For the last 34 years, Linda Owens has played mother to 81 infants through foster care.
This 78-year-old woman from Hayward, California, has cared for a 7-week-old baby girl since she left the hospital as a newborn. She is the 81st infant that Owens has taken care of as a resource parent.
Recently, she was honored by local news station KPIX with a Jefferson Award for her efforts.
Caring for a newborn in the first few days of their life is no easy feat, but with decades of experience under her belt, Owens knows how best to take care of these little ones.
“It’s a challenging job, but very rewarding,” she said.
Amazingly, the retired grocery department manager takes care of these babies as a single parent. She even fosters two infants at a time. She has also cared for three sets of twins. Indeed, she is a super mom!
Her home is filled with baby gear and clothes, some of which she bought with her own money. And though she receives payment for her work, fostering babies is more than just a job to her—it’s a calling.
“This is what God’s handed me a gift to do,” she said.
It also helps that she’s a natural; she has loved taking care of babies since she was a child.
Sadly, several of the newborns who come under her care were exposed to drugs in the womb. As a result, these babies experience developmental delays, and many of them don’t sleep through the night.
Mia Buckner-Preston, the Placement Division Director of the Alameda County Department of Children & Family Services, describes Owens as an excellent carer.
“Her experience, the care, the love she provides to the babies, it’s immeasurable,” she said.
The county has over 500 resource parents, and Owens is among the longest-serving. Buckner-Preston says she is in a “category almost all by herself.”
According to pediatrician Mika Hiramatsu, Owens’ experience as a foster parent really shines through. She has brought many babies to her over the years, and she can see how much Owens loves each of them.
“She’s always been very optimistic, always determined to give these babies the best possible start in their lives,” said Dr. Hiramatsu.
And thanks to Owens’ love and expert care, their parents also get the best possible start.
When Erica adopted a baby girl she fostered 12 years ago, Owens gave her some helpful advice about her baby. Owens taught this particular infant to sleep through the night, and she told Erica how she could do the same.
“She’s in her crib. Leave her alone. I know you want to play with her but if you wake her up, you’ll start interrupting her sleep,” Erica said.
Erica and her daughter still keep in touch with Owens. They also visit her from time to time to tell her about the tween’s milestones.
As their former “mother,” it makes Owens happy seeing her former foster babies living happy lives with their families and reaching for their dreams.
“She’s turned out beautiful,” Owens said. “It makes you feel good that you fulfilled your job.”
Taking care of newborns is hard, but it’s even harder to tell them goodbye.
When her job is done, Owens turns the babies over to their birth or adoptive families. Of course, letting go hurts each time, but it’s all part of what she signed up for as a foster parent.
Incredibly, Owens remembers all the 80 babies she has fostered over the last three decades. The oldest one is now 37.
Now, she has a 7-week-old baby girl under her care. And like the ones before her, Owens knows she will have to let her go someday.
When that time comes, here’s what she’ll do.
“I can give her a kiss on the forehead and wish her the best, and say, ‘I love you.'”
You can learn more about Linda Owens’ story in the video below.
Kudos to all foster parents out there who selflessly devote their lives to taking care and loving these children in need!
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