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West Virginia Remarkable Woman honored for dedication to foster care

MORGANTOWN — All it took was one presentation for Pamela Woodman-Kaehler to know she could make a difference in a child’s life.

“That presentation was about the issue of child abuse and neglect in our community, in our county and in our state,” said Woodman-Kaehler of Morgantown. “I came home that day, and said to my husband, ‘we have to do something.’”

This moment 18 years ago led Woodman-Kaehler to make a difference in the lives of countless children within the foster care system. Her work is what led to her being awarded the title of WBOY 12’s West Virginia Remarkable Woman for 2021. 

The statistics and stories she became aware of during the presentation inspired her to become a certified foster parent, and bring the first of many children into her life.

“My husband said ‘yes dear,’ like he always does,” she said, jokingly. “We became certified after about nine months as foster parents here in West Virginia.”

What started as a plan to foster one child grew into a family. Since their first experience fostering, 10 children have been welcomed into Woodman-Kaehler and her husband’s home. Eight of those children have been legally adopted into their family.

Woodman-Kaehler’s dedication later extended beyond her family life. After 26 years, she left her lifelong and beloved career as a health care executive. She went back to school, and landed a job as a child protective service worker in Harrison County.

After four and a half years, Woodman-Kaehler went on to serve as coordinator for the West Virginia Citizens Review Panel, which studies child welfare efforts in the state. This career introduced her to the behind-the-scenes of child protective services.

Although she loved her position as coordinator, this is not where Woodman-Kaehler’s journey would end. She would go on to apply and earn the position of Foster Care Ombudsman for West Virginia, which she still holds today.

“It is an unbelievable opportunity to make a difference and provide feedback to leaders and lawmakers about the experience of our public with our child welfare system,” she said. 

As part of being honored as this year’s Remarkable Woman, Woodman-Kaehler received a $1,000 donation to a charity of her choice. As an advocate and former board member, she chose to support the Mountaineer Spay Neuter Assistance Program (M-SNAP).

M-SNAP is an organization dedicated to eliminating animal euthanasia through education and providing free spay and neuter vouchers to pet owners in need of financial assistance. The organization has issued more than 13,000 vouchers since 2008.

“Most of my work in foster care and child welfare advocacy is about children and families,” Woodman-Kaehler said. “One of the things I know from my work is that companion animals, cats and dogs, are important and comforting to families.”

Nancy Young, founding M-SNAP member and treasurer, said Woodman-Kaehler was a volunteer with M-SNAP from early on in its development, and was part of many of the beginning conversations regarding policies and procedures. 

Young said the donation will go directly to providing vouchers to those in need.

“I was just obviously excited,” Young said.  “When you get a donation of that size that makes a difference to a small nonprofit.”

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