses for FY2019 and on going include landline telephones at $1,200 ($50 per month x 12 months x 2.00 FTEs); office supplies at $400 ($200 per FTE x 2.00 FTEs); dedicated fax line at $600 ($50 per month x 12 months); and form printing costs at $3,000; $8,436 in Equipment for FY2019 (one-time cost) include desktop computer equipment at $1,536 ($768 x 2.00 FTEs); fax machine at $400; network printer at $500; microfilm viewer at $6,000.
    It is estimated that Vital Statistics could receive 2,000 requests in the first and second years after implementation. This proposed legislation includes a fee of no more than $25 for an application to receive an adoption record. If the bill passage date is July 1, 2018, estimated revenue for FY2019 and ongoing fiscal years is $50,000 per year (2,000 requests x $25 per request). Even though it is difficult to fully estimate costs of implementing and operating a new program of this nature, it is clear that the $25 fee specified in this proposed legislation for providing adoption file information will not cover associated expenditure costs of the program.
    



Memorandum


    Senate Bill 79 will impact the Department's Vital Registration Office in the Bureau for Public Health and the Bureau for Children and Families. It includes a minor amendment to the existing Vital Statistics Code §16-5-16(a)(3) related to the collection of information on the Certificate of Adoption, which identifies the biological parents of an adopted child. It also creates a new Code section, §48-22-705, which includes the bulk of the proposed legislation. The Department has several concerns surrounding this proposed legislation.
    Proposed section §48-22-705 allows adult adoptees and their lineal descendants to make applications to access adoption files. It appears that a lineal descendant can make a request with or without approval of the adult adoptee. Additionally, it is not clear if lineal descendants requesting adoption file information must be adults themselves.
    Proposed section §48-22-705 includes its own Definitions section separate from the Definitions section of Article 22. One term defined in §48-22-705, titled biological sibling, is not used anywhere in the new section. The Department is concerned that definitions included in the new section could contradict existing Article 22 definitions which could lead to a misinterpretation of Code.
    Proposed section §48-22-705 allows biological parents the opportunity to signal their intention that the adoptee, once an adult, can obtain identifying information. However, it also allows the biological parent to indicate that identifying information contained in the adoption file be redacted before it is released.
    Proposed section §48-22-705 allows biological parents opportunities to indicate their preferences for future contact by adult adoptees or their lineal descendants and offers options for the contact. However, §48-22-705 does not include language prohibiting adoptees from making contact regardless of the biological parents' preferences once they have identifying information.
    Proposed section §48-22-705 allows biological parents opportunities to add or revise information contained in the adoption file, including changes to social and medical history and preferences related to contact and release of identifying information. Adoption files are normally indexed or referenced under the name of the child after adoption, not before. A biological parent wishing to add or change information in an adoption file will need to provide the child's adopted name, which they usually do not know. An entirely new process for indexing adoption records will need to be implemented and maintained to meet the requirements of this provision.
    Proposed section §48-22-705 requires the State Registrar to place biological parents on notice when applications for adoption file information are made and inform them once it is released. Given that adoptees are prohibited from applying to access adoption file information until they are at least 18 years of age under this proposed legislation, it is unlikely that the State Registrar will be able to locate biological parents to provide notice without the assistance of a skilled investigator. Locating biological parents to provide notice when lineal descendants request adoption file information will be even more difficult, if not impossible in many instances. This provision places the State Registrar in a position of intruding into what could be sensitive areas of peoples lives. If passed, the State Registrar should be held harmless for unintentional harmful impacts that could occur in the performance of this provision.
    Proposed section §48-22-705 makes adoption records confidential and clarifies release requirements under the provisions of the new section or by court order. It also provides for penalties for knowingly or negligently releasing confidential information. This §48-22-705 penalties provision conflicts with the Vital Statistics Code, §16-5-18(b), which allows the Bureau for Child Support Enforcement access to adoption information when needed in the fulfillment of its duties. Penalties for unlawful disclosure of confidential information are included in §16-5-38 of the Vital Statistics Code.
    The elimination of the Mutual Consent Voluntary Adoption Registry, created under W.Va. Code §48-23-101, and administered by the Department's Bureau for Children and Families has been in effect for approximately 16 years and serves as a well-balanced conduit for adoption information when both biological parents and adult adoptees seek each other or when adult adoptees seek non-identifying information. There are likely hundreds of people that have entered their information into the Registry awaiting a match. Proposed section §48-22-705 effectively terminates the enabling Code that allows for the maintenance of the Registry. Anything in process will be gone and possibly destroyed.
    The Department is uncertain if the intent of this proposed legislation is to start a process of creating an adoption file now for access 18 years into the future or if existing adoption information held by the State Registrar will also be impacted. Much of what is to be included in the adoption file under this proposed legislation, especially information related to medical and social history of biological parents, is absent. Contact information and biological parents' intention for release of identifying information or willingness to be contacted by the adult adoptee is also absent. If the intent is to create an adoption file now for access 18 years into the future, then the elimination of the Mutual Consent Registry closes an avenue for adoptee exploration for 18 years. If adoption information currently held by the State Registrar will be impacted, then many of the provisions under §48-22-705 will be difficult, if not impossible, to implement.
    It is important to note that not all adoption proceedings that take place in West Virginia courts are for children that are born in the State. Under this proposed legislation, there will be instances where an adoption file is created in West Virginia with no matching birth certificate. Conversely, not all adoptions of children born in West Virginia take place in the State. It is unlikely that another state will gather and transmit information to West Virginia.
    Based upon the bill passage date and any other verbiage added to this proposed legislation prior to the effective date, it is likely that revenue will be generated in FY2019 absent any challenges by affected parties (birth parents) that could delay implementation. Historically, challenges have occurred in some states that have opened adoption records. In other states, there were a large number of requests during the first few years after implementation with declining requests afterwards.
    No effective start date is included in this proposed legislation. If passed with an effective date of July 1, 2018, it is likely that the Program would start before Rules, as called for in the proposed legislation, are implemented.
    



    Person submitting Fiscal Note: Bill J. Crouch
    Email Address: dhhrbudgetoffice@wv.gov