Linda Owens retired from her career as a grocery department manager, but still continues to care for babies, sometimes two at a time, from her home in Hayward, California.
“This is what God’s handed me a gift to do,” she explained to KPIX.
Many of the babies that Owens cares for as a foster or “resource parent” have been exposed to drugs while in the womb. As a result, some of them suffer from sleep disturbances and developmental setbacks after they are born. Owens has also fostered three sets of twins. Armed with 34 years of experience, she is unfazed by the challenges.
“She’s in a category almost all by herself,” said Mia Buckner-Preston, placement division director at Alameda County Department of Children & Family Services. “Her experience, the care, the love she provides to the babies, it’s immeasurable.”
The elderly woman is one of the longest serving among Alameda County’s 500 resource parents. She is paid for her work but has nonetheless bought some of the supplies—including bottles, formula, and baby clothes—with her own money.
Owens’s 81st foster child, a 7-week-old baby girl, has been in her care since she left the hospital as a newborn. While the impending goodbye is heartbreaking, Owens knows that adoption or reunification makes space in her home for another child in need.
“I can give her a kiss on the forehead and wish her the best, and say, ‘I love you,'” she reflected.
At any one time, the county’s Department of Children & Family Services is responsible for around 1,200 minors who are unable to live with their birth parents or legal guardians due to child abuse and/or neglect, according to the department’s website.
Resource parents, such as Owens, provide safe, stable homes that kids in crisis so desperately need.
Pediatrician Mika Hiramatsu, who has worked with Owens for years, described her to KPIX as “always very optimistic.” Her determination to give her young charges the best start is a gift to their future adoptive parents, and their lives are made easier by Owens’s expertise.
A woman named Erica, adoptive mom to a now-12-year-old girl that Owens fostered as a baby, recalled receiving some invaluable parenting advice from Owens, who told her, “I know you want to play with her, but if you wake her up, you’ll start interrupting her sleep.”
Erica and her daughter remain close to Owens, paying her regular visits and sharing the girl’s milestones. Owens claims her former foster daughter has “turned out beautiful.” She also said it made her feel good to know she had fulfilled her task.
Owens remembers all her former foster children, the oldest of whom is now 37.
At the end of April, Owens received the Bay Area Jefferson Award for her contribution to the community.