UM-affiliated center helps kids in crisis


BUCKHANNON – The Buckhannon Rotary Club on Tuesday learned about a statewide service organization that’s helping to bring hope and healing to troubled youth and torn-apart families in West Virginia.

Cynthia Pyles, resource development manager for Burlington United Methodist Family Services, Inc., discussed the history of the organization, its missions and the slew of programs and services it offers throughout West Virginia and Garrett County, Maryland.

BUMFS was founded in 1913 in Burlington, W.Va., in Mineral County as the Star of Hope Child Refuge, an orphanage for poor children living on nearby farms. Now, in 2018, Burlington United Methodist Family Services, Inc. is one of the largest child and family service organizations in the Mountain State, serving 63 youth in residential treatment; about 150 children and teens in foster care; and hundreds of other children and families through an array of family-based outreach programs, according to its literature.

“We’re under umbrella of the United Methodist Church, and we’re one of the missions for the Methodist Church, but you don’t have to be Methodist to work for agency or be taken in by agency,” Pyles said. “We employ about 350 people statewide, and we have an operating budget of $21 million.”

Pyles highlighted two areas where BUMFS provides group housing for children who have been removed from their homes via court order.

“We have a campus in Burlington,” she said. “It has three cottages that house 10 children each. These kids have been court-ordered to be removed from the home for either truancy for themselves, because of their behavior, or because of their parents. Now, we all know the drug issue throughout the country and this state has driven our numbers up greatly. These kids come from abused homes, some of them are sexually abused, some of them are beaten. Some of them just act out in school and the judge … and social services takes charge.”

Both the Burlington location and a similar campus in Beckley feature a chapel, gymnasium and a variety of activities; however, the Burlington location also includes a pond in which the children can fish. Pyles said there are schools located on both campuses that are operated by the state Board of Education.

“We also have a house in Old Fields right outside of Moorefield in Hardy County,” Pyles said. “We opened that up three years ago, and it is for five- to 10-year-old children. Up until that time, the state of West Virginia did not have a place to house five-year-old children. They were going out of state, which, that’s your taxpayer dollars being used to get these kids out of state and visitations and so on.”

Pyles said the Old Fields house is usually full, providing shelter to children who have been physically abused, sexually abused and/or neglected by caretakers.

In addition, BUMFS maintains the Staggers Recovery House, a group recovery home located about five miles from Burlington in a mansion situated on 185 acres, Pyles said.

“It’s been open for about a year and a half now,” she said. “We take females [from] anywhere across the state up to 15. We have 15 beds. We’ve had women that have had babies, and they can come as well. They go through the day report center in their county, they get interviewed by the judge.

“If they’re not ready for recovery, they can’t come,” Pyles continued. “Some have come for a couple days, but have decided they would rather be in jail instead. They’re just not ready for this. So what do they do? They go back to jail and they repeat the cycle.”

Others, however, have found the recovery home to be a safe haven in which they can heal from addiction.

“A lot of the girls really like being there and they have become friends and they work on each other, they lean on each other,” Pyles said. “We drive them to their jobs, and many of them work all over Mineral and Hampshire counties.”

BUMFS employees also ensure the residents are transported to psychological and counseling appointments and important meetings like Alcoholics Anonymous.

“They meet with ministers, and all of them have jobs and duties in the house,” Pyles said. “Four of the girls have graduated. They made it, and actually two of the girls have come back as recovery coaches. We’re employing them and using their talents and their expertise because there are things that they would see that we wouldn’t see.”

BUMFS also provides the following additional programs and services, Pyles said: adoption services, birth parent counseling, community-based therapy, home finding, SARAH’s House child advocacy center, social necessities services, targeted case management, transitional living, youth services and more.

BUMFS sites are located in Keyser, Petersburg, Beckley, Williamson, Charleston, Welch, Fairmont, Weston, Clay County, Grafton, Clarksburg, Huntington, Barboursville, Bridgeport and Martinsburg, Pyles said.

“So, as you can see, we’re located all over the state,” she said. “We have a very good reputation of taking the kids in and doing what’s best for them, and we’ve just expanded so much that we’ve gone from an orphanage to residential to all these community-based programs.”

To learn more, visit www.bumfs.org.

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