When asked about what it means to be a mother, Jennifer Taylor recounts, “I had always wanted to adopt, but I wasn’t sure what that would look like.” Ms. Taylor’s vision began taking shape when she adopted her daughter, Hollie, at the age of 7. As Ms. Taylor grew to know her fierce and independent daughter, she was not sure that she would adopt again. Two years later, Hollie let her mother know that she was hoping for a little sibling for Christmas. Ms. Taylor moved quickly to manage her nine-year-old’s expectations, saying that there are limits to what Santa could bring. Hollie told her mother not to worry. If Santa couldn’t swing it, she would pray to God.
Three weeks before Christmas Ms. Taylor got the call that two young girls needed a home. That is when Ms. Taylor welcomed her two youngest daughters, Madison and Katie, to her family home in Fayetteville, Tennessee. Ms. Taylor Recounts “These girls really are a gift from God. I am honored and blessed to be their mother.”
Now the family resides in Winchester, Tennessee. Hollie is now 22. She is a mother figure in the family, working ardently to keep things running smoothly. Madison is now 17. She is the free spirit. Ms. Taylor admires the creativity and spirituality that she expresses through music, drawing and writing. Katie is now 13 and she keeps the family laughing. She is compassionate and a strong competitive gymnast. The entire family enjoys rallying around her athletic achievements!
While each of her daughters have their different strengths. Ms. Taylor is a powerful advocate for their individual needs. Ms. Taylor worked with the Tennessee Justice Center (TJC) to fight for continued residential treatment for her middle daughter’s complex mental health needs. Ms. Taylor was a fierce advocate in the face of disorganization and miscommunication to have a say in her daughter’s treatment plan. Ms. Taylor stated that she was working to get her daughter the best treatment she could so that she could live the most fulfilling life. She knew that Madison needed continued residential level of care and recalls, “It was devastating for her to go but I knew that that was the best chance of getting her to her healthiest.”
Ms. Taylor recalls that this difficult battle against a complex healthcare system could make you feel like you are fighting alone sometimes. That is why she emphasizes the value of her support system. Ms. Taylor felt that with the support of the TJC there was someone fighting in her corner even when the burden was too heavy to bear alone.
Ms. Taylor’s advocacy has always extended well beyond the walls of her home. She graduated from Bethel University in McKenzie Tennessee with a Degree in Religion, Psychology and Education. With this education, Ms. Taylor went to work, developing a 22-year career that has centered on advocacy for families and children. She has experience as a social worker and a family advocate. She has worked in the local school system, child advocacy center and health department as well as other community service agencies. Ms. Taylor currently serves as an inclusion coach with Tennesse Child Care Resource and Referral Agency where she provides coaching and training on inclusive practices to childcare providers across the state of Tennessee. Ms. Taylor says that her personal journey with Madison’s care has revealed itself to “be a part of her purpose” that has inspired her to deeper advocacy.
Ms. Taylor recounts that this part of her family journey has inspired her to be an advocate in a complex system. When asked why she continues to advocate and share her story Ms. Taylor stated, “I don’t want anyone to feel the way I felt.” She wants everyone to have the best services they are entitled to and to know that they are not alone. If sharing her story and support can make a difference in one person’s life, it is worth it.
The Tennessee Justice Center is honored to recognize Jennifer Taylor as one of our 2022 Mothers of the Year!