Some defy traditional definitions of motherhood

The Foster Mom

Neighborhood children refer to her as Ma Ma or Grandma -- and rightfully so.


Since 2002, Betty Gonder has had more than 30 foster children, four of whom she adopted. That's in addition to her three children, 13 grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.

"At first (my kids) thought I was losing my mind," the retired 71-year-old said of her decision to foster.

It came after years of working in the personal care industry. While working in New Jersey, it wasn't uncommon for her to venture into clubs in search of parents who had abandoned their children.

"The children just touched my heart," she said.

Four of the children touched her heart so profoundly that she faced a judge to ask for sole custody.

It wasn't easy, she said. Her age was a factor against her. After the judge saw the support system her family provided and saw that Gonder's mother is thriving in her 90s, he granted custody.

The first child she adopted died at age 9 in 2008, five years after entering Gonder's life. The child was a severe diabetic who had grand mal seizures and had undergone brain surgery.

Gonder now has three adoptive children, siblings ages 3-5. The youngest was 7 weeks old when she came to Gonder's home.

"By having the grandchildren, it was just like taking care of them -- changing diapers, bottles, getting up during the night. It didn't bother me at all," Gonder said of becoming a mother again.

Gonder doesn't have any foster children right now, but she plans to begin looking again this summer.

She looked forward to Mother's Day. She expects some cards and phone calls from the foster children she has helped.

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