The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

Sunday Profile

January 29, 2012

Shelter for special kids

The Children’s Home Society of West Virginia’s Exceptional Youth Emergency Shelter in Daniels is a unique shelter specializing in children with special needs and developmental delays.

Director William Perkins points out that while the parent organization, Children’s Home Society of West Virginia, has 12 locations across the state, the Exception Youth Emergency Shelter is the only one that specializes.

A nonprofit organization, the emergency shelter accepts kids ages 7 to 17 from across the state.

“Any time a child with special needs is removed from the home due to abuse or neglect, or just need a place to go until they can be placed in a foster or adoptive home, the emergency shelter steps in to provide care,” he said.

While a portion of kids are removed from homes for abuse, many parents simply don’t have the resources to deal with a child with mental and physical disabilities, he explained.

While a child stays at the emergency shelter, the staff networks to ensure they provide for all emotional, physical, medical and educational needs.

“We coordinate with schools to get them into the type of classroom they need, get them into counseling and into any treatment they might need. Any and all the types of care a child would receive in the home, we make sure they have here,” Perkins explained.

“The goal of the agency is always to get a child back into the home, if at all possible, or to find a lifelong home for them,” he continued. “We want them to have connections and a home they can go back to their entire life.”

He said that whether the child’s home will be with a foster family or an adoptive family, they need a place where they can come home for Christmas or stop in to do a load of laundry.

The shelter in Daniels can house up to five kids due to the facility’s size.

“Our building really limits us. Money is not always in abundance because we are a nonprofit, but we would like to have a bigger, better building for our kids so that we can have things, like a sensory stimulation room, to help them more. Our ultimate goal is to get a bigger building and have the money to do that for them,” he said.

Perkins said he wants the best for the kids who stay at the shelter because he knows they have had a rough start.

“We provide individual and group counseling and therapy, and really try everything we can to help them grow and succeed. It is even more rewarding to watch them grow when you know they have had a rough start,” Perkins shared.

Although the shelter has numerous success stories, the staff particularly remember a young man who came to them with severe autism and was nonverbal. The staff worked especially hard with him every moment they could spare. They felt rewarded because, by the time he left the shelter, he was speaking a few words and had become better able to communicate with the staff.

“It was really good for us all to see him grow and develop from the interaction we could give him,” Perkins said. “We have had quite a few success stories and we are proud of that fact. There is nothing quite as rewarding as to see a child grow and be able to make the changes to help them succeed.”

Perkins indicated that the rewards are worth the challenges of having a group of children with diverse and difficult needs. Every child they shelter has varying degrees of special needs that have to be addressed and worked with.

Regardless of what the difficulties are, “we just buckle down and do what needs to be done. If we have a child in diapers, that’s what we deal with. If we have to find or drive a child to get special treatment or services, that’s just what we do. Sometimes we have to be creative to work with the kids, but we get there,” he said.

The parent organization Children’s Home Society of West Virginia has 12 locations across the state and provides a wide variety of services including foster care, adoption, emergency shelter services, Right from the Start, Birth to Three and truancy diversion services.

— E-mail: splummer@register-herald.com

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