Gloria Leiferman says she realized her passion for nurturing babies at age 12, after her brother was born. She cared for him while her mother worked, and eventually attended nursing school in Omaha, Nebraska. Leiferman took time off to raise six children of her own before returning to work as a registered nurse in the neonatal intensive care unit at St. Joseph’s Hospital.
And since 1979, Leiferman has also fostered more than 250 babies.
“I was working in NICU and kept seeing these little babies going into foster care, and I thought that’s what I want to do,” Leiferman, now in her ’80s, told WOWT 6 News. After nearly four decades of service, she’s ready to retire.
“She is truly amazing,” said Joan Cooper, who works in the foster care program of the Child Saving Institute, one of the foster agencies Leiferman has served. “I’ve seen her come into support group meetings and she has a baby in one arm and is talking about the other one. She is truly a loving woman who would do anything for her kids. Maybe it’s time for her to relax a little bit.”
It all started when Leiferman and her husband Ronald attended a seminar at Boys Town, the social services agency, on child abuse and neglect. They signed the paperwork shortly thereafter to become foster parents, and received their first little bundle on in March 1979. “I could not have done this for all these years if my husband was not supportive,” Leiferman told the Catholic Voice of Omaha. “He was so good with the babies.”
Over the years she has taken placements from Catholic Charities, Nebraska Health and Human Services and the Child Saving Institute, nurturing numerous babies with disabilities, injuries from abuse and children born addicted to drugs. “Those are the ones I really love to care for,” she told WOWT 6 News. “I think because of my nursing background I’m not afraid.” She’s also cared for twins and even triplets.
Leiferman has a half dozen photo albums containing pictures of the little ones she has fostered over the years. For each baby, she carefully documents every phone call, pediatrician appointment and contact with social services and regularly brings them with her to Sunday Mass with her at St. Leo’s Church. “You have to go into it knowing that it is temporary, but you cannot hold back your love,” she told the Catholic Voice. “Each of the babies takes a little piece of my heart with them.”
Leiferman considered cutting back about 25 years ago, after she cared for her one hundredth child, and again after Ronald’s death in 2002. But she couldn’t stay away:
‘To me, this is my calling from God’
That calling has set a wonderful example for her family. Her son is a pediatrician, one daughter serves as a therapeutic foster mom for troubled teens and two other daughters are school teachers. When her grandchildren visit, they “race upstairs to see and play with the babies,” she told the Catholic Voice.
Leiferman turns 82 years old in July 2017, and plans to retire when her license runs out. “I love having a baby in my arms, I’ve always loved babies,” she told WOWT News 6. “They’ve done way more for me than I’ve done for them.”