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Joy Meadows named S. Truett Cathy Honoree for 2024 True Inspiration Awards Program

January 9, 2024

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Nonprofit receives $350,000 grant to help expand innovative foster care model

Each January, Chick-fil-A, Inc. announces its True Inspiration Awards® grant recipients, including the S. Truett Cathy honoree – a $350,000 award that honors our founder’s commitment to serving others. In 2024, this grant was awarded to Joy Meadows, a nonprofit that addresses a community challenge that Truett himself was passionate about: bringing stability to children impacted by foster care.  

Joy Meadows provides resources for foster children and families across Kansas, including on-site housing and enrichment activities at its 38-acre development near Kansas City. The nonprofit will use the grant to expand its offerings, like free on-site therapy, day camps, equine and nature-based activities, a clothing closet and training for those who provide support to caregivers. 

Co-founders develop best-in-class experience for foster care 
This innovative and comprehensive neighborhood approach is the brainchild of Justin and Sarah Oberndorfer, a couple acutely aware of the existing flaws in the foster care system. Before founding Joy Meadows, they fostered medically fragile infants, children and homeless teens, while also parenting their own five children. 

“The current foster care system is not equipped to address the many-layered problems facing foster children and their caregivers,” Sarah said. “These children have experienced many traumas and 80% of them have significant mental health challenges. The system isn’t set up to underwrite the long-term therapies and trust building required to heal them.” 

Effective behavioral and mental health are typically out-of-reach for foster families 
Children in foster care are on Medicaid, and most therapists don’t cover Medicaid claims. And if a child is lucky enough to get on a waiting list for a qualified therapist, he or she may move before the appointment is confirmed. There’s also the practical consideration of getting children back and forth to multiple therapy sessions when there are other childcare needs in the home. 

As one foster mom shared, “I was driving to several appointments a week for all my foster kids, and it wasn’t sustainable.  At Joy Meadows, we get 11 appointments done in one morning because they can be here at the same time and have mentor support.”  Best of all, Joy Meadows covers the cost of these specialized therapy sessions. 

Another problem most foster children experience is access to activities that healthy families take for granted. Because of their behavior issues and caregiver challenges, most foster kids can’t participate in normal camps and sports teams where they could learn social skills and develop positive peer relationships. Joy Meadows addresses this dilemma by hosting child and family enrichment activities—like art camps and outdoor activities in nature—with others from the foster care community. 

Joy Meadows also addresses caregiver burnout 
Because foster parents are sometimes isolated from supportive social networks, Joy Meadows created a community support program to help foster parents work through their unique challenges. Their offerings include:  

• A free clothing closet that enables foster kids to have new clothes.  

• Animal sessions where kids can care for goats or horses under the supervision of trained adult counselors.  

• Opportunities for families to gather onsite for gardening, barrel train rides, art activities or outdoor sports, convening with others who can relate to their circumstances.  

• A free summer camp, offering horse-back riding, kayaking, swimming and more. 

“At Joy Meadows, we know the research has shown our path is the path forward for transformation,” said Sarah. “We have to give children a chance for healing by keeping them in the same, experienced foster home because we know connectedness has the power to counterbalance adversity.” 

Joy Meadows serves almost 6,000 individuals annually. By winning the S. Truett Cathy award, they plan to serve more families and eventually launch a second campus in Kansas City. 

“I’ve seen firsthand the good that Joy Meadows brings to the Kansas City area and the foster care community,” said Drew Severns, local Owner-Operator of Chick-fil-A Lenexa who helped prepare the nomination. “From on-site therapy to a free clothing closet to day camps, this grant will allow Joy Meadows to continue providing support that helps create brighter futures for families across Kansas City.”