“Meet the California Mom Who Has Fostered More than 630 Kids and Counting” originally appeared on ABC News and was reprinted with permission.
A mother who has taken in hundreds is still showing children love almost 40 years later.
“I feel that every child I come in contact with, I want that child to understand what it means to be cherished; not just cared for, diapered, fed, loved, but actually cherished,” Raelene MacDowell of Redding, California told ABC News.
“That’s my mantra. I think every child in the world deserves the right to be cherished by at least one person. We endeavor to do that and make sure that they feel like they’re the most important person in our lives at that moment.”
MacDowell, 72, and her husband, Ted MacDowell, 77, have fostered more than 630 children since 1978, she said.
They were married in 1964 and had three children of their own. The MacDowells later decided to become foster parents through Shasta County in Redding. MacDowell said fostering kids was something she had wanted to do since she was a child. Her husband was onboard.
“We decided that taking care of other people’s babies while they get themselves help or treatment is what we wanted to do,” MacDowell said.
MacDowell said the children she has fostered were born being exposed to drugs by their birth mothers, or the victims of physical abuse.
The kids would remain in MacDowell’s care for a few days up to a couple of years before a permanent plan was put into place, she added.
“Working with the birth moms, the agency would have a plan for them and we would work with them too … mentoring them to help them get their children back,” MacDowell said. “It was teaching them about the care of the babies and discipline and all of the things that go into being a parent.”
Today, the MacDowells have a total of 10 children, including seven whom they’ve adopted over the years. They now have 28 grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.
“One of the things my husband and I are most proud of is five of our children are either foster or adoptive parents,” MacDowell said.
MacDowell has also worked as the first Foster Parent Liaison for the Shasta County Social Services since 1999, mentoring other foster parents or those who want to adopt.
Because county employees are not allowed to foster local children, MacDowell took a hiatus from being a foster mom. But last week, MacDowell retired and has since taken in a child.
Dianna Wagner, branch director for Children’s Service in the Health and Human services agency in Shasta County, described MacDowell as a “genuine, caring, kind person.”
“She wears her heart on her sleeve and she always finds the positive in any situation,” Wagner told ABC News. “She has the ability to see the best in people, which I think why, prior to us, she was able to take children into her home to care for them as long as they needed that place with her.
“Her husband also is a great man for sharing his home. It’s definitely a package, the two of the coming together.”
For Mother’s Day, MacDowell is looking forward to a picnic lunch with her family, she said, “all 47 of them.”