It's bittersweet to watch children leave their home and return to their biological families, the Hamms said. But they've become well-rounded individuals, Angie said, picking up a variety of skills, improving academically and participating in sports and activities during their time with the Hamms.
The difference in children from the moment they step through the door to the day they leave is "night and day," Terry said.
"It's sad because they've grown to like us and get to know us," Angie said. "But it's glad because they're going home. We miss 'em like crazy, but we know that's where they need to be and we help support that."
Shortage of foster families plagues Iowa
The need for more foster parents is huge, Angie said, especially for the two groups of children that are hardest to place: sibling groups and teenagers.
The shortest stay in the Hamm home has been one week; the longest: eight years.
"Kids that come to you have been through stressful situations," Terry said. "They carry baggage."
The children come from every background imaginable, Angie said, which does sometimes include drugs or abuse.
"The majority of the time ... it's something that's out of their control and it's usually not their fault," Angie said. "We don't judge the parents, we don't judge the families. We're here to give them a safe place to live, where they know they'll be well taken care of and well fed until they get reunited."
The most common reason children come into foster care, Willemsen said, is due to neglect.
"A major reason would probably be drug-related activities of the parents ... so they're neglecting the kids," she said. "And also when the economy goes down, reports of abuse and neglect go up."