During the 18 years they provided foster care, Johnny and Jeanette Taylor had never intended to adopt. They had already seen their biological children through to adulthood, fostered numerous children and teens, and felt content. When a quiet, 14-year-old boy named Zeak was placed in their home for short-term foster care, the Taylors welcomed him with the same unconditional love and belonging they offered so many others. Zeak’s short-term plans became long term and by that time, he had become an integral part of the Taylors’ lives. He hoped to become a permanent member of the family, and Johnny and Jeanette wished for the same thing. In 2017, the Taylors began the process of adopting Zeak. One year later, Johnny and Jeanette officially became Zeak’s forever family.
While Zeak takes time to warm up to others, including the Taylors, he has found his place in their family while finding a path to stay connected to his roots. The Taylors have been very supportive of Zeak’s relationship with his biological brother and sister, who were adopted by another family. The siblings maintain a close bond despite being separated by state lines; their adoptive parents assist by hosting week-long and weekend trips so they can spend quality time together.
“I still feel like a parent to all of those children. They always remember you.” – Jeanette Taylor
From the safety of the Taylor home, Zeak is ready to launch into a bright future. “Now that he has permanency, he is more comfortable sharing his mind,” Jeanette said. He is an accomplished athlete who runs and lifts weights while maintaining academic excellence. He has plans to attend college and study science, one of his favorite subjects.
When the Taylors reflect on their impact on foster children over the years—and the impact the children have had on them—they find an abundance of fond memories. They celebrate that many of the children they’ve cared for continue to visit and stay in contact with them. Two of their former foster children joined the Taylors for Thanksgiving dinner this year, and another from many states away calls regularly to check in with them. The Taylors understand the limits of their love and care in trying to ensure permanency for all children—and they also understand the boundlessness of it. “I still feel like a parent to all of those children,” Jeanette said. “They always remember you.”
Read related: Eight Steps to Becoming a Foster Parent