What inspires someone to become a foster parent? It’s usually a combination of awareness, compassion, and an extra push somewhere along the way. For Steve and Jeannie Fuller, it seemed as if foster care and adoption was what they were always meant to do. Adoption was something Steve was already familiar with, having grown up with his adopted brother. When Jeannie worked as a police officer, she developed a deep compassion for foster youth, witnessing the unsafe conditions that at-risk children were living in.
Initially, the Fullers pursued adoption. They both wanted a baby and decided to go through a matching agency that would connect them with a birth family who lived in their area. Steve and Jeannie were overjoyed when their profile was chosen; the open adoption process was underway and they began a relationship with the birth mother over the phone. The baby was expected to come the first week of January, but to everyone’s surprise, the birth mother’s water broke the day after Christmas! Steve and Jeannie raced over to the hospital as soon as they heard, and there they finally met the birth family in person, as well as their sweet adoptive daughter, Jennifer. They were able to take Jennifer home within 24 hours of her birth.
When Jennifer was 8 years old, she started asking about a sibling. Jeannie and Steve considered whether or not to go the adoption route again, but ultimately their hearts were pulled towards foster care. Jeannie couldn’t help but think back to her experiences as a police officer, and the extra push came in the form of acquaintances (Pete & Mary) who had recently begun their journey as foster parents. They encouraged the Fullers to take the leap and recommended going through their agency, Koinonia.
“We are so fortunate that a coincidental conversation got us referred to Koinonia,” Jeannie said. Tiffany Sickler and Janina Miller were two of the Fuller’s social workers early on; they worked with the family on their foster-to-adopt goal and remain in contact with them to this day. “Tiffany and Janina get special kudos for shepherding us through the process,” Steve said. After going through all the background checks, home inspections, and trainings, Steve and Jeannie were approved as foster parents. One day, they received a call about Karen, a 6-year-old girl who needed a home. They moved forward with the placement, and sweet little Karen came to stay with the Fullers later that week.
Both Jennfier and Karen were so grateful to have a sister (and life-long friend) in each other. They were only a few years apart, and attended the same grammar school growing up. Steve and Jeannie light up when they talk about the bond their daughters have with each other: “sisters in every sense of the word.” Although it would take many years for Karen to be officially adopted, she was already a permanent part of the family. She asked Jeannie and Steve, “Is it okay if I call you Mommy and Daddy?” Of course, the answer was a resounding “yes!”
“It doesn’t matter how old they are, this is their home and we are their family.”
The Fullers continued to live up to their name, saying yes to another foster youth, and finding themselves with an even fuller house! Jeannie recalls how their third daughter came to them: “The girls wanted another sibling, so we let our social worker know we were ready for another placement. Karen really wanted a younger sister, but 13-year-old Grace needed a home.” The Fullers knew it would be a different dynamic fostering a teenager, but they wanted to provide a loving, stable home for Grace. Their eldest daughter was more withdrawn than the younger two, but very caring and artistic. Jeannie and Steve learned to balance giving Grace the space she needed while making sure she knew they cared deeply for her. They encouraged her to participate in sports, so Grace became an active swimmer and water polo player. She completed the training to become a lifeguard and even rescued someone from drowning!
When the Fullers talk about each of their daughters, you can hear the warmth in their voice and feel their deep sense of pride. Jeannie and Steve are the absolute biggest cheerleaders and can hardly contain their excitement for all three of their grown children’s futures! A former cheerleader herself, Karen graduated from USC in May. Steve and Jeanie happily report that she has completed her internship with Ernst & Young and will go on to pursue a career as a CPA. They commend Jennifer’s all-around athleticism and work ethic. She received multiple scholarships and was able to graduate (debt free) with a Masters in Social Work from Boise State. They are so proud of Grace for constantly challenging herself and trying new things. She has earned her Bachelor’s degree at the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising (FIDM) and is currently pursuing a career in the fashion industry.
Even though their girls are grown, Jeannie and Steve are still very active parents. They recognize that young adulthood requires a lot of support. Over the years, they have been intentional to put each of their daughters on a path to thriving in life, but most importantly, they want their kids to know how deeply their unconditional love runs for them. It doesn’t matter how old they are, “this is their home and we are their family,” Jeannie says.
JASMYNE NEWMAN, CONTRIBUTOR
Jasmyne is a Marketing Coordinator at Koinonia’s Corporate Office in Loomis, California. She is passionate about pursuing health in all areas of life: physically, mentally, and spiritually. Her favorite thing about working for Koinonia is the opportunity to use her writing skills and support such a worthwhile mission.