What is it that makes someone a great foster parent? The staff at KidsPeace New York Foster Care and Community Programs (FCCP) offered insights into that question as they paid tribute to Janet Clark, a longtime foster mom who recently passed away. Janet and her husband Richard had cared for foster kids for many years, including more than a decade as certified foster parents with KidsPeace.
Betsy Farkas, program manager at KidsPeace’s Williamsville, NY office, shared the following thoughts with Janet’s friends and family at her memorial service:
Have you ever met someone who was just meant to be a mother? Like God put that person on this planet so a child who needed an angel on earth had someone to love them. That would be Janet.
Janet grew up in Lancaster the youngest of ten kids. Sadly, Janet lost her own mother at the age of seven. Her older sister, Louise, did her best to raise her younger siblings, Janet included. Eventually Janet grew up and according to her brother, Al, had a little wild side. This all changed when she met the love of her life, her parenting partner, Richard. Their love lasted over half a century and this year is their 48 wedding anniversary. Together they adopted and raised six children all of whom had special needs. Jennifer, Ricky, Michelle, Chris, Eric and Robbie were lucky to have such a devoted, dedicated mother.
In 2005 I became the Program Manager for the KidsPeace Lockport office. As part of my training I spent a lot of time in the West Seneca KidsPeace office. It was there I first heard of Janet and Richard Clark. They were a couple who had expressed an interest in taking special needs kids and became certified foster parents for KidsPeace. The Clarks specifically asked for types of kids many parents find too difficult to manage, much less would want to give them a forever home. I heard a lot about the Clarks, their home and yard specially designed for children.
When I arrived at the Clark home it was like the experience Dorothy had when she left the comfort of Kansas and walked into the Land of Oz. I was surrounded by color, excitement, sound … an atmosphere that would awakening any child’s senses, get them thinking and feeling beyond all they had already experienced. But to balance that designed chaos was Janet, a smiling, friendly, loving, nurturing mom, someone who could calm a child down just by the way she spoke to them. We often hear the phrase, “patience of a saint.” Janet embodied this phrase. She spoke to her kids directly, clearly without letting her own emotions get in the way of helping resolve the conflict, provided comfort, reassuring the child everything would be OK.
For all the children who Janet hugged, loved, raised…I dedicate this poem:
For Friends of the Handicapped
Blessed are you who take the time
To listen to difficult speech,
For you help me to know that
If I persevere, I can be understood
Blessed are you who never bid me
To “hurry up”
Or take my tasks from me,
For I often need time rather than help
Blessed are you who stand beside me
As I enter new and untried ventures,
For my failures will be outweighed
By the times I surprise myself and you.
Blessed are you who asked for my help,
For my greatest need is to be needed.
Blessed are you who understand that
It is difficult for me
To put my thoughts into words.
Blessed are you who with a smile,
Encourage me to try once more.
Blessed are you who never remind me
That today I asked the same question twice.
Blessed are you who respect me
And love me just the way I am.