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Jul 21, 2017

by Karly Raklovits, Foster Home Licensing Specialist, Bethany Christian Services of Michigan, Holland

As a licensing specialist, I lead monthly information sessions and regularly talk to prospective foster parents that are seeking information but aren’t yet on the same page. Foster care is a big decision, I tell them, and family unity is essential. These are tips I share when people tell me they want to foster but their spouse isn’t so sure.

Find more tips in Part One.

Resist the urge to be “right.”

If I believe my desire to foster is “right” (and your hesitation is “wrong”), I’m going to talk first. I’m going to talk over you. I’m going to have a counter ready for every one of your reasons. I’m going to send you 7,000 blogs. I’m going to quote all the Bible verses and pure religion and caring for orphans—who can argue with that? I’m going to fix your thought process.

What I’m probably not going to do is listen to you.

People need to be heard and feel validated before they can receive new information. If I feel coerced, cornered, rushed, or manipulated, why would I read this thing you sent me that’s meant to change my mind when I feel like you don’t listen to me? It takes grace and humility to meet the other person where they are and find a way to move forward, or not, together.  

Keep talking.

You may never be perfectly in the same place. Be open about it, and keep the dialogue open. I remember a couple that was exploring foster care. They came to an information meeting to learn more, but they didn’t take the next step that night. A few months later, they were back at another information session. I greeted them afterwards, and the man said, “I still don’t know if this is right for us, but we keep coming back.”

We laughed together, and I told them I’m just happy they are seeking information, asking questions, and keeping their sense of humor. I didn’t pressure them to fill out an application; I invited them back to the next meeting. I can provide information, but I can’t change hearts or minds. That’s a work of the Holy Spirit, and the timing is out of our hands.

Learn more together.

If, together, you are at a place where you’re ready to take a next step and come to an information meeting, have a conversation about what that means. Let the other person know before you come that you don’t expect that you’ll be signing an application the next day. A hesitant spouse may not take the next step to learn more if it feels like doing so will give you false hope that they are farther along in this process than they really are. It’s just easier, and it feels more honest, to not go.

Invite your spouse to come and learn alongside you. Acknowledge that you don’t know everything, you’re still exploring, and you want to hear a caseworker’s perspective and ask some questions.

Pray for God to lead you both.

Entering into foster care is a weighty decision. You do not want your spouse to “appease” you for something this important. You want them to arrive at the decision with you. Leave time for God to speak to their heart.

I don’t think you need to question your marriage if you’re not there at the same time. That doesn’t mean you won’t ever be. Go ahead and share that book that impacted you. Share that video that spoke to you. Give them time to take in that message and allow space to see if that message will take root and grow in them as it has in you. 

Pray for your spouse, not, “God, change their heart,” but “God, show us your will for our family.” Pray for direction. Pray for unity. And allow God to change your heart too.

Discover the joy in serving together.

This post reinforces the necessity of you and your spouse being unified, but there’s much more to it. There is great joy in sharing a passion and purpose and working together to serve hurting children. As the saying goes, a shared sorrow is half a sorrow, but a shared joy is doubled.

It is an honor to parent with my husband, and I love being his teammate. I need his unique perspective as well as his specific skills and gifts. Together, we are better as parents because we balance each other out and bring something unique to parenting. The foster parenting adventure is more meaningful because we have a united vision.

Find other ways to get involved.

Not everyone is called to foster or adopt. There’s nothing wrong with that. There is a great need for foster parents, but there are many ways to be involved in “caring for orphans,” and a Bethany adoption or foster care specialist can talk with you about opportunities to help in your local area

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