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Local foster care providers nominated for national award

To Congressman Ted Strickland and more than 60 children they have cared for, Jerry and Faye Hammond are two "Angels" living in Lawrence County.

The Hammonds, of near Ironton, were nominated by Strickland to represent Ohio's 6th Congressional District as this year's "Angels in Adoption."

The Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute bestows this honor on people from across the country each year. It is a non-profit organization focused on raising awareness about foster children and orphans around the world.

"They were chosen because of the wonderful service they provide to children," Strickland said. "I think they have gone above and beyond the call of duty in reaching out to needy children and providing them a safe, caring, family environment. Genuine heroes of this world are people who give their resources and time to care for kids in a quiet, selfless way. The Hammonds are perfect examples of this," Strickland said.

Certified as therapeutic foster parents in 1992, Jerry and Faye were in their late 20s and their first child, Caleb, was just born.

They have since opened their home to more than 60 children.

"We have helped a lot of kids, but there are plenty more out there that still need homes," Faye said.

"We try to teach them how to go on with their lives," Jerry said. "We try to get them to talk about their problems and provide them a safe environment. My wife was from a big family. We like kids and thought we could give back to the community by helping some of them get back on their feet."

The Hammonds have three biological children -- Caleb, 11, Jacob, 9 and Jazmine, 2. Earlier this year, they finalized the adoption of two sisters, Brittany, 8 and Nikki, 7. They currently have two foster children, ages 3 and 16, living in their home and two more recently left.

No names of children in foster care can be printed.

Brittany has lived with the Hammonds for three years and they worked hard to get the sisters reunited, Faye said. On April 24, they officially adopted both girls.

"Our son Jacob said, 'I got two sisters on my birthday'," Faye said.

"It was the worst thing that ever happened cause they are mean," Jacob joked.

Disney movies line the bookshelf and floor as the children show off their favorite movies. Brittany, the more outspoken of the sisters, said her favorite is "The Swan Princess" and that she likes living with a big family.

They stay busy and keep the children active in sports and dance classes, Faye said.

It is very rewarding when the children make progress and you can see how far they have come, the Hammonds said. Several kids have stayed in touch and they recently attended a former foster child's wedding.

The hardest part of being a foster parent is that the children eventually have to leave. Even though they know it could be good for the children, it often fills them with mixed emotions, Jerry said.

"When someone calls you Mom and Dad for awhile and then they have to go home, it can be rough," Jerry said.

The Hammonds were nominated by the Ohio SAFE (Special Alternative Family Environments) Foster Care Program.

"They have been with us a long time and stuck with it through thick and thin," said Lisa Martin, home resource coordinator for Ohio S.A.F.E.

"All foster parents deserve respect and admiration but the Hammonds family just provided a wonderful example in their willingness to give of themselves and open their hearts and homes to kids who really need them," Strickland said. Michael Caldwell/The Ironton Tribune