Eastern Iowa woman honored for fostering 500 children in need
"They (Johnson County) would always bring me little ones. They knew I had a preference for baby girls," said Linda Herring.
However, over the past 50 years as a foster parent, she never turned a child away - taking in kids with special needs and many unfortunate circumstances anytime she got the call from Johnson County DHS.
“And it didn’t stop at one, they had two or three for us all the time," Herring added.
A couple children at the beginning turned into at least 500 children she's fostered or adopted up to now.
"We adopted a little girl who was in a wheelchair and she was handicapped baby. The mom didn't want her," said Herring.
Linda says for her it was a calling.
"It was a benefit to me because I love kids. I've always loved kids. We adopted three. We had five of our own. We always had a big family," she said.
Linda's son, Bob Herring, says it even became a family affair of sorts.
"If she needed to go to Iowa City to pick up a kid, then lots of the time, she'd call me and I'd go to pick her up take her to town to pick up a kid," he said.
Between fostering while having full-time jobs and being on the volunteer fire department, he says his mom's dedication inspired her own kids including him to follow in her path.
“We've adopted a son. I have a sister that's adopted 4 kids, I have a sister that's adopted five kids," said Bob.
“It's really cool to see the impact she has on so many people lives. Not only that, just the way she lived her life and opening her door for kids all the time," said Anthony Herring. He was one of the children she fostered at 6 months old - before adopting him.
"She's just been a good model for our family to always put other people first, so I think that's been probably the biggest lesson I learned," Anthony added.
Although she's now retired from fostering- between grandkids and many of her own kids who are walking her footsteps - there will be no shortage of children at her home.
"And I love every minute of it," said Linda.
She says she hopes more families will open their hearts to helping children in need.
"It's not hard to open your heart to a kid," said Linda. “It seems like there’s always little kids that need someone to care for them."
According to AdoptUSKids, adoption agencies say right now, the largest need is for more families to foster teens, children with special needs, and sibling groups.
Iowa also has a need for more African American, Latino, and Native American foster parents