“Mom and Dad, I’m so proud of you. You did it!” he exclaimed in the courtroom.
He had been in foster care for a year and a half, and the judge had just decided he could safely return to his parents’ care.
His parents had been participating in a family mentorship program at Send Relief’s Valdosta, Georgia, Ministry Center. They met regularly with for parent coaching with the ultimate goal of reunifying with their son.
“I’ve seen my dad and mom step up to the plate and do what they needed to do to get me back,” their son said.
These are the moments Jay Watkins, director of the Valdosta ministry center, strives for, and it’s why he has made family rehabilitation a focal point of the ministry.
“Teaching a parent how to parent breaks generational cycles of abuse and transforms lives,” he says. “Jesus really can change hearts and, because of the gospel, we are seeing kids get to go home.”
For Jay, this ministry is personal.
After years of miscarriages, infertility treatments and failed adoptions, Jay and his wife were tired. Then they received the call that changed their life.
A little girl had just been born at a nearby hospital and needed a home quickly. The Watkins were able to bring her home from the hospital. A few months after that, they received a call again—and this time it was twins. Later, it was a baby boy. Then they became foster parents.
Family friends began approaching Jay and his wife for advice about parenting and adoption. And then another person asked. And another.
This personal ministry is what eventually developed into Send Relief’s adoption and foster care center in Valdosta. All the while, the Watkins were learning on the job, counseling with families while prayerfully facing the challenging complexities of being an adoptive and foster family.
Several years after opening of the Valdosta center, Jay’s eldest daughter approached with questions about her own biological family.
“Even though it was hard, we needed to do it together,” says Jay. “That’s what families do—they walk through the difficult things as a team.”
Through the process, their “family team” grew as they discovered their daughter‘s biological mother, four biological siblings and a grandfather who lived 15 minutes from their home and worked at the local Baptist church. They were able to hear her mother’s testimony and now, through this unexpected blessing, biological mother and adoptive mother are good friends.
And that’s what the Watkins want. Because fostering and adoption ministry shouldn’t focus solely on the child—it should seek redemption and healing for every part of the family.
Jay and other leaders at the Valdosta Ministry Center are available to conduct trainings at your church on how to start an adoption ministry, as well as how to partner with non-profits in serving foster children in your community.
Pray for Jay as he leads this ministry and, as we head into the holidays, pray for churches around the country to find ways to care for the more than 400,000 hurting children that will be in foster care this Christmas.
Published November 7, 2020