Woman who fostered more than 600 children says she loved them ‘like they were my own’

Missy Herring and Linda Herring | Facebook

A 75-year-old woman from Johnson County, Iowa was honored for her incredible life work of fostering over 600 children for nearly five decades, three of whom she ended up officially adopting.

In October 2019, Linda decided to stop fostering children due to health reasons. After she announced her decision, the Johnson County Board of Supervisors honored her with a resolution of appreciation.

“Linda mostly fostered young children with special medical needs and kept bins of clothes in her garage, stacked to the ceiling, labeled by size and gender. No one had to worry about a child going without clothes at Linda’s, even if they arrived with nothing but what they’re wearing,” a part of the resolution said.

Linda Herring always knew that she wanted a big family, but she never imagined that her home would serve as a refuge for more than 600 children. She and her husband, Bob, fostered these kids and provided them with shelter, food, clothing, and most importantly, love.

The couple began fostering when they were still living in Oxford, Iowa, and continued doing so after they moved to Tiffin.

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Linda was first inspired to foster children through a friend.

“My best friend was doing foster care for teenage girls and I thought, ‘Well, that would be nice to do the same,’ but I wanted little kids,” she told CNN. “So, I talked to the Department of Human Services and agreed to take kids with medical needs.”

Linda also managed a home daycare and worked as a night custodian in a nearby high school. As if she already didn’t have enough on her plate, she also volunteered as a first responder for nearly 50 years.

No matter the age, gender, or special needs of a child, Linda was known in Johnson County for never turning away a kid. She would even travel regularly just to pick up children who needed a home.

Linda Herring and Anthony Herring | Facebook

Fostering eventually turned to adopting when Linda decided to adopt three of her fosters. One of those kids was Anthony Herring, who is now 39 years old. He was six months old when the couple took him in and when he turned three, he was officially adopted.

“I appreciate being adopted even more today as a parent then I did when I was a child,” Anthony told CNN. “I’m forever grateful for the life I was given. She and Dad have both taught me that family isn’t determined by blood, it’s who you have in your life to love.”

Two of Linda’s adopted foster children had special needs. One of them was Dani, who wasn’t expected to live long after birth but is now 29 years old. Dani is completely dependent on others for care.

As they say, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, and that certainly is true for the Herring family. Linda passed on what she liked to call her “foster care trait” to her children. She had five biological children with Bob, and four of them have fostered kids.

Three of them adopted children of their own. Three of her grandchildren also followed in their footsteps and fostered children as well.

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“She also worked hard to keep families together. Keeping siblings together. Helping biological parents make the changes needed to be able to keep their children. She always makes sure a new child in her home was given a professional photograph that was placed on the wall in the living room. That seems like a small thing, but it helps them feel like they’re at home,” Anthony said.

As for Linda’s reason for fostering children, it only boils down to one thing: love.

“I would just love (my foster kids) just like they were my own, probably more than I should,” she said.

No matter how much she loved doing it for the children, fostering doesn’t come without its challenges.

“I cried when the kids would leave my home, no matter how long they had been there. It was so hard for me to say goodbye to them. I always questioned, ‘Why do I keep doing this?’ because it was never easy to say goodbye to a child. But I kept doing it because I had so much love to give to these children in need,” she said.

Linda truly deserves all the recognition she is receiving today for being a great mother to all these children. Her incredible life story is something that must be heard by many!

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