AGENCY — School pictures of 38 grinning children look out into Angie and Terry Hamm's living room, evidence of the years of work and love they've given to those who needed it most.
Their house — currently filled with five children, ages 7, 10, 10, 11 and 17 — has the atmosphere of a typical home, as one boy launches a ninja attack against Terry's chest, a shy, doe-eyed girl wiggles a tooth that's on the verge of falling out and another boy bursting with energy sneaks into the conversation to steal a hug from Angie.
The difference between the Hamm home and any other is that the five children are not their own; they're foster children.
Angie and Terry have been foster parents for the last 10 years, opening their home to 38 children. Soon, two more children will be added to the mix, bringing the total close to their record of housing eight children at once.
"It started after we had children in our classroom who were removed due to needing to go into foster care for whatever reason," said Angie, director of the preschool at Living Hope Bible Church in Eldon. "I think it just pulled on both of our heartstrings."
All of a sudden, children were plucked from their classrooms with no notice, sometimes not even able to clean out their lockers.
"They never had a chance to say goodbye," Terry, industrial technology teacher at Evans Middle School, said of a sibling group of five that was eventually split into five different counties. "They're just gone."
That was the deciding moment, Terry said. It's hard enough to be separated from your parents and friends; children shouldn't also have to be separated from their brothers and sisters.
"We said, 'Well, we have extra space and we definitely have the ability to work with kids,'" Angie said of their Agency home. "I think it's God's calling for us to help kids."