HAYWARD (KPIX) – A Hayward woman has fostered more than 80 babies over the years.
Linda Owens has been caring for a 7 week old girl since she left the hospital as a newborn. She is the 81st child Owens has brought into her home as a helper in 34 years.
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“It’s a challenging job, but very rewarding,” said Owens.
At the age of 78, the retired head of the grocery department takes care of the babies as a single parent. Sometimes she cares for two babies at the same time.
She has a supply of baby equipment and clothes; bought some with their own money.
And although she is paid for her work, it is love work.
“This is what God gave me a gift,” said Owens, who has loved taking care of babies since childhood.
Some newborn babies come to her after being exposed to drugs in the womb. Some have developmental delays. Many do not sleep through the night.
Mia Buckner-Preston is the recruiter for the Alameda County Child and Family Services Department, which places children in nursing homes.
“Her experience, the care, the love she shows for babies is immeasurable,” said Buckner-Preston.
Owens is one of the county’s 500 parents and one of the longest serving.
“She’s almost all alone in a category,” said Buckner-Preston.
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According to pediatrician Mika Hiramatsu, this experience shows. Owens has brought many babies to her over the years.
“She has always been very optimistic and always determined to give these babies the best possible start in their lives,” said Dr. Hiramatsu.
And her parents also have the best possible start.
Erica adopted a little girl who Owens had cared for 12 years ago. Owens gave good advice on the baby who taught her to sleep through the night.
“She is in her cot. Leave her alone. I know you want to play with her, but when you wake her up you will start interrupting her sleep, ”said Erica.
Even today, Erica and her daughter visit Linda and share the milestones of the tween.
“She turned out beautiful,” smiled Owens. “It makes you feel good that you’ve done your job.”
And when their job is done and it’s time to hand the babies over to their birth or adoptive family, letting go can be heartbreaking.
She remembers everyone. The oldest is now 37. She also looks after three sets of twins.
As for the baby she’s holding in her arms that is about to go, Owens said, “I can kiss her on the forehead and wish her all the best and say, ‘I love you. ‘“
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For her love and care for more than 80 babies in more than 30 years as helping parents, the Jefferson Award goes to Linda Owens this week in the Bay Area.