Prevent Neglect Of W.Va. Children

A criminal case in Ohio County has disturbing ramifications for anyone concerned with the welfare of children.

As we reported last week, a Peters Run resident, 69-year-old Willard Humes, has been charged with gross child neglect of his grandchildren, ages 2, 3 and 5.

Humes’ daughter, Amanda, and the children had been living in his home. After a cable television installer reported conditions there, sheriff’s deputies and Child Protective Services representatives went to the home in July.

They found the home was in deplorable, unhealthy condition and that the children were suffering from some untreated health problems. Humes and his daughter were arrested.

Amanda Humes has pleaded guilty to one child neglect charge, as part of a plea agreement. She has not yet been sentenced.

But Willard Humes’ attorney, Jacob Robinson, has filed a motion to dismiss charges against his client.

Robinson cites the fact Humes was hospitalized for a substantial part of the time when the neglect allegedly took place. He adds that Humes provided his daughter and grandchildren with a place to stay when they were homeless.

But it is another reason Robinson cited as cause to dismiss the charges that should concern West Virginians, regardless of what happens in Humes’ case. It is the legal issue of whether grandparents can be held responsible for the wellbeing of their grandchildren.

That is a question going far beyond Humes and his case.

Robinson has cited court precedents, including one case from the U.S. Supreme Court, in his contention that grandparents are not legally responsible for the care and control of their grandchildren. It is possible the matter in Humes case will have to be decided by the state Supreme Court.

If justices there determine Robinson is right — that no West Virginia grandparent is responsible for his or her grandchildren — legislators will have to act.

To many people, it would seem only common sense that any adult in whose home children are residing has at least some responsibility for their health and safety. But common sense and the law sometimes are not the same thing.

If indeed West Virginia law does not hold any adult in such a situation, regardless of the relationship to children being housed, at least partially responsible for them, it needs to be changed.

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