Haymarket resident Edith Kerns was honored last week by Epsilon Sigma Alpha International Sorority for her work with foster children for Fairfax County.

Kerns, 65, has cared for 1,396 foster children since 1956. A widow since 1946, Kerns, the mother of two sons, said she decided that it would be nice to care for two little girls. She applied to Prince William County as a foster parent and was turned down because the county wanted a two-parent home for its foster children.

Fairfax County, which has no such restriction, accepted her. Kerns has kept children for as short a time as 24 hours and for as long as 10 years. Ironically, she has been given only a few girls to care for.

"Boys are easier to raise anyway," Kerns said. "If they disagree about something, they'll fight and get it over with. Girls will bicker forever."

She has received several awards for her work but Kerns said the one she is proudest of came from a young man she described as ornery. "He was always arguing with the others and running away," she said.

When the boy grew up he presented Kerns with a plaque that said, "To a lady I respect and love. Thank you for the love and understanding. Love Mike." Kerns said she treated Mike like she treats all runaways. "I tell them 'Make your bed and close the door behind you.' "

Her door has not been locked in 30 years. "There was always somebody running away and somebody coming back," she said. Kerns, who is currently caring for four teen-age boys, is the sister of Haymarket Mayor Gertrude Bean.