Making a Home in Alaska

As a first grader, Robin (Chalstrom ’97) Hunt carried home boxes of discarded school materials so she could teach reading skills to young neighbors on the military base where her family lived.

This passion for children later took Hunt to Alaska, where a teaching position led to a life shared with her husband, three biological children, and 41 foster kids.

Hunt’s husband, Jerry, never considered her desire to foster unusual, as his Yup’ik culture embraced adoption within large families. Shortly after the couple became licensed as foster parents, they agreed to take in a 9-year-old girl.

Deanna arrived five minutes after the social worker’s phone call, her belongings in two garbage bags. She was “the hardest kid I ever parented,” says Hunt, who was called to the principal’s office on Deanna’s first day of school.

The family adopted Deanna and continued to take in more children, including six siblings who were abandoned two days before Christmas, when the temperature was 42 below zero.

“We’re everyday people who offered a safe place for kids,” Hunt says. “We didn’t know how to parent a sexually abused child, but when you choose to sit with them in uncomfortable situations, that’s more powerful than words.”

Hunt offers tips for other foster families in her book, Breathing Through Foster Care: A Survival Guide Based on the Reflection of a Foster Mom, which can be found on Amazon.