By John McDevitt

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The Philadelphia Department of Human Services today honored several foster families at City Hall, presenting ten awards to foster parents who, the department said, went “above and beyond the call of duty.”

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Among them was Mrs. Cecilia Paul (in center of top photo), who, over the past 43 years, has fostered 126 children in her home and has adopted five of them.

“It’s an avocation,” she said when asked why she had taken on such a big burden.  “It’s an absolute avocation.  I was a nurse, and I was a nurse at Children’s Hospital, and I was not able continue that, so it just follows that I went to children.”

Another foster parent honored today, Ruthie Bennett, from Logan (below), is currently caring for four children.

“It’s really a reward to open your doors up to children that may have been through some type of trauma,” Bennett told KYW Newsradio after the ceremony, “but I know when they come through my door it’s the love that makes that attachment between you and the child.”

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(Ruthie Bennett, with her award certificate.  Photo by John McDevitt)

(Ruthie Bennett, with her award certificate. Photo by John McDevitt)

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Department of Human Services commissioner Vanessa Garrett Harley (at left in top photo) said there are more than 5,000 kids who are currently in the legal custody of  the agency.

“We need more families,” she pleaded.   “I can tell you we have a desperate need right now for additional foster homes.”

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