Jenn - The Maupins. My heart glows at the mention of their name. They're the type of family that causes a grin to break out each time you see them. They're known for excellence and kindness. Through sleepless nights and total surrender to God’s plan, they love birth parents, children, and adoptive parents as serving unto the Lord.
The following interview is transcribed from a phone conversation we had together. It'll read more like a conversation, so give us grace in our grammar. ;)
Jenn - Thank you for your willingness to be pioneers in our venture to share stories of foster parents! First, can you please describe for us your life circumstance before fostering?
Jay - Before fostering and after fostering, our daily life really isn’t much different. Fostering has added to what we do, and it’s provided our family a focus. I’ve come to realize that families need a ministry field as a family…together. I wish I had known earlier in fatherhood--in couple-hood--to have a unified family focus! Each focus is different, but this is where our family is supposed to be.
Stephanie - All of this ‘together in ministry’ has been a positive experience for our family. When we started fostering, we had two children, whom we home-school. Jacob was 12 and Kate was 7. My dad lived with us in an attached apartment, and joined us for evening meals. He was, and still is, very much a part of our family. Jay worked full time as the president of an engineering firm. We were busy but we had room for more. And when God called us, we were compelled to respond. So when Southside (our church), announced that foster care would be a new ministry within the church, we knew right away that God wanted us in it.
TJ - That’s really cool. People often express hesitations about fostering while they have biological kids. How did you approach the situation?
Stephanie - I took my dad to dinner, just he and I, and I said, ‘Dad, here’s where God is leading us as a family. Would you join us in this ministry? Will you help us love and accept foster kids?’ He was so excited. My brother was adopted through foster care when he was three, so my dad had been through this before and fully accepted our plan.
We then took the kids out to dinner and we started out just talking about God’s plan for family. We talked about how God designed the family, what the roles in family are, and how they complement each other. Then we reminded them of countless kids that don’t have a family. We shared James 1:27 and similar verses and expressed that we could be that temporary family to the orphan. The kids were beyond excited!
Both of them requested we keep the children younger than them, which we had already determined to do, but it was neat to hear it come from them…that this was a concern of theirs. So once everyone was on board with this as a family ministry and how our family would serve the Lord, we jumped into training.
Jay - We’ve always fostered infants and toddlers, then transitioned to being a Caring Home, where babies come to us during their first ten days while waiting to go to their adoptive family.* Our kids love these temporary siblings and are fully engaged and involved in their care.
Stephanie - They deal with it beautifully. After every baby we’ve kept, we have the conversation with our kids that although this child will never remember you, you will always remember this child. We stress to them that what they are doing is really a service unto the Lord as much as it was to the children. To see Jacob & Kate rise to the occasion knowing that the kids will never remember them has grown their hearts in amazing ways. Jay and I have enjoyed witnessing it. They now have a totally different perspective from their relatively comfortable, cushy lives.
*In Georgia birthmothers have a 10-day revocation period to consider their decision to place their baby for voluntary adoption. The Maupins care for the baby during this time. They’ve even arranged for adoptive parents to stay nearby at a friend’s guest home while legal work is processed. They work with An Open Door Adoptions to create a “Gotcha Day” celebration, capturing in video the moment the parents meet their baby.
Jenn - Can you tell us a story about one of your children or their parents?
Jay - The Adam* story (*not his real name for privacy) is probably my favorite. He was our first foster baby, who came to us in DFCS custody. A year later, the parents’ rights were being terminated. We had loved and raised this baby from nine days old to 12.5 months. His birthparents were fighting for the right to adopt him into the agency of their choice, with a couple they chose. And we supported them in this effort 100%. We walked into a courtroom not knowing which way the Judge was going to decide. Would she honor the parents’ wishes to place Adam with a private adoption agency or would the Judge keep the child in the DFCS system and terminate rights? In the latter case, our family had determined that we would step in and adopt him ourselves.
Jenn - Whew! And I’ll chime in here to say, I remember you all helped the parents become aware that they could go with a private Christian adoption agency and choose the parents, rather than have Adam linger and risk his future placement with DFCS. So it’s not like you were trying to keep him from them. You all loved these birth parents so well and helped them understand their options.
Jay - Yes, and by the time the Court date arrived, we had met the adoptive parents a couple times to introduce them to Adam and share details about his life to ease the transition. But that day we walked into the courtroom knowing it was someone else’s decision whether we were going to be parents of this baby we’d had since birth.
Stephanie - It was rough. Probably the worst day of our lives as far as the not-knowing. In our county, the juvenile judges notoriously didn’t want parents to have say in where their children went. Adoptions were closed when working with DFCS. These birthparents wanted to know that their son was in a good home…a Christian home. We wanted the same. So we prayed. We poured prayer over this judge. Had friends pray for this judge. And He listened and softened that Judge’s heart to allow these parents to choose a Christian family for their son.
It was as though God blew those doors open…that this could even happen in our county was a miracle. The judge had decided on behalf of the birthparents!
Jay - Immediately after court was over, we said our goodbyes to “our” baby, walked over to the agency’s caseworker, and handed him over. She then carried him hundreds of miles away to the home of his adoptive parents. And he was gone.
Stephanie - It was horrible. And I mean it was the u-g-l-y cry. But it was right. We knew that we had a clear decision from God, and that’s what we had to go with.
What’s so striking about that scene is that since then we have become really good friends with that adoptive couple— to the point where we stay with each other some weekends! They’re an extension of our family. One time the adoptive mother and I were chatting and reflecting where we were on Mother’s Day of that year, just a few months before Adam’s court date.
For me, I was moved during a video at church about Mother’s Day, feeling uncertain about how the case would end, praying for the birth and adoptive parents, but also not knowing how we would go through with letting him go. I absolutely lost it, sitting there with my daughter and a friend.
Adam’s adoptive mother later shared with me that she was sitting at church as well on Mother’s Day, when their pastor announced that their church was going to gift a family with funding for their adoption. They were called forward and prayed over and they recognized God’s hand in the whole process. When we saw how God was working behind the scenes—He was so in it the ENTIRE time. That has been beautiful and comforting. And now we get to see Adam, just like he’s a nephew! All I can compare it to is like Jesus adopting us into His family.
Jay - All the other cases have been like this as well, and grown our family—we stay in touch with most every one in some way. We are remote but we get to see them grow and we visit. We’ve had 14 foster children now.
TJ - What were you praying for in this situation?
Jay- For God’s will to be done. That’s the long and short of it. The judge had only been on the bench a few months, and new judges in particular don’t like to set precedence, so we really didn’t know which way the case would go. Adam could’ve very easily been our son, but we also had met the adoptive parents and knew that he would be loved. We wanted it both ways.
Jenn - Wow. That takes incredible surrender. What are y’all currently up to with this ministry?
Jay - Over the last year or so we tried adopting four different siblings groups but that door kept shutting. As the last opportunity just came to an end, a job opening came for an Adoption Counselor at “An Open Door Adoptions.” It became apparent, and now official, that this was just right for Stephanie. While we’re still working out with God, ‘Why would you bring us this far and then have an adoption not work out?’ We also see how He showed us the other side of things and prepared her for ministry with birthmothers.
Stephanie - The adoption counseling involves two facets. First, when a birthmother decides to voluntarily surrender her child for adoption, I counsel her in selecting the right family and how that relationship with that family will look. I help her get to doctor appointments and even act as a birthing coach if needed! Second, if her decision is to parent her child, we help with resources and training to help her be the best parent possible. We provide mentors, schooling access and enrollment, and physical needs like clothing and diapers. We want to set her up for success! Obviously, we are pro-life, but we can’t just say we are pro-life and not act on it or support it.
Jenn - When I hear where God is currently leading your family, I absolutely see this path He has brought you on. If you could time travel back to when you first trained, what advice would you give yourself?
Stephanie - Sleep! If you don't have a placement, just sleep! Especially taking newborns only. I would also say, don’t be so timid. As much as we trusted God, we were timid about the boundaries we placed on the children. I would now say, “Send us any child you have.” The children we have cared for have been the right fit for us, but we could’ve gone a step further in our trust.
Jay - I would say, “Just do it. It’s going to be awesome. Just go with it. Don’t worry so much. It’ll be all right.' I’m an engineer and I overthink things a lot!
Jenn - What’s something you’ve learned from your time fostering that you want people to know?
Stephanie - The thing that comes to mind for me is when we were first placed with Adam, and we met with his parents. They were angry, and in their anger thought that DFCS wanted their baby because he was a white, adoptable male. If a biological parent is reading this, I would want them to know that our purpose as a foster family is never to take a child from their parents. Our purpose in this is to try to heal the family, and show them God’s design for family. We want to help rebuild the family from the ground up. Maybe for a family that means a child needs to go live with someone else for the parents to get their feet under them. I dare say that most foster families want gave this purpose in their hearts too. The best scenario is the Lord will step in and heal this family.
Sometimes that doesn’t happen, and in that case there has to be another option, and that is adoption—which is also a beautiful thing. I would want to reassure parents that your kids enter the system because workers genuinely want to see you rebuild and come back better and stronger.
Jay - Some cases are heartbreaking because of the sheer sadness of the situation. One child that returned to his mother died a few months later. We’ve only just found out. We’ve had other cases that have returned home to their parents and they are healthy and strong. Still other families are made complete with this child we put in their arms. It’s an amazing privilege to hand a family a child.
Stephanie - It’s a privilege whether it’s the biological or adoptive family. We’ve been in both positions where we’ve been in the middle of court where the Judge decides this family is ready to have their child at home. And it’s a celebration to know these parents have done everything they can to get their child back, and it’s a win. Others, we’ve celebrated with newly adoptive parents. The goal is to get the child into a healthy environment, and God decides that. Our family is just one of many foster families -- the implements -- He uses to build strong families. We want to continue being that vessel and light for Him!
Thank you for sharing your story, Jay and Stephanie!