Remarkable Woman Nominee: Pamela Woodman-Kaehler

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MORGANTOWN, W.Va — Some people know the exact day, the exact moment, that changed it all. Pamela Woodman-Kaehler became one of those people after she attended a presentation on child abuse and neglect in 2003.

Pamela, Joe and Family

“I said to my husband Joe, ‘I think we need to do something,’” she remembered. “I was so shaken and moved and unnerved and disturbed by the information and the statistics and story she provided in that presentation, that it really changed the trajectory of my life.”

So the course of one life changed, and then so did many others.

“I remember thinking ‘we have a home. We have the room. We have gainful employment so we have the resources to contribute to help support a child.’” 

Everything changed for Pamela and her husband Joe when the state certified them as foster adoptive parents. Then, it changed again when a child came to live with them. That child later became their son.

“I remember the day I received the call for every one of the children that has come into my care,” she said. “Those moments are priceless. They’re precious.”

Change wasn’t through with Pamela and Joe, though. It came again in the form of a bold career change.

“I came back to my husband and I said ‘Honey, if I could ever do one of those crazy midlife career changes, where you sort of abandon everything that’s familiar with you and just follow nothing but your passion in your heart? This is what I would love to do.’”

Pamela after graduation from WVU

So after 26 years in a well-established career in healthcare leadership, Pamela started over. She went back to school; she graduated with honors. She became a child protective services worker in Harrison County.

“It’s one of those difficult kinds of roles where you’re a helper, but you’re not always necessarily recognized that way and I understand all that.” 

There is trauma and pain in social work and the foster care system. It is something she is familiar with and understands. She says even on the happiest of days, the days when a child finally comes home for good, there can be darkness.

“I so very much want to have everything ready and prepared to help that young person feel comfortable and wanted and cherished. […] I know that it is absolutely traumatic for birth parents and for children. That is not lost on me for a minute.” 

Pamela and Bill Clinton

Through the years, Pamela and Joe have fostered ten children; they’ve adopted eight. She said her mission is to make every child feel cherished.

“I know, and I have personal experience, about how important, how impactful, how fundamental it is — the way that you experience childhood. And the way that you are either appreciated, or prioritized by the grown ups in your life. I know what happens to people, educationally and personally, intellectually and viscerally, when you are not prioritized and cherished.”

These days, Pamela has taken her mission all the way to Charleston as Foster Care Ombudsman for the State of West Virginia.

“I applied for it. I think it was about two hours before the deadline to do so. And really did not think that I would be in any active consideration for the road.”

It was hard to believe for Pamela, but not for those who know her.

“I’ve always wanted to be an impact person that blends into the wall. I tend to wear beige,” she laughs.

So it is no surprise that when we came calling, we almost never met this Remarkable Woman.

“The first thing I thought of was somebody was trying to sell me something, and I almost hung up the phone!”

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