A Hayward, California woman has been a mother to more than 80 babies over the years through foster care. Linda Owens has cared for 81 infants in the 34 years she has been a resource parent. The 78-year-old retired grocery department manager fosters the babies as a single parent and she remembers them all. She keeps a supply of baby gear and clothes on hand; some, bought with her own money.
Owens said “It’s a challenging job, but very rewarding. This is what God’s handed me a gift to do,” said Owens, who has loved taking care of babies since childhood. Sometimes she fosters two infants at a time. A number of the newborns come to her exposed to drugs in the womb. Some have developmental delays and many don’t sleep through the night.
Among the county’s 500 resource parents, Owens is one of the longest-serving. Mia Buckner-Preston is the Placement Division Director of the Alameda County Department of Children & Family Services, which places children in foster homes. “Her experience, the care, the love she provides to the babies, it’s immeasurable. She’s in a category almost all by herself.” said Buckner-Preston. That experience shows according to pediatrician Mika Hiramatsu. Owens has brought many babies to her over the years. “She’s always been very optimistic, always determined to give these babies the best possible start in their lives,” said Dr. Hiramatsu.
According to the U.S. Administration for Children and Families, 7% of all children in the system are under the age of one and the average age of children in foster care is about 8 years old. From October 2018 to September 2019, there were 672,594 children served by the U.S. foster care system. During that time, 254,359 entered the system and 248,669 have exited the system. The Statistics from Adoption Network show 140,000 children are adopted in the U.S. every year and 59% come from the foster care system, 26% from foreign countries and 15% are voluntarily relinquished.
When Owens job is done and it’s time to turn the babies over to their birth or adoptive families, letting go can be heartbreaking but she’s giving them and their parents the best possible start. The oldest of the babies she’s fostered is now 37. Owens has loved taking care of children since she was a child herself and it shows through her over three decades of work with the foster care system.