Karin VanName has adored babies for as long as she can remember. As a little girl, she was never far from her baby dolls. She said she used to dress them in baby clothes and push them up and down the street in a stroller.
All that practice with dolls might have prepared the Hilton Head Island woman for a lifetime with real babies. When she grew up, she had three daughters. But her love for children didn't end after her children were grown.
In March 1988, VanName, who lived in New York at the time, decided to start fostering children.
"I wasn't doing anything," she said. "I saw an ad in the paper that they were looking for people to take care of children, and I thought, 'Ooh, that's something I'd really like to do.'"
VanName went through a couple days of training. Her house was inspected by different agencies. And then the first baby arrived.
"A lot quicker than the other way," she said with a laugh.
Twenty-five years later, VanName has now fostered 74 children. She is currently caring for a 1-month-old girl and an 11-month-old girl. She said she hopes to foster at least 100 before she retires from foster care.
VanName said her daughters have their own opinion of their mother's fostering children at age 82.
"They think I'm crazy," she said. "(They say) 'You could be traveling. You could be doing this and that.' But this is what I want to do."
She said she keeps in touch with some of the children she has fostered. One family adopted three children that were in her care, and she sees them every once in a while.
In 1998, VanName fostered a baby boy for almost a year. When he was adopted, she put a note in with his clothing. He and his mother recently found the note and contacted her.
Another former foster child became her grandchild. After fostering the boy for four years, one of VanName's daughters adopted the boy. He is now 20 years old.
Although she has a lot of fond memories with the children, it has not always been easy. She never knows how long the children will be with her. Some stay for a few days; others live with her for years. And she said most were born addicted to drugs so they have some withdrawal symptoms. At one point she had four children all under the age of 2, a difficult task for any one person to handle.
But the hardest part is saying goodbye.
"I cry when they go," she said. "And then another one comes, and I get caught up again."
She said when they leave her home, they are happy children. She credits their happiness with the fact that she is older, so she has more patience.
"I'm not a nervous new mother," she said. "And I think the babies feel that."
VanName said there is a desperate need for foster parents, especially for older children.
"I wish more people would look to (the Department of) Social Services to adopt rather than going out of the country and getting a baby," she said.
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