Forever parents

Horsts have fostered nearly 50 area children over the years

Horsts have fostered nearly 50 area children over the years

June 05, 2007|by JANET HEIM

Editor's note - There are a lot of people you see around town that you recognize, but don't know anything about. People like...

Elva Horst

Age - 77

Hometown - Landisville, Pa., near Lancaster

Where would you see Horst? - Even though she has seven grown birth children, two adopted children, 18 grandchildren and five great-grandchildren of her own, Elva Horst has parented nearly 50 other children in Washington County. For 35 years, she and her husband, Alvin, 76, have been foster parents through the Washington County Department of Social Services.

"You call it commitment. I call it enjoyable," Elva Horst said of being a foster parent.

The couple, along with all the other foster parents in the county, were honored at a dinner on May 18 at Bethel Assembly of God Church in Hagerstown, during Foster Parent Appreciation Month.

A retired licensed practical nurse, Horst said the past five or six children they have fostered had special needs. They now have two foster children, a 17-month-old and a 3-year-old boy with special needs.


Not one to sit around idly, Horst said when their youngest child outgrew the crib, she and her husband thought it was a shame to let all the baby equipment go unused. Instead of passing it on, they decided to sign up as foster parents, like another couple in their church, Mt. Zion Mennonite Church on Mapleville Road.

While Elva grew up in a small family - she had one brother - Alvin, who grew up in Maugansville, had eight sisters.

The Horsts are used to large crowds around the dinner table, with their children's friends often joining them for a meal as they were growing up. When their children were younger, the family used to make homemade ice cream every Sunday and the neighbor kids would show up to help crank, Horst said.

"It's been very interesting, believe me. I have given up a lot of my life for these kids," said Horst, who lives in Big Pool.

Horst said she prefers infants because it's getting hard for her to lift larger children in and out of the crib and high chair. There are occasional breaks when the children have scheduled visits with their parents.

The Horsts will celebrate their 55th wedding anniversary this December. Despite their commitment to foster care, they have traveled to Myrtle Beach, S.C., Ocean City, Maine, Dollywood in Tennessee and out West for a 12-day bus trip over the years.

This year, Elva Horst plans to attend the 60th reunion of her nursing class, even if it means taking one of her foster children along.

After nursing school, Horst worked for two years as a private duty nurse and three years of working in a hospital. She then stayed home to raise her family.

In addition to their own children, the Horsts adopted two more, who had been foster children. Several of the Horsts' former foster children keep in touch with them.

Being a foster parent means doing all the things parents do - running to doctor appointments and keeping therapy dates, among a few. Trips to Baltimore hospitals are made with the assistance of a driver provided by Social Services, Horst said.

She also keeps scrapbooks of the children while they're in her care and makes a point of having photos taken with Santa.

"I like kids. My husband's the same way," Horst said. "We work together. There's no way you could do this on your own."

Horst said it's hard to see some of the children return home, but it's easier for her if she knows they're going back to a stable home environment.

"Anybody could do it if you like children," Horst said.

For more information on becoming a foster parent, call 240-420-2413.

Hobbies - Horst enjoys growing ferns, quilting, sewing and planting flowers. She also has a birdhouse collection from their travels.

What does Horst like best about Washington County? - "Oh, I like the climate," Horst said. She also likes that the Big Pool home they have lived in for 22 years is surrounded by government property - the Rail Trail path on one side, as well as the C&O Canal, which means no development around them. Watching the deer in their backyard in the fall is a bonus.

If you know anyone in the community who might make an interesting Our Town feature, contact Janet Heim at 301-733-5131, ext. 2024 or e-mail

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