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More than three decades of foster parenting passion

Pensacola couple promises to make a difference in the lives of children. (Source: WEAR-TV)

It's a day of celebration but a bittersweet one for Johnny and Sarah James.

They are retiring after 32 years as medical foster parents.

They have taken in, cared for and loved a lot of children over those years.

Sarah James, Retiring Medical Foster Parent pondered and said "140, I stopped at 140."

"When you get over a hundred, who's counting?" said Johnny James.

That kind of commitment is amazing in itself but the James' took in the sickest of sick; making trips across the country for specialized medical care.

They, and fellow foster parent , were among the first and only ones who would care for babies with HIV and AIDS.

"We didn't want these children to be institutionalized. We wanted to be part of a family. Sarah's from a big family; a family of eight, explained Johnny.

Sarah said, "Ummm, ummm, ten."

"Ten. I'm from a family of 12. So, we are used to big families, replied Johnny.

Pediatric Intensivist Dr. Rex Northup provided medical care for many of those critically ill and battered children that the James' took into their home.

To this day, he marvels at their compassion for the ones others would turn away.

"The James family made the decision early on that while those all may be considerations, that the real consideration was that there was a child that needs love and care and a home that's going to provide that," said Dr. Rex Northup.

"I look at it, every kid needs loves. No matter what, no matter what they have. We have had some to die. If I can give them six months, a year, 10 years; because we had two, we had ten years and we lost; it's O.K.", explained Sarah James.

It's O.K. because Sarah and Johnny have a peace in knowing that every day those children were in their home, every day that they lived, they were loved. Still others, thrived in spite of the medical odds.

It was that the quality of life was the best that it could be and it was given in an environment in which they were loved and care for and looked after.

Some of the children who came into their home, never left; like Elena. She was their first foster child 32 years ago and soon became one of their own," said Dr. Rex Northup.

Sarah: "Seven."

Johnny: "We adopted seven of the special needs kids."

Every child has been treated like one of their own. Where the James' go, what the James' do; they go and do also.

Sarah and Johnny James explained, "Yep, and they do. We bought another van so that we can make sure that we got everything in there. You know, they have their vacation. We bought an extra van and a trailer to pull all their medical equipment around."

Their three biological children are following in their footsteps caring for vulnerable little ones.

Today, they along with friends, medical staff who treated many of their foster children and even a judge who heard many of their cases have come thank them for their tireless years of love.

The James' look back and say, it was not them, but God ...

"They have taken those convictions and beliefs and put them into action on a very real, daily, round the clock basis as to why they do what they have done for so long, for so many," said Dr. Rex Northup.


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