An Ames couple who have been foster parents to 17 kids were honored earlier this month by the Youth and Shelter Services organization. JoAnn and Curtis Clark had four biological children and their first foster child was a Korean boy who needed to learn English.
“We had considered adoption, but ended up having our own four children and then an elementary school principal called us and said, ‘We have a Korean boy who is having trouble adjusting to life in Iowa.’ He was staying with his sister and brother-in-law and he just wasn’t learning to speak well,” she says. “So we talked about it with the family (and they said): ‘Oh, that sounded like fun,’ so Jimmy came to stay with us.”
JoAnn recently spoke about the family’s experiences during a luncheon in Ames and she stressed that the reason they first became foster parents was because someone asked them to do it. “So if you see someone out there who really seems to enjoy teenagers and seems to have their wits about them, be the person that goes up and asks them, ‘Have you ever considered foster care?’ because there is such a need out there,” she said.
JoAnn’s rule was that the family always ate dinner together, whether her husband — a doctor — got home at six or 10 o’clock at night so they all could sit down and discuss the day’s events together. “I guess the philosophy of our family has always been: to whom much is given, much is expected,” JoAnn said.
Their daughter, Stephanie, said in a recent letter than she saw her parent’s faith “played out in the actions of helping others.” She said they “exemplified the value of sharing with others what you’ve been blessed with: time, talent and treasure.”
On an average month last year, about 3400 Iowa kids were in foster care or living in a shelter. About 600 Iowa children in the foster care system today are eligible for adoption.