Human Interest

Remarkable: 86-year-old woman has fostered 189 children

adopt foster, foster mother

An 86-year-old woman from South Carolina has been a foster mother for 40 years, helping 189 children — and she has no plans of stopping.

According to TODAY, in 1983, Hannah Ford was a widowed mother of five adult children and was feeling alone when a friend suggested she consider becoming a foster mother.

“There are so many children out there that need help, that need love,” Ford told ABC 15. “We do not know some of the conditions these children have experienced at an early age. […M]y children got grown and moved away. It was an opportunity for me to give some of their experience and give back to the community to help these children.”

Four decades later she is still going strong and has even adopted seven of the foster children who have come to her home.

Erica Woodberry was 12 when she and her younger sister moved in with Ford after spending four years living in foster homes. “I’ll never forget the first meal she cooked for us — it was pork chops and I’d never tasted meat that was so good,” Woodberry told TODAY. “She sat there at the table asking us questions about ourselves. We weren’t used to that.”

Carlotta, Woodberry’s sister, added, “What I’ve always admired is her patience. She never yelled or screamed at us. She would just give you a talk so you knew how to act. She’s impacted so many lives.”

READ: PSAs inspired by real families encourage the adoption of older children

Ford is currently fostering a 16-year-old boy and a 10-year-old boy as well as caring for two of her adult adopted children who have fetal alcohol syndrome. She said she has no plans to stop fostering any time soon, though her children have questioned if she should retire.

“When she turned 75, I said, I think it’s time for you to give it up,” her son Roosevelt Woodberry, Jr said. “She said ‘son, if I give this up, I might as well be ready to go be with the Lord’ and that’s when I came back and said, ‘well keep on doing what you’re doing.’ She loves, loves being a foster mother.”

Kendall Givens-Little, who moved in with Ford when he was 17, told TODAY, “She knows how to build trust. She was like a mother figure to me and I needed that.”

The South Carolina Department of Social Services sent a statement to ABC 15 regarding Ford’s years of dedication to foster children:

Our deepest gratitude to Mrs. Hannah Ford for her many years of dedication to South Carolina’s foster children, and our agency’s mission to provide safety, permanency and well-being. The need for good foster parents is ever present and we greatly appreciate the difference you have made in the lives of children, youth and families. The greatest need for foster parents currently are those willing to serve teenagers, sibling groups and children with complex medical needs.

As for Ford, she explained, “I don’t see any end in sight. As long as God continues to give me strength and guidance and wisdom, I’ll keep doing this. There are just too many children out there in need. They’re coming out of situations where they’re not fed properly, they’re not loved properly. They need me and I need them.”

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