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Foster mom named Caregiver of the Year

November 11, 2011|By MARIE GILBERT | marieg@herald-mail.com

It's not a 9 to 5 job.

It's more like 24/7.

There are meals to prepare, medicine to dispense, clothes to wash and trips to the doctor — sometimes miles away.

They are a support system for spouses, parents, friends and foster children.

And they give of their time selflessly.

They are caregivers, meeting the needs of others.

And while they do important things, their work often goes unrecognized.

But to those who rely on them, they're superstars.

Take Tina Hall. For the past four years, she has been a foster mother — providing love and shelter to 11 children.

When they arrive on her doorstep, little is known about the journey that led them to her home. But during their stay — and even afterward — they become family.

Hall has been a foster mom to children with mental and behavioral disabilities and significant health problems. She has offered a safe haven to children who have been rescued from abuse and neglect.

But regardless of the situation, "she truly claims all the children as her own," said friend, author and therapist Jane Ryan. "They are blessed to be comforted and cared for by a woman with the heart of a lion — soft, fierce and always on the side of children at risk."

Ryan believes Hall has become a hero to both her family and her community.

And others agree.

On Oct. 6, the Hagerstown woman was named Caregiver of the Year by Washington County Cares, a nonprofit organization with a coalition of volunteers who advocate for and support family and professional caregivers.

Hall was nominated by Ryan.

But she had no clue her name had been submitted"no clue, whatsoever," she said.

Hall said she had just finished dinner with the children when her husband, Dan, called to tell her he was on his way home to pick her up, so she might want to be dressed and ready.

"Ready for what? To go where?" she said she asked. 

When he told her she had been nominated for Caregiver of the Year, "I was in shock," she recalled. "I was honored. But I didn't need any recognition. I do it all because I love my kids."

Within a short amount of time, Hall said she and five children were dressed and a diaper bag was packed.

"It was like a true whirlwind going on that night," she recalled.

Her reaction to winning the award?

Shock and disbelief, she said. "To be honest, I was speechless. I didn't know what to say because it isn't about me. It's about the children — the good days and the bad days."

And while she is honored to receive the award, "I believe in my whole heart that there are so many others out there who do as much good as we do and have been doing this much longer," she said.

"Still, I feel truly blessed that someone took the time to recognize what we do as something rewarding and positive."

Hall said both she and her husband discussed becoming foster parents even before they were married.

It's a role they both have gladly accepted.

"There's not one thing I would change about my life," she said. "Because if I did, that would mean I would have to change one of my kids who have been a part of my life and I couldn't imagine it any other way."

Over the years, Hall and her husband have adopted three of the foster children they have cared for and another will be adopted by the end of the year.

"It's not an easy job," Hall said of foster care. "But, for me, it is the most rewarding thing I have ever done in my life — to know that you have helped a child and somehow touched their lives, sometimes for a short time, other times for a lifetime.

"To teach a child something and know that no matter where he or she goes in life you will be a part of that is amazing," she added. "We all have good days and bad days — foster parent or not. But you put all of that aside to be a mentor, because that really is what a parent is — someone who guides their children through life. And you hope they will remember all of that when they grow up."

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