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Centre County salutes foster families for work helping children

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The Haris family will probably never be empty-nesters.

Hillary and Robi Haris, of Port Matilda, have five of their own children ages 3 to 19. About five years ago, they became foster parents to 10 children as a way of giving back to the community.

Currently, the family cares for two children — a 5-month-old and an 18-year-old — and said it’s something they’ll do forever.

On Tuesday afternoon, the family was one in a handful of local foster families who were recognized during a ceremony outside of the Centre County Courthouse.

The “Change A Lifetime” event was part of a larger national recognition for Foster Care Month that draws public attention to the needs of almost half a million youth who are not living at home because their own families are unable to care for them.

The event included guest speakers Centre County Common Pleas President Judge Thomas King Kistler and Centre County Commissioner Chris Exarchos, and was followed by a ribbon ceremony that allowed participants to post 66 blue ribbons on two dogwood trees adjacent to the courthouse.

This was to acknowledge all current children in foster care in the county. Between 65 and 75 kids are in the system each year, said Christine Bishop, family services director at the Centre County Youth Service Bureau.

“Kids want to be home, but recognize the support in the community for them,” Bishop said. “Ideally for the older kids, if they can’t go back with their families, we hope they would be adopted.”

The Haris family recently adopted a toddler who they’ve cared for since she was 6 months old.

“It’s a blessing. After hearing talk at our church about those who don’t get adopted, we decided this would be something we could do as a mission in life,” Hillary Haris said. “They’re just as much a part of our family, just with a different last name.”

Bishop said there is a need in the community for more foster families like the Haris family who can provide stability to children in need.

For more information or to become a foster family, contact Centre County Children & Youth Services at 355-6755.

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