Over the span of nearly five decades, a selfless Iowa woman fostered hundreds of children and changed countless lives along the way. Linda Herring's story of compassion and commitment recently spread across the internet, proving family is defined by so much more than blood.
Herring's story first rose to prominence when she was honored on Jan. 9 by the Johnson County Department of Human Services' Board of Supervisors with a resolution of appreciation for fostering more than 600 children in the community. Johnson County's official Twitter account shared a copy of the resolution, which stated, “The Department of Human Services could call Linda in the middle of the night to take a child, and she would meet anywhere to get a child.”
According to the resolution, Herring mostly fostered children with “special medical needs” ever since the 1970s. She kept bins filled with clothes in her garage that were “stacked to the ceiling, labeled by size and gender,” maintaining the philosophy, “If no one else can love them or take care of them, I will.”
And she certainly has taken care of many.
“My grandma has always put everyone else before herself," her granddaughter Amber Herring told TODAY via email. "She had been my hero since I was just a little girl and am so thankful I get to have her as my grandmother.” Linda Herring frequently makes herself available to anyone who needs her help, whether friends, family, or beyond.
Her granddaughter added, “It takes a special person to open their heart and home to children,” explaining her grandparents welcomed any child in need, for no matter how long, and they love hearing from their former foster children and seeing photos of them now. “It has been a lifestyle for them that not everyone can do, but their dedication to children in need has always been evident,” Amber Herring said. “They simply provided them love when the kids needed it most.”
That theme of love is echoed in Linda Herring’s own comments. The 75-year-old spoke to CNN recently and explained the driving force behind her fostering. "I cried when the kids would leave my home, no matter how long they had been there. It was so hard for me to say goodbye to them,” she said. “I always questioned, 'Why do I keep doing this?' because it was never easy to say goodbye to a child. But I kept doing it because I had so much love to give to these children in need.”
Not only have Herring and her husband Bob Herring given hundreds of children a safe place to call home, but they’ve created a ripple effect within their own family. Four of the couple's biological children were inspired to foster children and three of her grandkids have done the same.
Amber Herring is one of those grandchildren and absolutely credits her grandparents as the reason she started her own family as a single parent, obtaining her foster parent license in 2008. “I’ve had 22 foster children and have adopted 3 of them,” she told TODAY. “Like my grandparents, I tend to take children with medical and/or special needs who are harder to place in a foster home.”
It’s clear that Linda Herring created a strong sense of family well beyond herself.
As Tonya Stratton shared in a public Facebook tribute, her mother was fostered by Herring. “Most foster kids grow up, move away and might never be heard of again,” Stratton wrote on Jan. 10. “My mother however was not one of those children. She forever became part of the Herring family as did my father, myself and my siblings. Bob and Linda Herring are Grandpa Bob and Grandma Linda. They always have been my entire life.”
In Stratton’s post, she shared that the Herring family sacrificed so much, devoting their lives to caring for others. “Years and years of wiping tears, blowing noses, changing diapers and caring for a child that is not even yours ! The gratitude I have for this family is beyond what I can express. I love them dearly,” she wrote.
Now, Herring is taking a well-deserved break after fostering for so long and Stratton wrote, “It’s your time now to rest, go through your memories, put your feet up or take a nap and try to understand how incredibly worthy you are to do whatever the hell you want.”
According to Amber Herring, the family is thankful to see her grandmother receive the recognition she very much deserves, especially since she is so selfless.
“If her story can change the life of even one child, that would make Grandma so happy!”