Linda Herring, 75, has fostered children of various backgrounds for almost five decades in Johnson County.
She always wanted a big family, she told CNN, but surely couldn’t imagine eventually having an extended family of 600. Herring later became known as the woman who’d never turn away a child.
“My best friend was doing foster care for teenage girls and I thought, ‘Well, that would be nice to do the same,’ but I wanted little kids,” she told CNN. “So, I talked to the Department of Human Services and agreed to take kids with medical needs.”
Herring was honoured by the Johnson County Board of Supervisors on Thursday for her decades of caring for children. Amber Herring, Linda’s granddaughter, shared the special moment on her Facebook page.
“Tonight my grandma was honoured for her amazing foster care career,” the post reads. “She has fostered around 600 kids over nearly 50 years.”
Linda Herring ran a home daycare and worked as a night custodian in a high school. She also volunteered as a first responder for nearly 50 years.
Though she’s just stopped fostering this year due to her health, her impact certainly will continue.
Part of her legacy lives on in Amber, who is the daughter of one of Linda’s adopted foster children.
While studying social work at the University of Iowa at age 22, Amber started the paperwork to become a foster parent herself. Now a mother of three, her eldest daughter was a previously one of her mom’s foster children.
“I honestly did not think that DHS would go for me, being 22 and wanting to adopt a newborn,” Amber told KDKA Radio. “But they let me for whatever reason. I’m sure a lot of that is because I’ve had such a great family support with being super close to Grandma and Grandpa … I’ve always had that support system.”
Anthony Herring, 39, was six months old when he was placed with the Herring family, CNN reports. When he turned three, they adopted him.
“I’m forever grateful for the life I was given. She and Dad have both taught me that family isn’t determined by blood, it’s who you have in your life to love. It’s hard to say in words her impact,” he told the publication.
“She was always available and ready for a child in need. These kids were usually taken from a traumatic situation and she’d take them in, provide a warm bed, clean clothes, warm meals and love,” he continued, adding that she worked hard to keep families together.
“She always makes sure a new child in her home was given a professional photograph that was placed on the wall in the living room. That seems like a small thing, but it helps them feel like they’re at home.”
Four of Herring’s five biological children have gone on to become foster parents themselves, proving that the love she showed has had a lasting effect on the community.
It wasn’t always easy for her, though.
“I kept doing it because I had so much love to give to these children in need.”