When Ursuline Associate Meghan Payne decided to move back into her parents’ home in Owensboro, Ky., a few years ago, paying off her graduate school loans was only one reason.
“Part of my plan when I moved back home was to save money so I could adopt a special needs child,” Meghan said. A special education teacher for 11 years at Owensboro Middle School, Meghan said she felt God was calling her to adopt a child.
“When I took this to prayer, God told me to pay attention to what’s right in front of me now,” she said.
What was in front of her were five brothers who she and her parents, Ursuline Associates Amy and Tom Payne, were foster parenting. When the boys, who began living with the Paynes in August 2013, became adoptable in January 2015, Meghan began pursuit of becoming their mother. The single 32-year-old officially adopted the boys on Dec. 14, 2015.
“I believe all things work the way they are supposed to,” Meghan said. “I know on paper it seems crazy. When people start to get to know the boys and how our family works, it makes sense to people. It’s what’s best for them and best for me. They would have been split up. I really feel it’s what I’m supposed to do.”
This odyssey began in the winter of 2012, when Meghan and her parents began classes to become foster parents. Meghan, her siblings Sarah and Will, and her parents all became lifetime Ursuline Associates in 2009.
Her parents were both longtime educators and often dealt with children living on society’s margins, Tom Payne said, so they felt being foster parents would be a good fit. Their classes discussed the trauma that foster kids have experienced, the state’s philosophy of reunification with the birth family if possible and some of the trials the foster parents might encounter. The Paynes turned in their paperwork in the summer of 2013.
“Our social worker called us Aug. 28, 2013, in a panic saying she had five boys, and that it was almost impossible to place that many in one home,” Meghan said. “We couldn’t think of a really good reason to say no.” The boys began living with the Paynes that evening.
“The oldest two boys were born in Daviess County, the three younger ones were born in Montgomery County, Ala.,” Meghan said. “Their parents were immigrants from Mexico.” Their mother died in October 2011 and the boys were split up in foster care in Alabama until a maternal aunt arranged for them to come to Daviess County, Meghan said. They stayed with her for a year, but the financial strain became too much.
“My parents and grandparents came from a charism of hospitality, it’s always been a part of our home,” Meghan said. “It’s chaotic to go from no kids to five. But two months after they lived with us, we were a family. We were on a family vacation in Florida during spring break.”
With the boys’ father out of the picture, the siblings became adoptable in January 2015, once they had spent 18 of 22 months in foster care, Meghan said. The father’s parental rights were terminated in July 2015 and the adoption became official Dec. 14.
“We’re still learning how to be a family,” Meghan said. “When they moved in, they called us by our first names. Now they are calling me ‘Mom’ and it takes a little time to adjust.”
Each of the boys has a distinct personality and it’s clear as Meghan describes them she is already a proud mother. “I tell people, ‘I didn’t make them this good, they came this way.’ It’s obvious their parents loved them and raised them well. They are a healthy, intact group of kids. We love having them.”
Here’s Meghan’s description of her sons:
- “Kevin is 14, he’s an eighth-grader at Owensboro Middle School. He’s a good soccer player and a great big brother. He makes almost straight A’s.”
- “Dustin is 9, he’s a fourth-grader at Newton Parrish Elementary. He’s the most tender-hearted kid you’ll ever come across. He loves to help. He’ll come ask what he can do.”
- “Romer is 8, he’s a third-grader at Newton Parrish. He’s Mr. Inquisitive. He’ll ask me 25 questions before we get out of the neighborhood. He loves anything science-related.”
- “Kennedy is 7, he’s a second-grader at Newton Parrish. If you need something found or done, he’s your boy. He likes to manage everyone. He loves to ride his bike or play on the trampoline. He needs to be in movement.”
- “Brian turned 6 on the day he was adopted, he’s a kindergartener at Newton Parrish. He’s the typical baby in the family. He loves to hang with his brothers and do what they’re doing. He loves to hug and cuddle.”
Meghan said she was walking in faith throughout the whole process.
“I just trusted that the Lord loves the boys more than I ever could and the Lord loves me, and this is part of our journey,” she said. “When you’re faced with a serious decision, if you’re faithful to the Lord, is there really a wrong decision you can make? Once I made the decision, I had peace. I knew then it was the right decision.”
Amy Payne retired two years ago as a special education teacher and Tom Payne retired in May 2015 from his second career at Brescia University, after working in special education in the Daviess County Public Schools. He is serving on the Daviess County Board of Education.
“Tom’s family taught us about hospitality,” Amy said. “His mom took in a lady who was in a bad situation and she lived there until she died. That was a strong role model for us. We were taught that what you’ve been given you need to share. That’s what God wants us to do.”
“Meg is still walking on faith,” Amy said. “God has a way of providing. My mom and dad had a long history of opening their house to people. If you have the chance to help somebody, that’s what you should do.”
The Payne family welcomed Shawn Riney, who has special needs, as a regular visitor in their family when he was young and he is now in his early 40s. “Shawn says we’re all God’s family,” Amy said. “The boys teach me gratitude. They say “Thank you Amy for cooking.” When we pray, we ask ‘what are we thankful for?’”
Amy, who was an Ursuline Sister from 1978-82, said the Ursulines are another family for the Paynes and she appreciates the sisters who have been praying for them. Sister Michele Ann Intravia is Meghan’s godmother.
“We feel very supported by the sisters and associates,” Amy said. “It’s been hard for us to be involved in associate programs the past two years.”
The next step for Meghan and her sons is to look for a house of their own in the spring or summer. Her father said Christmas 2015 was extra special with their expanded family.
(The Virgin) “Mary’s fiat took on a new meaning for us this Christmas,” Tom said. “The first thing she said was ‘yes.’”