Maryland Woman Retires After Fostering 40 Children Over 40 Years

Ashley Sadler

Communications Director

(Oregon Right to Life) — An 88-year-old Maryland woman has officially retired after spending the last four decades opening her heart and her home to forty foster children.

Emma Patterson decided to officially retire from her decades of service after her last foster child graduated high school this month, according to ABC News. A spokesman from Montgomery County, Maryland confirmed to the outlet that the 88-year-old “is one of the foster parents in the county who has housed the most children long-term and one of the longest-serving foster parents.”

In late May, Patterson received public recognition from the county, honoring her for her dedication in caring for the county’s youth.

“For them to recognize me in the way that they have, it has just touched my heart,” Patterson said about the honor she received from county executive Marc Elrich on May 31. “Every time I think about it makes me want to cry, because I didn’t do something because I thought anybody paid any attention to it,” she told

Her remarkable career got its start in the 1980s after she began helping the friends of her two biological children, according to the outlet. “My children would bring them home and I would just try to give them something to eat and let them have a place to stay,” she said. “I would just do the best I could to help them a little bit.”

“It was always a situation where it was just a boy or girl that didn’t have anybody to care anything about them,” Patterson later told ABC News. “And they needed a place to sleep or something to eat.”

Patterson went above and beyond for the foster kids in her care. According to, she “has picked up newborns at the hospital, cared for multiple siblings and housed teenage parents and their babies throughout her career.” She has even kept in contact with many of the children who once found a temporary home with her. 

READ: Inspirational English Teen Set to be Youngest Person with Down Syndrome to Complete Marathon

“When they say ‘Foster parenting,’ it’s the parenting part, not that foster part, that’s important to say,” she told the outlet. “You have to really try to be there 100% for the kids.”

For Patterson, this came naturally. 

She told she “was raised in a family where every day I knew somebody loved me… If you can be raised in an environment where somebody just really loves you and truly cares about you and is just kind to you, I think that that means more than anything else.”

She said the “best part” of her four-decade role as a foster mom has been how the kids she helped have grown up: “all of my children have turned out to be absolutely fantastic” and “just wonderful humans,” she told the outlet.

And after four decades of service, Patterson’s attitude about retirement isn’t one of relief or boasting about her accomplishments – she has simply expressed gratitude for the opportunity to have given as much as she did.

“It was God’s gift that I had the honor to be able to take care of those children,” she told, adding that while she has “no money in the bank,” she’s “very thankful.”

Stories like Patterson’s provide clear evidence that there are meaningful resources and selfless people who earnestly desire to care for children in difficult or traumatic circumstances. 

Last month, Oregon Right to Life shared the story of Katie Chihoski, a young single mom on track to graduate from the University of Mary in Bismarck, North Dakota. 

Chihoski, who attended classes with her young daughter Lucia in tow, achieved success in college with the compassionate assistance of a new university program designed to provide tangible support for students who are pregnant or raising small children while pursuing higher education, per Catholic News Agency.

RELATED: Young Mom to Graduate College With Help from Campus Program

In her comments to CNA, the young mom shared words of encouragement for other young women who find themselves facing an unplanned pregnancy. 

“Whether you’re living by yourself, with family, or are going to school, there is a community out there waiting to help,” Chihoski told the outlet. “You just have to ask.”

Photo Credit: YouTube/Screenshot.


get involved

Sign Up and Stay Informed