78-Year-Old Woman Fosters More Than 80 Infants Over 34 Years: 'God's Handed Me a Gift'
A 78-year-old woman was recently highlighted by a local news station for her ongoing efforts to help babies in foster care, a mission of hers that began decades ago.
Linda Owens, of Hayward, California, was honored with a Jefferson Award by CBS affiliate KPIX this month after taking in her 81st infant as a foster parent. The milestone came after Owens took in her first baby 34 years ago.
"This is what God's handed me a gift to do," Owens — a retired grocery department manager — told KPIX.
As of September 2019, there were 30,626 babies under the age of 1 in foster care, making up a total of 7 percent of all children in the system, according to the U.S. Administration for Children and Families. The average age of people in foster care is about 8 years old, while the infant Owens most recently took in is just 7 weeks old.
Owens takes care of the babies on her own and sometimes watches over two at a time, she told KPIX. As a foster parent, she cares for them until they are adopted or can return to their birth family. When that happens, she often struggles with saying goodbye.
"I can give her a kiss on the forehead and wish her the best, and say, 'I love you,'" she said of the baby girl she is currently fostering.
From October 2018 to September 2019, 672,594 children were served by the U.S. foster care system, with 251,359 children having entered and 248,669 having exited the system during that time, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reported in 2020.
About 140,000 children are adopted in the United States every year, according to statistics posted by the Adoption Network, and of children who aren't adopted by a stepparent, 59 percent come from the foster care system and 26 percent from foreign countries. Another 15 percent are voluntarily relinquished.
Owens said she gets paid for her fostering efforts, and also buys supplies like baby gear and clothes with her own money.
Despite so many years having passed, she said she still remembers all the babies she's cared for, including three sets of twins.
"It's a challenging job," Owens told KPIX, "but very rewarding."
This story originally appeared on people.com