Alexander and Rhoda Horner of Stuttgart are the 2018 Southeast Arkansas Foster Parents of the Year.

The Horners were among honorees July 20 at a banquet at the Arkansas Governor’s Mansion. At the event, the Arkansas Department of Human Services (DHS) Division of Children and Family Services (DCFS) honored foster parents from across the state.

DCFS Director Mischa Martin said the Horner family was selected primarily because they have embraced their role as a “reunification partner” and work closely with the biological families of the children in their care, according to a news release.

“Alexander and Rhoda are amazing foster parents and pour all their energy into their children,” Martin said. “In addition to their commitment to helping reunify foster children with their families, the Horners have made a name for themselves through their willingness to be ambassadors and powerful voices for foster parenting.”

Alexander and Rhoda Horner are also parents of three adult children and five adopted children, ages 4 to 12.

“The Horners were humbled by the award but proud to accept it on behalf of the 230 children and families who have touched their lives over the past 13 years that they have been foster parents,” according to the release.

When asked why they have fostered for so many years, Rhoda Horner said the answer was simple.

“Love. The care we provide to these children and families comes from within our hearts,” she said.

Alexander Horner agreed.

“We don’t do it to help them. These children and families help us by inspiring us every day to ‘get up and do.’ They work so hard to improve themselves, and we take great delight in playing our part,” he said.

The DHS/DCFS staff chose one winner from each area based on several criteria, including years of service to fostering, efforts to reunify children with biological families, partnership with the agency, support for other foster parents and advocacy for the children in their care.

“DCFS is responsible for the safety of children and youth in the state and has more than 4,000 children in foster care,” according to the release. “Most of those children are placed in home settings with foster families.”

Arkansas is divided into 10 service areas and nominations for outstanding foster families were submitted from each area by family service workers, fellow foster parents and child advocates, according to the release.

Area winners are: James and Tina Stewart, Laquita Wellborn, Warren and Jan Parks, Jeremy and Brooke Hargis, Russ and Tenille Rauls, Dan and Stacie Herrington, Judith and James Sullivan, Jeff and Deanndra Whitaker, Casey and Felicia Stone and Alexander and Rhoda Horner.