Youth Villages stories

Neal family

The Neal Family celebrated another adoption!

Nov 24, 2021 | Blog, Foster Care Stories

Remember, Jonathan and Jaywanna Neal adopting Christopher in 2019, well the family celebrated another adoption this past year adopting Maliki in May of 2021, in the middle of the pandemic. The family wasted no time adopting Maliki as soon as he became available for adoption.

“I refused to allow the pandemic from stopping us from doing what is right,” said Jaywanna regarding the finalization of Maliki’s adoption. “If anything, the pandemic helped us bond as a family.”

November is Adoption Awareness Month and a time to recognize the need for forever families for the children in foster care across the state. Currently, there are 8,000 children in foster care and around 350 children available for adoption in Tennessee.

A number of these children have experienced trauma after being removed from their biological homes due to abuse or neglect and need a caring adult to provide them with stability and support to get them back on track to be successful.

“These children have been through so much and are traumatized, so it is important to be patient with them and try not to force who you are on them,” Jaywanna said. “Allow the love to come naturally and you will see the love in these kids.”

The Neals needed to be patient with Maliki. Maliki struggled a bit more with being in foster care since he was with his biological mother for most of his childhood. He kept hoping she would do what she needed to do to get back custody of him, but when she surrendered her rights, Maliki was ready to be adopted.

“I knew he was ready when he started calling us mom and dad,” Jaywanna said.

Christopher, on the other hand, was removed from his biological family at an earlier age and spent more time in foster care. He was thrilled when the Neal’s told him he would be adopted.

“It was different with Christopher who desired to be “wanted” so badly that he was ready to be adopted from the moment he came into our home,” Jaywanna added.

For Christopher and Maliki, the Neals gave them what they needed, a loving family and a forever home. According to Jaywanna, both boys have developed a real sense of self after their adoption.

“They knew they finally belonged, and they are proud to be “the Neal boys” Jaywanna said. “The boys have instantly become brothers and they make the perfect pair. They play like brothers, fight like brothers, and defend each other like brothers.”

Additionally, the boys have even gotten into music, Christopher playing the keyboard and Maliki playing the drums, following Jonathan’s footsteps who is a church musician. They also love to cook together, and the family even has their own cooking show on YouTube called “Welcome to Nealville”.

“The boys love being in front of the camera thinking they can cook better than me,” Jaywanna said.

The Neals recently moved to accommodate their growing family. After the move, Jonathan and Jaywanna surprised the boys with a dog! At first, they felt like their family was finally complete, but recently Jonathan and Jaywanna reopened their home back up with Youth Villages to support additional children in foster care.

“I had a dream that two more kids needed some love, so we decided to open our home up one more time and wait for the next two kids that God decides to send to our home,” Jaywanna said.

Approximately 80% of the children who are adopted from foster care in Tennessee are adopted by their foster parents. The need for foster parents continues to grow as more children are without a family.

If you are interested in fostering or adopting, contact Youth Villages at 1-888-MY-YV-KID or visit