Jeremy and Brooke Hargis of Strong are the 2018 South Arkansas Foster Parents of the Year.

The couple were among honorees at the banquet celebrating foster families across Arkansas, according to a news release.

The Arkansas Department of Human Services (DHS) Division of Children and Family Services (DCFS) honored foster parents July 20 at the Arkansas Governor’s Mansion.

“Jeremy and Brooke are amazing foster parents and pour all their energy into their children,” DCFS Director Mischa Martin said. “In addition to their commitment to helping reunify foster children with their families, they have made a name for themselves through their willingness to care for sibling groups and be ambassadors and powerful voices for foster parenting.”

The Hargis family was selected primarily because they have embraced their role as a “reunification partner” and work closely with the biological families of foster children, Martin said.

Jeremy and Brooke Hargis are parents of five children — including four adopted children — ranging in age from 19 years to 17 months.

“They were humbled by the award but proud to accept it on behalf of the 100 children and families who have touched their lives over the past seven years that they have been foster parents,” according to the release.

Brooke Hargis noted that she was most proud of the fact that in all their years of fostering, all but one of their children went back to family.

“Every child went home to family, which we love to see,” she said.

Jeremy Hargis agreed and offered advice to those considering fostering.

“Have a big heart, pray a lot, and love a lot,” he said.

One winner from each area was chosen by DHS/DCFS staff 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, according to the release.

“DCFS is responsible for the safety of children and youth in the state and has over 4,000 children in foster care. Most of those children are placed in home settings with foster families. The state 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.