Even though the Gerringers have six bedrooms, they describe the rooms as “tiny.”
They said the focal point of their home is the large family room with a fireplace, added by the previous owners. That’s where their family spends time together, including weekend slumber parties.
The Gerringers have three biological children, all in their 20s, and four adopted children ranging in age from 7 to 15. They also have been foster parents to 25 children over the years, with five children currently living at the home.
The couple’s love and care for children in addition to their own was recognized by U.S. Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin, D–Md., on Oct. 4 in Washington, D.C. He nominated them for this year’s Congressional Angels in Adoption for adopting four children from the Maryland Foster Care Program.
Lisa Gerringer, the youngest of four siblings, felt a pull to help children at a young age.
“When I was a child, when people asked me what I wanted to be, I said I wanted to own an orphanage,” she said.
Lisa and Charles, both 47, grew up in Baltimore City. They met in fifth grade, through a cousin of Charles’ who was Lisa’s best friend at the time. They reconnected in high school, although they went to different schools, and started dating.
Before they got married, Lisa told Charles, the oldest of three, that she wanted to have eight children. She said she wanted to make sure he was onboard with the idea, which he was.
They moved to Baltimore County, which is where they started doing foster care, but were limited by space in their small home.
The Gerringers moved to Hagerstown nine years ago after finding a home in the country setting for which they were looking.
“We wanted to be somewhere where the kids could run and do the things kids do, and where we can have farm animals,” Lisa said.
They have 30 chickens, two turkeys, two dogs, five cats and will be getting four lambs after they are born in the spring.
While the goal is to reunite foster children with their biological families, that isn’t always possible. The Gerringers were open to the idea of adoption if it came up, Charles said.
“Whomever God brings our way,” Lisa said.
Training is required before becoming foster parents, which gave the Gerringers some insight into how to help the children they brought into their home. They immediately refer to foster children as sons, daughters, brothers and sisters, to make them feel like part of the family.
“They make you aware of problems you might have, and how to take different personalities and mesh them into one unit. That’s a process,” Lisa said of the training.
One of Lisa’s greatest joys is seeing how readily her children welcome other children into their family.
“As a mom, I love to hear that and see that,” she said.
The Gerringers have learned to deal with the consequences of drug use by the biological mothers when they were pregnant, as well as the anger and grieving foster children experience from trauma and being separated from their families.
“There has not been a similar personality in any of them, including our biological children. There are unique challenges — and unique treasures in this, too. It’s a privilege to be a part of. It’s definitely worth it,” Lisa said.
Charles Gerringer works for Vintage Security in Jessup, Md. Lisa Gerringer is in nursing school at Hagerstown Community College, now that all the children are of school age.