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Washington County foster and adoptive families picnic at park

August 01, 2008|By ANDREW SCHOTZ

HALFWAY -- Standing among people who have given dozens of children the families they need, David Engle said, "These are all angels."

Members of the Washington County League of Foster and Adoptive Families came together Friday for a picnic at Martin L. "Marty" Snook Memorial Park.

All have embraced children from broken homes or with physical disabilities or other unfortunate circumstances.

As the children played in the park and splashed in the swimming pool, they were just kids, though. Toys and bags of books awaited them at the pavilion when they dried off.

One of the seven children Janel Harshman of Smithsburg, cares for is her biological child. Another she adopted.

The youngest of the other five that she and her husband took in -- ages 1, 3, 5, 7 and 10 -- was in a stroller at her feet. The girl has a visual impairment, a feeding tube, a shunt in her head, a chromosome defect and a condition that paralyzes her left side.

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"They are the victims," Harshman said. "They come into the world like this. And they have a lot of strength. They will surprise you. They never complain."

Harshman said she and her husband have taken in 18 children for short or long periods.

Her training as a doctor's and dentist's assistant helped her understand more about caring for illnesses and handicaps.

"It's a gift," she said. "You have to be comfortable with it."

Robert Kegarise joked that his house is like a "war zone" with all of the activity in it. He and his wife, Dina, have been foster parents for about 14 years.

Their household includes two children they adopted and three foster children. They also have four biological children.

Dina Kegarise said her Hagerstown home started feeling empty when her son, Brad, got to be about 15 years old and didn't need his parents as much.

Now, with so many children -- and grandchildren -- in their lives, the place feels right again.

"I get back as good as I give," she said.

"Their dedication to children, I think, is overwhelming, and the love that they show these kids ... It's one of the best things about Washington County," said Engle, the director of the Washington County Department of Social Services.

Mary Patton of Hagerstown, the president of the group of foster and adoptive families, said she's had 28 foster children in her home in the last five years. She currently has five, along with a nephew she adopted.

She also has two biological children, a stepdaughter and seven grandchildren.

"I like it noisy," she said. "When it's quiet, I think there's something wrong."




Training session

A training session for people who want to be foster or adoptive parents will be held Sept. 9.

For information, call the Washington County Department of Social Services at 240-420-4313.

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