Families interested in fostering or adopting children in the Northern Panhandle have a new resource in a very old state organization: the Children's Home Society of West Virginia, which will celebrate its 117th anniversary in June.
About a year ago, the nonprofit Children's Home Society opened its 13th state office in Wheeling to serve the Northern Panhandle counties of Hancock, Brooke, Ohio, Marshall, Tyler and Wetzel. It is not affiliated with the Children's Home of Wheeling.
"Our CEO Steve Tuck and (Youth Services System Executive Director) John Moses did a needs assessment in the community and found that kids were being separated from their families and sent out of the area or to out-of-state placements," said Wheeling office director Marleah Donahie during an open house meet-and-greet in the foyer of Youth Services System Inc.'s headquarters in the former Hazel-Atlas Building in East Wheeling on Friday.
Children’s Home Society of West Virginia board member Jodie Gardill, left, holding her 3-year-old daughter Darcie, stands with CHS Wheeling office director Marleah Donahie and her 10-year-old daughter, Kali, in front of an agency display during an open house marking the Wheeling office’s first year.
Photo by Betsy Bethel
"Our goal is to find these kids 'forever families,'" Donahie said.
Tuck, who is based in Charleston and has been with the organization for 22 years, said up until the Wheeling office opened, if there was an inquiry for foster care or adoption in the Northern Panhandle, the Morgantown office handled it.
He cited the agency's "close partnership" with Youth Services as key to opening the Wheeling office.
"We work closely with their shelters and transitional living but they don't offer foster care so we can work together to help make seamless transitions for kids," Tuck said.
Local attorney Jodie Gardill, who works for West Virginia Legal Aid's Wheeling office, serves as a Children's Home Society board member and also is on Donahie's advisory board, providing the agency with valuable local input, Tuck said.
He said the need for foster and adoptive parents is great. Thousands of West Virginia children are not able to live with their families for reasons stemming from neglect, abuse, drug use and incarceration, or a combination.