Clara McBride Hale, affectionately known as Mother Hale to most, was a widow with three children and a high school education at age 19. So she went to work cleaning houses by day, and working as a janitor at night. But being away from her children so much was increasingly unacceptable to her. So she started a daycare out of her own home for children in her Harlem neighborhood. And the love in the Hale home was so great many of the children began staying there, seeing their parents on weekends.
As Mother Hale’s family began to grow, she embraced her calling further by becoming a foster parent in 1940. By the time she retired from her foster care ministry in 1968 she had reared and successfully launched over 40 children into the world, full of love, and self-esteem, and hope. And if that was all Clara Hale had done, she’d be a hero.
But just as Mother Hale was settling into a well-deserved retirement, her daughter brought a heroin-addicted young mother and her baby home. That afternoon, while Mother made a phone call in the other room, the young mom left…without her baby—returning several weeks later with more of her children to leave with Hale. By then twenty-two more drug-addicted babies had been dropped off. And Hale House was born. At the time, laws restricted foster homes to twelve children at a time, and Mother later confessed they routinely housed thirty to forty—she simply couldn’t say no.
Mother Hale, joined by her own adult children, cared for each one of these babies so well that eventually the public began to hear about this heroic woman and her ministry to abandoned babies. And the financial support came. This enabled Hale to purchase a five-story brownstone on 122nd Street in the heart of Harlem for her ever-growing family. By the 1980’s, Hale House was also accepting babies infected with the AIDS virus.
Eventually Hale House would include a live-in rehabilitation program where drug-addicted mothers would receive medical and psychological care and job training while they got sober. The goal was to reunite parents with their children, and a true sign of the program’s success was that in 1989, of the hundreds of children placed in foster care at Hale house, only twelve had to be adopted out.
It was estimated that by 1991 Clara Hale had cared for over 1,000 infants and babies. And she worked virtually til the day she died. It was reported that to the end she had at least one baby in her own bedroom, to hold and love.
Mother Hale was fond of saying, “When I get to Heaven I’m going to rest.” With her spirit, I seriously doubt it.
Clara Hale is a hero you should know. And I’m Dr. Ross Porter.