Jim and Janice Clark share their experience as certified foster parents in Canada.
Published on: 02-04-2023
Twelve years ago, Jim and Janice Clark’s neighbor asked if his 12-year-old granddaughter could live with them for a few weeks while the family sorted out an acceptable housing arrangement. The Clarks already had five children, but they agreed; their middle child, Mallory, was also 12. Six months later, the girl was still with them. So, they contacted their local foster care office for advice.
After completing the required coursework, the Clarks became certified foster parents. Since then, Jim and Janice have fostered close to 40 children. Some, like the 12-year-old neighbor, stayed for years, while others, for shorter periods. At times, the Clark house has been home to 12 children at once. Janice says, “We have a party with us wherever we go.”
Jim, a builder and carpenter, and Janice, a teacher at Mamawi Atosketan Native School (MANS) in Alberta, soon decided that one of them needed to stay home. Their growing family required a full-time caregiver, housekeeper, counselor, cook, and driver. Jim was the one to quit his job.
One day, one of Janice’s junior high students told her, “My sister is having a baby. She wants you to have it.” But as the months passed, nothing further was said. So the Clarks assumed there were no serious plans for them to take the baby. Then, months later, the mom-to-be sent word through her younger sister that the delivery had been scheduled. Would the Clarks please be at the hospital, the message said.
Janice says, “Despite being skeptical, I made arrangements for a substitute teacher.” She adds mischievously, “I told Jim I was taking the day off to shop for antiques in Edmonton.”
They arrived early at the hospital on the designated day. When they introduced themselves, they were told, “Oh, you are the adoptive parents. We have a room all set up for you. As soon as the baby is born, we will bring him so you can care for him and bond.”
“At that moment,” Janice says, “we realized we were adopting a baby.” They named him Huxley.
The Clarks write, “One of our hardest times is when the little ones go back to their biological families. When Huxley came home with us, our children were jubilant because he would not ever leave our family.”
Currently, the Clarks are fostering five children between the ages of three and seven, all of them First Nations Nehiyaw awasisak (Cree children). Janice, who learned the Cree language and is teaching it, as well as cultural studies, at Mamawi, says, “We work hard to keep the children connected to their heritage. Coming home recently from a Powwow, our three-year-old wanted to become a powwow dancer. A few minutes later, he wanted to be a firefighter.”
Huxley’s response, “And you’ll go around and stamp out the fire when you dance? Right!” had everyone giggling. The special joys of fostering are all the little moments in the day when a laugh and smile is shared.