'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.'
Editor's note: This article was originally published on September 26, 2022. It has since been updated.
Hannah Ford didn't like the quiet stillness that settled into her home when her five children began moving out on their own in 1983. The retired seamstress, who lost her husband nearly two decades earlier, found herself feeling isolated. This was when a friend nudged Ford—aka Miss Hannah, as she’s known in her town of Marion, South Carolina—toward fostering. "She said, 'Hannah, you would be a good one,'" the 86-year-old told TODAY Parents. "So I started doing that." In the four decades since that conversation, Ford has had 189 kids come through her home.
"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," said Erica Woodberry, one of seven fosters who were adopted by Ford. After more than four years of bouncing between foster homes, when a then-12-year-old Woodberry and her younger sister went to live with Ford, they immediately knew she was not like any of their previous foster parents. "She sat there at the table asking us questions about ourselves. We weren't used to that," the 48-year-old explained, adding that Ford is "a very special person."
Woodberry's biological sister, Carlotta Ford, shares her sister's sentiments. "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," the 41-year-old shared. "She's impacted so many lives." Kendall Givens-Little was 17 when he moved in with "Miss Hannah," whom he described as having a calming presence. "She knows how to build trust. She was like a mother figure to me and I needed that," the 38-year-old said. "I think a lot of people get into fostering for the money, but Miss Hannah genuinely loves to help."
Ford is currently fostering a 16-year-old and a 10-year-old, along with caring for her adopted children Lawanda, 37, and Lawrence, 36, who were born with fetal alcohol syndrome. Blair Cieluch—a family support coordinator for the South Carolina Department of Social Services who has been working with Ford since 2017—said of the incredible foster mom: "The foster children who have been placed in her home hold a special place in her heart. I know she's left an everlasting impression on them because she sure has left one on me." Although she is gearing up to celebrate her 87th birthday in December, Ford has no plans to quit fostering children in need.
Inspiring 💗 At 86 years old, Hannah Ford doesn't see herself slowing down when it comes to helping children.https://t.co/rwE8eQ2gwM— ABC News 4 (@ABCNews4) September 19, 2022
"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," she said. "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." Woodberry joked that her adoptive mother has more energy than she does. "I can't keep up with her," she said. "She's still out there working in her yard, cleaning out her flower beds. I'll be about to pass out and she's still going. She never complains." Ford added: "I have nothing to complain about. I'm truly blessed."