When their daughters were 10 and 12 years old, John and Jennifer Meadows thought they were done having children. Then an unexpected potential pregnancy made them consider adding more children to their family. Although they were not pregnant, John and Jennifer had both begun considering how they might grow their family with adoption through foster care.
Pursuing Adoption Through Foster Care
Jennifer Meadows grew up with adoption existing within her immediate and extended family. Even prior to marriage, John and Jennifer had discussed the potential of adopting. Then, with their daughters reaching their teenage years, they both felt called to start the licensing classes. John and Jennifer wanted to pursue adoption through foster care because they knew there were so many children in foster care available for adoption.
The Meadows family initially began by pursuing only adoption through foster care. They had not planned to foster long-term. But after a particularly eye-opening class about the realities of foster care, they knew they could do more. On their way home from the class, John said to Jennifer: “Adoption is what God has for us, but I think he has a journey for us to go on to help as many kids as we can.” With tears in her eyes, Jennifer immediately agreed. She knew that God was calling them to do whatever they could to help children while they were on their way to find the child they would eventually adopt.
The Realities of Foster Care
For almost four years, John and Jennifer Meadows—and their two teenage daughters—opened their hearts and home for children in foster care. Their agency knew that their desire was to adopt a young boy from foster care. However, along the way to finding the child they would be the best fit for, they opened their home to at least 18 children.
The whole Meadows family understood their calling to love children from hard places. Their daughters were even willing to share a room so that more children could live with them. Looking back, John and Jennifer see how compassionate and adaptable their daughters became through fostering. Their daughters fell in love with every child that entered their home.
But with deep love comes hard goodbyes. Even while experiencing the pain that can accompany fostering, John and Jennifer were determined to make an eternal impact. “We still pray for every one of them.” Pointing to John, Jennifer continues: “Every time we got a placement, he would write their name in the front of his Bible. So we still have this list of names of children we pray for all the time.” John chimes in: “Some of which are adults now.” To this day, the Meadows family prays for every child who entered their home.
Overcoming Heartbreaking Challenges
Fostering is never easy. One challenge the Meadows family faced immediately after becoming licensed foster parents was a child’s food insecurity. A young girl, who was less than two years old, entered their home with a bag of Cheetos. Not only would she not let go of the bag, but one of her fists remained clenched shut the whole time with a Cheeto carefully protected inside. Jennifer recalls how she would spread out food for the little girl on her high chair, and immediately the girl would scoop up a fistful of food before she started to eat. She needed the reassurance that she had food in case it was taken away from her.
The Meadows family was heartbroken to witness the effects of trauma on children in foster care, such as this girl’s food insecurity. Thankfully, they watched as God worked miracles in the lives of children in their home. By the time the little girl with food insecurity left the Meadows home, she no longer stashed fistfuls of food. She had learned to trust again that food would be available.
The Goodbyes and Hellos of Foster Care
One of the hardest goodbyes was to the child the Meadows family thought would become their son through adoption from foster care. Unexpectedly, a relative came into the picture. Though they understood the importance of safe reunification with family when possible, it was still hard for the Meadows family to say goodbye to the young boy. However, God was continuing to work behind the scenes.
Around the same time that the first boy left, the Meadows family received an emergency placement for a second little boy. He had entered foster care at 18 months old and had been in foster care for 18 months—half his life—when he was placed in their home. The Meadows were his third foster home. Within a year, the Meadows family had completed the adoption process, and their son was adopted three days before his fourth birthday.
Closing Their Foster License
The Meadows family took a year off from fostering after adopting their son. Then they returned to complete one last year of fostering. John and Jennifer are honest about the challenges they faced during this final year. Perhaps the most shocking fact is that they fostered more children in their one final year than they had in their first four years.
In the final year that the Meadows family fostered, they had been open to adopting another child. Even their son was excited about the possibility of having another sibling since the older Meadows daughters were now grown. John and Jennifer explained to their son that they were committed to helping as many kids as possible. If the door opened for them to pursue another adoption from foster care, they would. However, that door never opened.
“It was just not God’s plan for us to adopt another child. And now we know why,” Jennifer says, looking at John, who nods his head. They continue to explain that God closed the door so that they could focus on their son’s healing. Their son, who is now 12 years old, continues to heal from trauma caused in utero and when he was young. “It broke our hearts to have to stop foster care,” Jennifer says. But they now understand that God was protecting their family by providing them time to focus on their son’s recovery from trauma.
Embracing Honesty as a Former Foster Family
John and Jennifer often speak with couples who are considering foster care or adoption. “We’ve been married 30 years, and foster care was the hardest thing we’ve ever done,” they say truthfully. They try to prepare other couples for the realities of foster care and adoption. Many people tell them, “I could never do that and say goodbye. I’d fall in love.” In reality, the Meadows fell in love with every child they ever fostered. But God prepared their hearts when it was time to say goodbye. They found peace in knowing that they were living out what they believed to be one of the most important points of foster care: to teach children about true, unconditional love.
The truth is that not every placement was enjoyable. Many of the children the Meadows family fostered, especially in their final year as foster parents, faced extreme behavioral challenges. John emphasizes that parenting in and of itself is difficult; parenting children from hard places can be a million times harder. In addition, John and Jennifer had to be completely selfless. In their experience, foster care required them to give everything they had in return for practically nothing. They were not instantly adored by the children they fostered. They were not the saviors. Rather, they were following God’s calling.
The Support Foster & Adoptive Families Need
When the Meadows family first started fostering, they were the only active foster family in their church. In fact, they were one of only three foster families in their whole county. Friends who were close to the Meadows family were supportive from the beginning. They were quick to pray, send texts of encouragement, purchase necessary items, send gift cards, and check in regularly. These friends knew they were not called to foster or adopt. Rather, they were called to support.
Unfortunately, people who were not close with the Meadows family were more ambivalent. They felt that foster care didn’t affect them, so they were not as quick to lend aid. Thankfully, the tide of support has changed in the Meadows’ county, especially in their church. There is now a foster/adoptive ministry called The Foster Tribe at their church. Jennifer lends her birthday party planning talents to foster families in their church anytime a child in care has a birthday. This is something Jennifer wishes she had had help with when she was a foster mom. The list of things Jennifer would have appreciated when she was a foster parent also includes help with laundry, respite care, meal deliveries, babysitting, and transportation assistance.
Adoption Through Foster Care Must Be a Calling
Throughout their entire foster care and adoption journey, the Meadows family trusted God. “I don’t know how people who aren’t Christians do it,” Jennifer confesses. “If it wasn’t for God, we wouldn’t be able to do it. He’s our Rock.” John lists off several situations that shocked them as foster parents, including young children using curse words, older children consistently acting out in school, and many children arriving with their belongings in nothing but a trash bag.
Essentially, they weren’t in it for the children. Make no mistake: they loved every child who entered their home. However, they were in it because they were following God’s call. “Through Christ, we were able to love them, but a lot of the behavior we saw was very hard to manage,” Jennifer explains. “If I was in it for the kids, the extreme behavior challenges would have knocked me out right then.” Obedience to Christ is what they held on to even on the hardest days.
Ultimately, the Meadows family can sum up their foster care and adoption experience this way: “It’s the hardest and best thing we’ve ever done.” Throughout their six-year foster care and adoption journey, they relied on God. “When you do what God calls you to do, He never says it’s going to be easy. But He’s always going to be with you.”
For more information about foster care and adoption, visit WaitNoMore.org.