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The Children’s Home Society of West Virginia is the state’s largest child-service organization. Its mission is to ensure the physical and emotional safety of children and their families, improve family relationships, and preserve family and community ties. The society was formed by Charleston ministers at the city’s YMCA on May 4, 1896. Their goal was to place orphaned and neglected children with caring families rather than crowd them into county poorhouses. For much of its history, the society’s most identifiable institution was Charleston’s Davis Child Shelter, an orphanage established in 1900 with financing from former U.S. Sen. Henry Gassaway Davis. The orphanage closed in 1961 as part of a national movement to remove children from institutions and place them in foster homes.

During the 1960s and 1970s, the Charleston society branched statewide, opening offices in Sistersville and Morgantown. In 1978, a new Davis Child Shelter was established in South Charleston through a state government contract to care for neglected, dependent, and abused children. In 1995, the Davis Child Shelter moved to a new facility near Yeager International Airport in Charleston. Similar shelters were added across the state in the 1980s and 1990s. Other statewide programs sponsored by the society include the reduction of child abuse and neglect, community-and home-based protective services, support for children under age three with delays in their development, parent education, support for kinship families, family resource centers, WECAN for training mentors and volunteers, and support for parents in providing developmental education and in providing caring environments for children ages 12 to 17.

As of 2023, the society operates the following emergency child shelters: Arthur N. Gustke Child Shelter in Parkersburg, Davis Child Shelter in Charleston, Greenbrier Valley Children’s Home in Rupert, Hovah Hall Underwood Children’s Home in Ona (Cabell County), June Montgomery Harless Children’s Shelter in Holden (Logan County), Parkersburg Community-Based Services, Romney Child Shelter, and Southern West Virginia Exceptional Youth Emergency Shelter in Daniels (Raleigh County). Its headquarters is still in Charleston with additional offices for community-based services in Beckley, Glenville, Huntington, Lewisburg, Logan, Martinsburg, Milton, Morgantown, Northfork, Parkersburg, Princeton, Romney, Summersville, and Wheeling.

This Article was written by Stan Bumgardner

Last Revised on June 21, 2023


Bumgardner, Stan. Children's Home Society of West Virginia: Children - Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow. Charleston: Children Home Society, 1996.

Cite This Article

Bumgardner, Stan "Children’s Home Society of West Virginia." e-WV: The West Virginia Encyclopedia. 21 June 2023. Web. 24 June 2024.


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