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Children's Home Society eyes permanent facility

June 14, 2010|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. -- The Children's Home Society of West Virginia might finally have a permanent home in Martinsburg and Regional Director Deborah Barthlow couldn't be happier.

"We'd like to be able to stay put. I've moved a few times," Barthlow said in a recent interview.

The nonprofit child-welfare organization is about to close on a deal to purchase the former offices of retired physicians Orlando and Betty Agnir at 653 Winchester Ave.

The Agnirs donated the English Tudor-style home at the new triangular Winchester Avenue intersection with Mall Drive in 2006 to City Hospital Foundation Inc.

The foundation has agreed to sell the property to the Children's Home Society. West Virginia University Hospitals-East spokesperson Teresa McCabe said Friday that the transfer is expected to happen in the near future.


"We're just waiting for the attorneys to schedule a settlement date," McCabe said.

The deal has been hinging upon the City of Martinsburg's approval of a zoning change and a variance from the city's off-street parking requirements that Barthlow said the Society needed to make the move possible.

The Martinsburg City Council on Thursday adopted an ordinance to change the "Residential Urban Class B" zoned property to "Service Business" and the Martinsburg Board of Zoning Appeals approved the parking variance earlier this month.

The new address will allow the Children's Home Society to consolidate operations from High Street in Martinsburg, where it had a lease with the Berkeley County Senior Center for "the pink house" and offices at 445 Winchester Ave., Barthlow said.

"We're going to have to renovate quite a bit," she said.

Incorporated in 1896 in West Virginia, the Children's Home Society of West Virginia operates 12 sites throughout the state, according to Barthlow.

"We are all linked by our office in Charleston (W.Va.)," she said.

The Society opened an emergency shelter in Martinsburg and Romney, W.Va., in nearby Hampshire County, and other communities across the state in the early 1980s following the passage of House Bill 1010 in 1982 by the state Legislature, according to the organization's website. The law mandated creation of additional emergency shelters for children statewide.

In the 1990s, the Society expanded services in the state through the Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) program.

Last year, the Eastern Panhandle's child-advocacy center conducted 127 forensic interviews and most concerned reports of sexual abuse, Children's Home Society officials told the Berkeley County Commission in March.

The center's multidisciplinary team approach to the investigation and treatment of child abuse led to criminal indictments in 23 cases and eight convictions last year, according to the center's annual report. Nine juvenile offender petitions were filed and 15 cases were dismissed, according to the center's annual report.

Parents, stepparents or another relative comprised a majority of the 115 alleged offenders, according to the report.

Among those children interviewed, 78 percent were female. Overall, 68 percent of the children interviewed were younger than 13.

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