No Perfect Parents Needed
Mary Meador waited three years after first feeling God pulling her towards fostering.
“I thought I needed to have everything in my life ‘perfect’ before I could be a foster parent. I knew most foster families had minimal support and didn’t think I could do it alone, being single and my parents living out of state,” Mary said. “I had worked for DFCS with foster children for a number of years and saw the need – I had to place numerous children in shelters and groups homes because there were no families who would take them.”
One day in court, though, Mary heard about FaithBridge from a colleague. Then, that same week, she heard about FaithBridge again – from a friend who had started fostering. And again – this time through Northpoint Community Church.
“I learned about FaithBridge’s Community of Care and the support it provided, which was different from other organizations. So, in January 2013 I finally called and inquired about becoming a respite foster parent with FaithBridge,” Mary said.
Mary chose respite because she was single and had a job requiring weekends and evenings as well as occasional on calls. In April 2013, she was approved and began providing respite through Northpoint’s Fostering Together for a family in her Cobb County Community of Care who had two foster siblings: an 8-year-old boy and a 2-year-old girl.
“In October 2013, though, God told me he wanted me to be available to take full time placements,” Mary said. “I didn’t really understand how that would work because of my job, but, in faith, I told my family consultant that I would be available to take a full-time placement at the beginning of the year.
“At the end of December, a colleague called and offered me a job that would allow flexibility in my schedule and didn’t require on call or routine evenings/weekends.”
The next month, January 2014, Mary learned that the children’s foster family had to move out of state. At the time, FaithBridge didn’t have another foster family available so they called Mary to see if she wanted to move from respite to foster.
“I almost said no because I was uncertain about parenting an almost 9-year-old boy (and I probably would have said no if I hadn’t been doing respite for them),” she said. “I would have missed out on the biggest blessings of my life had I said no.”
Chris and Grace moved in with Mary in February 2014. Like any family, they had struggles as well as victories.
“I struggled with helping the children heal from trauma and loss while also providing them with the structure and discipline they needed. At times it was hard to balance showing grace and mercy while also teaching them personal responsibility and selflessness. My daughter (who was 3 at the time) also had significant anger outbursts and tantrums that would last for hours sometimes, particularly after visits with birth family. My son also was struggling with anxiety and grief and his sister’s outbursts made his anxiety worse.”
There were tough moments managing as a single parent, too.
“I had great support with an amazing respite family and other volunteers from Fostering Together, but they couldn’t be with me 24/7. When my daughter was spitting, hitting, screaming, and banging on the walls, even when those supports just couldn’t be there to give me a hand, I still knew that they would be there to encourage me later, ” Mary said.
Mary even dealt with some health issues that first year of fostering and had to have surgery. Again, her Community of Care surrounded her with support and love during those times.
“I couldn’t have done this without my Community of Care. The love, generosity and support I received from everyone there and in my church has been one of the biggest blessings. Also knowing that people were praying for me and the kids and seeing the kids’ progress – going from angry, sad and anxious children to being content, happy and secure – have been tremendous blessings.”
As the years progressed and adoption became more of a reality, doubts crept in again.
“I loved them and treated them like part of the family, but I had second thoughts about adopting since I was a single parent,” she said. “I think I first realized they had truly become part of the family in my heart in December 2014.
“It was Christmas Eve and the kids were in bed. I was finishing up some baking and gift wrapping to prepare for Christmas when I realized that it could be the only Christmas I had with them as their mom had started working on her case plan at that point. It was then I knew without a doubt that if the kids couldn’t go back to their birth family that I would adopt them. I couldn’t imagine anything else for us.”
In February 2016, Mary adopted Chris and Grace – two years after they were placed in her home and three years after they entered foster care.
“I would not have had the motivation to even start the respite process without my faith,” she said. “I would not have had the strength, wisdom, or patience to make it through the tough times without knowing that God was on my side and that my church, my family and friends, and my Community of Care were praying for me and the kids.”
Throughout Mary and the children’s journey, the original FaithBridge foster family kept in touch.
“They would Skype with the kids and visit them when they came back to Georgia for visits,” Mary said. “Chris developed a really strong relationship with his first foster dad, and they provided encouragement and support for me as they knew the challenges of parenting Grace.
About six months after the adoption was final they moved back to Georgia and have stayed a big part of the kids’ lives – they are their godparents.”
Today, Mary and the kids have full lives with sports, school and family time – from karate, basketball and more to family movies and board games.
Throughout her journey from being single and childless to becoming a family of three, Mary has witnessed God’s provision time and again.
“If God is calling you to foster, He will provide whatever you need to succeed,” she said. “Don’t be afraid to take the step of faith and move forward. Pray, pray, pray and have others praying for you. Stay focused on the positive things and the successes, no matter how small – I Thessalonians 5:16-18.”