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Jackie Gant Photo

At 37 years old Jackie Gant was living in Chicago. She was an accomplished professional with a great job, good income, and opportunities to travel across the United States. Even with this success, Jackie still felt there was something missing from her life, but she didn’t know what.

Jackie’s parents encouraged her to seek out the deeper purpose she longed for in her life. The problem was that Jackie still didn’t know what that was. She had started an after-school program to support Native children and was really enjoying this work. After years of consideration, she made the decision to take a step back from her job to return to school. After completing a degree in Alcohol and Substance Abuse Counseling she was encouraged to apply for a graduate education program. She announced her departure from her job and accepted a place in the Harvard University Graduate School of Education. She was one step closer to her goal of becoming an advocate and working in the non-profit sector.

Jackie always had a desire to support vulnerable children and give back to her Native American Tribal Community, Oneida Nation of the Thames. As a teen, Jackie witnessed a family involved in a CPS matter, and the experience never left her memory, leading her to become interested in the Indian Child Welfare Act-1978. She felt the need to further her own personal knowledge of Indigenous children and their removal and decided to become a foster parent, to become part of the solution – of keeping kids close to their native community.

Jackie obtained her foster care license and received a call about a baby several weeks later. This baby was born with drugs in his system. Jackie knew he would need lots of love, attention, and specialty care, and sadly no family was available to care for him. 

Damian is medically fragile; he suffers from an epileptic condition known as Lennox-Gastaut syndrome. Jackie has cared for Damian since he was 3 weeks old. When she first began fostering, many people asked her why she was willing to care for a child who had additional needs. Jackie ignored these hurtful comments and continued to care for Damian. His condition has brought him close to death several times, but Jackie says her Spiritual Creator gave her the strength to make it through these difficult seasons. She is a voice for her child, and she wants to help you find your voice for other children like Damian.

Jackie is strong and determined; she is an advocate. She loves her Tribal community and has given her life and heart to her son Damian. The love and support Jackie’s parents have given her throughout life is the same love Jackie has for her adopted son Damian. Jackie’s son Damian was her first and only foster placement; she now uses her foster parenting experience to help other families.

There are over 10,000 children in Michigan who need a safe and loving home. Some of those children are medically fragile, like Jackie’s son – and all of them need a voice. That voice could be you. If you do not feel fostering is right for you, maybe you can support and encourage a family member or friend who is choosing to welcome children in foster care into their home. Regardless of how you choose to serve, Jackie would encourage you to recognize the gifts and talents you have and actively seek out a way to help. 

They need a voice – be their voice.

Many people become frustrated with “the system” for one reason or another. Instead of walking away, she acknowledged there is no perfect system, and she asked for the opportunity to bring about the changes she wanted to see. Jackie made connections with individuals involved in foster care and noted she would like to be a “Navigator” for families in the Native American community – her community. Jackie proudly shares the progress that has been made for the better over the last 10 years and invites you to join her in bringing about these changes.

If you, like Jackie, feel you can be an advocate for a medically fragile child who needs your voice and the support you can provide, Michigan Foster Care needs you. Wherever you see the need, Jackie encourages you to seize the opportunity to make the world a better place. If you choose to become a licensed foster parent, Jackie and the other Foster Care Navigators are always willing to take your call.