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Department of Human Services

For Immediate Release

Sonoma County couple receives statewide award for distinguished service as foster parents

SANTA ROSA, CA | October 26, 2022

A Fulton couple who fostered more than 140 children over the past two decades have been named the most outstanding foster parents in California by RaiseAChild, a nonprofit that partners with counties to recruit, review and train foster parents.

Joyce and Jim Hammerich will receive the 2022 RaiseAChild Honors Award on Nov. 5 at a fund-raising celebration in Hollywood.

After raising four children of their own, Joyce and Jim Hammerich became foster parents in 2002 through the Sonoma County Human Services Department to care for children needing a stable and supportive home. They went on to foster more than 140 youth over the next 20 years while helping 24 children reunify with their birth families. Currently, the Hammeriches are fostering three brothers and will soon be welcoming the boys’ sister into their home.

“We both come from large families,” Joyce Hammerich said. “I had read somewhere that kids coming into foster care get separated from their siblings because there aren’t enough foster homes who can care for sibling groups. So we started fostering so we could keep siblings together.”

Every day, 50 to 75 local children and teens are in temporary housing and awaiting placement in a foster or adoptive home, said Meg Easter-Dawson, program development manager for the Human Services Department’s Family, Youth and Children’s Division. Last month, 360 children were in foster or adoptive homes and another 22 children were being temporarily housed at Valley of the Moon Children’s Center, the county’s emergency shelter for youth, while searching for people willing to serve as foster or adoptive parents.

“We are experiencing a shortage of foster homes for children and teens in need,” Easter-Dawson said. “Valley of the Moon Children’s Center is meant to

only provide temporary housing for up to 10 days. But we have children, especially teens, who must stay much longer because we don’t have a foster home for them to go to. Not having a stable foster home just furthers their trauma and makes it harder for them to heal.”

The county’s foster care program provides safe and healthy environments for children who must be removed from their homes due to abuse, neglect or abandonment. Foster parents can be single adults, straight and gay couples, Spanish-speaking families, children’s relatives, family friends and other approved caregivers. Children who cannot be placed with foster or adoptive parents are cared for at Valley of the Moon Children's Center.

“Although we have more than 250 approved foster families, there is still a need for more to meet the unique needs of our children,” Easter-Dawson said. “We are especially in need of families who appreciate the adolescent years and are open to caring for teens.”

There are several options for foster parenting:

  • Provide a temporary home as an emergency foster parent or foster parent;
  • Become a foster parent to a child or youth with the possibility of adoption, or;
  • Rent out a room and be a mentor to an older foster youth going to school or working.

Joyce Hammerich encourages others to consider foster parenting and the rewards it brings. “Serving as foster parents has given us a chance to make a difference in the life of a child, a child who is going through change and often trauma,” she said. “Our goal is that the children in our care feel nurtured, safe and loved while they are in our home. And staying in their lives forever is the ultimate win.” The Hammeriches recently attended the wedding of one of their former foster daughters who asked Jim Hammerich to walk her down the aisle.

To find out more about becoming a foster parent visit and RaiseAChild holds regular, virtual foster parenting information sessions in both English and Spanish.

Media Contacts:
Kristen Font, Communications Manager
Department of Human Services
(707) 565-8085