‘He could have been one of those statistics’: Edmonton foster mother

An Edmonton foster parent shares her story with Global News, Nov. 27, 2013.

EDMONTON – As the Alberta government announced it will review how it investigates and reports foster child deaths, a local foster parent shares her experience with Global News.

‘Jane’ has been a foster parent for 20 years and has cared for 15 children.

She is being called ‘Jane’ because a provincial law prohibits Global News from identifying anyone in foster care or their guardians.

She’s speaking out because she feels the stories of foster parents have been lost in the wake of an investigative series into foster care deaths in Alberta.

Read more: Alberta minister responds to investigation on foster care deaths

“I’m telling you my story,” said Jane. “I have an amazing little boy, that we adopted, that was not supposed to live… and now he’s a thriving little boy, but he could have been one of those statistics.”

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“I picked him up at the hospital at 12 days old – this little bundle that was pretty floppy and had a lot of issues,” she recalled.

When the boy was born, he was severely malnourished and addicted to cocaine.

“I want people to know that the children that do come in often come in medically fragile… So, had he died, I would be one of those parents that lost a child in care. I want you to know, this is the face of foster parents, we make mistakes, and we do good things.”

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Jane adopted her foster son when he was two years old.

“He’d stolen my heart, and I’d stolen his, I think. We were a team. So, we put in to adopt him.”

The recent report into foster care deaths in our province encouraged her to speak out and share her experiences.

On Monday, an investigation into foster care deaths in Alberta was published by the Edmonton Journal and the Calgary Herald. The series took more than four years to research and complete.

The investigation found 145 children have died in government care since 1999. The government has only publicized 56 deaths over that period.

“From just that little snippet that they see, they’re thinking ‘another child died in foster care, those terrible foster parents,’” Jane explained. “I don’t think everybody thinks that… but the whole story needs to come out.”

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“Some of the best people I know are foster parents,” Jane stressed, “some of the kindest, most selfless people that I know.”

“They had children that weren’t supposed to live, they’ve had challenges in their homes, they’ve overcome great feats, where these children now have successful jobs, are fantastic people. They could have just as easily been a statistic.”

The Journal/Herald report lists infants, children and youth who have died by hanging, malnutrition, hypothermia, head trauma, drowning, disease, fire, stabbing, overdoses, asphyxiation, and those who died in car crashes or because of sudden infant death syndrome.

A third of the children died as infants and another third were teenagers. Most were aboriginals.

“No child should die at home or in foster care unnecessarily – that’s one child too many if that ever happens, so investigations need to happen for sure,” said Jane, who supports the idea of a roundtable including all involved parties, as suggested by the human services minister.

Read more: Alberta to review how it investigates, reports foster child deaths

“I think that not only should there be a roundtable with the MLAs and that sort of thing, but also with band leaders – a lot of children that are aboriginal are in care – we need to encompass everybody.”

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“I’m not saying that the system is perfect,” Jane admitted. “I don’t think the system knows how to deal with all the children and all the problems.”

However, she hopes all sides of the story are told, and that people realize that each situation, each individual case is different.

“For as many children who come into foster care, there’s a story.”

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