78-year-old Linda Owens has spent the past 34 years of her life serving as a resource parent for the San Francisco Bay area. Over the course of that time, Owens has cared for 80 newborns who are placed in foster care for a variety of reasons.

“It’s a challenging job, but very rewarding,” Owens said to CBS SF BAY AREA.

Owens was recently awarded the Bay Area’s Jefferson Award for her longtime commitment to caring for one of the most vulnerable populations. The award acknowledges community members who have created positive change by helping their neighbors in the community.

Owens previously worked as a grocery store manager before retiring to fully focus on being a foster mother to infants whose parents can’t care for them.

Many of the babies who come into Owens’ care are addicted to drugs, or had been exposed to alcohol in the womb. This can cause a variety of obstacles for the little ones, from developmental delays to sleep problems.

“This is what God’s handed me a gift to do,” said Owens.

Mia Buckner-Preston works as the Placement Division Director of the Alameda County Department of Children & Family Services. She said the county has about 500 qualified foster parents, but that Owen’s is one of the most active and longest serving.

“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.

Owens, who is single, does get compensation for caring for the infants, but the reason she has done this emotionally-charged work for so long is purely based on love.

“She’s always been very optimistic, always determined to give these babies the best possible start in their lives,” said Dr. Mika Hiramatsu, the pediatrician who has treated many of Owens’ charges.

Turning over her babies to their biological or adoptive parents is no easy proces for Owens, who gets extremely attached to the infants, bonding with them the way mothers do with newborns. But the heartbreak isn’t enough to cause her to stop doing the vital work she’s poured over three decades of her life into.

She is now caring for her 81st baby–an infant who is now 7 weeks old and has been with Owens since birth. As she thinks about how she will soon be leaving Owens’ care, the woman says “I can give her a kiss on the forehead and wish her the best, and say, ‘I love you.’”

 

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