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DSS recognizes two families

January 22, 2004|by MARLO BARNHART

marlob@herald-mail.com

Arnold Eby said it was only after they were married that his wife, Donna, told him she had long wanted to run an orphanage.

Instead the Hagerstown couple - Washington County Department of Social Services Foster Family of the Year - called the agency 2 1/2 years ago and signed up.

"We got our first placement in March 2002 - five siblings ranging in age from 2 to 7," Arnold Eby said.

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The children stayed with them for 13 months, he said.

The Ebys and Rennie and Cheryl Flook, of Hagerstown, are the Washington County Adoptive Family of the Year for 2003.

In November, the Flooks also were recognized at the state level as one of three outstanding adoptive families in Maryland.

"We bought a home with a big yard and God told us we needed to share it with other children," Cheryl Flook said.

After talking it over, they decided to adopt.

"Doing something for someone else, there's no feeling better," she said.

Both couples said no one should foster or adopt children unless their eyes are wide open. To that end, DSS conducts nine weeks of strenuous training for prospective foster and adoptive parents, said Dick Snyder, a DSS resource home coordinator for 13 years.

When Terry Phillips, another DSS resource home coordinator, called the Ebys the first time, she wasn't expecting them to agree to be foster parents to all five children. "I was hoping they'd take three, maybe, but they agreed to take all five to keep the kids together," Phillips said.

The Flooks, who started out as foster parents, adopted Levi, 7 1/2, and brother and sister Luke, 4, and Hailey Pearl, 2. The three youngsters have blended into the Flook family, which already had two children.

There are more than 260 children in foster care in Washington County, and some of them are legally available for adoption, said Angi Cornell, foster care and adoption supervisor at DSS.

While the two couples were recognized by the department as outstanding, Cornell said all of the 120 foster care families in Washington County are special, caring for other people's children as their own, often under difficult circumstances.

"It's a great way to live our faith and share our values," said Arnold Eby. And he said all their lives have been enriched as they welcome children of mixed races and disabilities into their home.

In addition to government funds, the local foster/adoptive parent programs benefit from community and individual resources, churches, American Legion posts and the jurors program, in which jurors donate part or all of the fees they receive for jury duty to a foster children fund.

To qualify as foster or adoptive parents, applicants must be at least 21 years of age, have a steady source of income and have adequate space in their home.

"There's always a need for more good families," Phillips said.

For more information on the foster/adoptive parenting programs, call 240-420-2143.

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