There’s a photo of the Haines family in their west Forsyth home with the caption “one crazy family.”
With four biological children, one adopted son and currently two foster children living in the home, that seems a pretty fair description.
But dad Stephen wouldn’t have it any other way.
“We do have a small army of children at home,” he joked. “But it’s fun.”
Haines said he knew he wanted to be a father from a young age.
He and wife, Jennifer, who this year celebrated their 20thwedding anniversary, started dating not long out of high school.
“I didn’t want to be one of those people who said, ‘Hey let’s get everything settled and then have kids later in life,’” Stephen Haines said. “We were always on the same page that we wanted a family and we wanted to be young parents.
“What I didn’t anticipate was that we were going to just keep on going with the children.”
Just two years into their marriage, their first son, Matthew, now 18, was born.
He was followed by three other siblings – Ashleigh, 15; Lynsey, 12; and Sophie, 10.
Both parents said they weren’t sure where their desire to have a big family came from since they each just had one sibling.
“She had a background in elementary education and babysat a lot in Texas [where the couple is originally from], so she’d been around a lot of children and me too by default [before we got married],” Stephen said.
“We just felt that as long as God would keep blessing us with kids, we’d accept them.”
But after Sophie was born a decade ago, doctors advised the couple to not have any more children.
“Then we were living in Houston and [Jennifer] saw a video on TV that talked about 6,000 kids in the city of Houston living in foster care, many of those in group homes or struggling to find a family,” Stephen said.
“That really tugged on her heart and she shared it with me and we thought we could be a part of the solution.”
The family then started fostering children. After three foster placements, the family ended up adopting their fifth child.
“Jonathan was our fourth foster child. We got him at 3 days old. He was supposed to be a two-week placement with us, but he was just meant to be ours,” Stephen said.
Besides Jonathan, whom the family lovingly refers to as “Red Bull” due to his energy levels, the family has fostered nearly 10 children.
They have moved a lot due to Stephen’s job with Pulte Homes. They lived in Forsyth County for a period in 2004 before transferring to Houston and later to Naples, Fla.
“Naples just wasn’t the place for us with having all these little kids,” Stephen said, noting that most of the city’s population is retirees.
“We had a family meeting and mom and dad asked us what was our favorite place to live, and five out of seven of us said Forsyth County,” oldest son Matthew said.
So the family came back in 2009, and has been happy since.
Stephen said they sometimes get “looks and people pointing and counting” when they go out, but overall, Forsyth has been a great fit since it’s so family-friendly.
When they do go out, the family’s vehicle itself sometimes gets second looks. It’s a large black van, similar to something a church or retirement home might use to transport a large group.
The back is graced with seven decals wearing Mickey Mouse ears, each representing a member of the permanent family, and the vehicle’s tag states, “5 PEEPS.”
Most of the time the family stays home for dinner, and that’s one of the best times of day for dad who, unlike mom who homeschools all the children, goes into an office most days.
“We’re really big on family meals,” Stephen said, noting that the family even keeps a journal of every dinner together.
Each entry outlines what was served, what the topics of conversation were and any games the family played together.
“We try for dinner to be just a sharing time,” said Jennifer. “It’s never a time that we’re discussing problems. It’s kind of our nucleus as a family.”
Dad also makes time for each child individually based on each child’s unique likes and interests.
For example, he recently took daughter Ashleigh to an NCAA final basketball game and he and Matthew often get sushi together, while he and Sophie might attend a concert together.
The kids have a special Father’s Day gift planned for their dad, reflecting each one’s special relationship to dad.
They’ve been making a large sign with the word ‘Daddy.’ Each child took a letter, decorating it with special messages to Stephen.
While visiting with the family, it’s clear that each child has a unique bond with their dad.
“He’s the perfect balance of the caring dad and fun dad,” Matthew said.
The fun part often comes out in unique ways, too.
Daughter Ashleigh said her dad is someone who “isn’t afraid of being embarrassed” and he’s taught his children to be the same.
For example, as part of a birthday scavenger hunt for Matthew one year, Stephen drove backwards through a drive-thru window.
Another time, he gave an eighth graduation speech for Ashleigh, claiming that she wrapped her hair in a towel, stood on the toilet and held the hair dryer high over her head and claimed the bathroom “for God and Spain.”
“That story wasn’t true. She didn’t have her hair in a towel,” he joked.
Jokes of all types are commonplace around the Haines’ household.
“He’s always so extraverted,” Matthew said. “When we’re out in public, people always ask, ‘Is he always like that?’ The answer is yes.
“If I had a dollar for every time one of our friends said, ‘Do you remember that time your dad did such and such,’ we’d all be millionaires.”
While he may be a bit of jokester, dad takes his family very seriously.
Matthew said he’s a wonderful example of a great husband.
“It’s really cool to see how they make marriage work for so long and that’s a really great example for us for when we grow up,” he said.
As for what dad hopes for his children, that’s simple.
“I just want them to live a life without boundaries,” he said. “When they’re young, I encourage them to figure out what they love to do … then I expect them to be passionate about it because I want them to love whatever they do.”
So while they might be one crazy family, the Haines’ household is one that is also definitely filled with love.