Senator Henry Gassaway Davis, Benefactor and Philanthropist
Adoption in West Virginia

The Children’s Home Society of West Virginia is a private, nonprofit multi-service agency established in 1896 with the mission of “finding homes for homeless and dependent children.”

What began as a dream of a group of Charleston ministers, the YMCA President and the Reverend D.W. Comstock, a retired minister and former Superintendent of the Children’s Home Society of Arkansas, evolved into an active children’s service agency providing adoption, shelter care and counseling. More detailed information about the Society, its founding and history can be found <here.>

 19 th Century Activity

From its founding in May, 1896 through 1898, the fledgling Society received 37 children from seven counties and 12 towns in West Virginia . Children were placed in ten counties and 11 towns. At least one child was placed in every town from which one had been taken except Charleston and Parkersburg . The Society’s first recorded placement was of a five-year-old boy placed with a family in Camden , NJ in September, 1896. That same month, the Society placed at least six other children, two of whom were African-American.

An adoptive family was expected to pay a fee to the Society, presumably for medical, transportation or various other expenses. This was not an adoption fee as it is known today. The advent of the modern adoption fee was 50 years in the future. The Society investigated care of children after an adoption and occasionally took children back, sometimes resulting in legal battles.

By 1899, the Society was receiving more children than it could place in adoptive or foster care and formally recognized the need for a “waiting home for children.” An appeal to Senator Henry Gassaway Davis resulted in the gift of a house and land on Washington Street East in Charleston . The Davis Transitory Child Shelter was dedicated on June 8, 1900 .

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