To 400 children, foster parents are Mom and Pop

SENSE OF BELONGING

March 17, 1993|By Amy P. Ingram | Amy P. Ingram,Contributing Writer

To the 400 children who lived in their home over the past 50 years, they are Mom and Pop Rayman -- patient, kind and understanding. To the neighbors, they are the caretakers of Maryland's children.

Dorothy and Elmer Rayman believe they are fortunate to have the best job in the world.

The Raymans -- she's 71, he's 66 -- have welcomed children ranging in age from infants to teen-agers into their rambling six-bedroom rancher on Creek Boulevard in Pasadena. And they've added onto the house several times.

"I wasn't content working out of the home," said Mrs. Rayman. "I wanted to stay home and raise kids. It's a challenge and it's interesting."

Mrs. Rayman took in her first child, a 5-year-old girl, in 1941 after she was told falsely that she couldn't have children of her own. The girl stayed for three years and Mrs. Rayman had five boys of her own with her first husband. She was widowed and later married Mr. Rayman, in 1962.

Lisa Ghrist, a former foster child, said the couple gave children a comforting sense of belonging.

"Any time I got close to people, they got rid of me," she explained. "Mom and Pop Rayman proved to you that they loved you and that they'd always be there for you. They took you in as one of their own and never treated you like a foster child."

Mrs. Ghrist spent seven rocky years with the Raymans, from 11 to 18. She said she had trouble adjusting in the beginning, throwing temper tantrums and objects about the house, crying constantly, and swearing mercilessly. But the couple would "put their arms around me and say, 'It's OK. We understand.'

"From car wrecks to a pregnancy at 17, Mom and Pop were there," she said.

In December, Mr. Rayman walked Mrs. Ghrist down the aisle at her wedding. That wasn't the first time "Pop" gave away a foster child.

At one point in the mid-1980s, the Raymans cared for 23 children, the most they'd ever had at one time.

"Mom and Pop taught me a lot," Mrs. Ghrist said. "They taught me to respect myself. They taught me to love myself and to love everyone else," she said. "Just a lot of love."

Mom and Pop Rayman said one of the toughest things they've had to do over the years is say goodbye to each of the 400 children. "I had a choice to make -- give up this work or accept the fact that they're only on loan to me," Mrs. Rayman said.

Currently, the Raymans have only one child -- a 5-year-old girl. She will leave in one year and after that, they will close up shop.

When the kids finally are gone, Mrs. Rayman said, she will remember particularly a letter she received four years ago from Pam Crawford, the mother of one of her foster children.

"Thanks for being the kind of person you are and for giving these kids the love and security they need," she wrote. "I nominate you foster mother of the year, and I know the children do."

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