Written by: Leah Wardle
Earlier this summer, my husband Steve said “yes” to providing emergency respite care for a preteen girl. We had to make a quick decision and there were so many unanswered questions, but he was still willing to do it. To know how significant this was, you need to understand how Steve viewed foster care just a few short months ago.
In January of this year, I introduced Steve to the idea of becoming a foster family. Those initial conversations were not promising. My husband is a pragmatist, an analyst, a give-me-all-the-data guy. Where I’m impulsive, he’s rational, where I’m three steps ahead of myself, he’s gently bringing me back to earth. When I asked him to consider foster care, he listed a dozen solid reasons why fostering would be difficult for our family: We have three young children—one with special needs—and some days our parenting runs on fumes. Steve manages a time-intensive startup and I also have an active career. Just fitting the foster care training sessions into our schedule would be a challenge—not to mention the actual foster care.
In spite of all his good reasons to wait, I still wanted to do it. In fact, I felt like we were supposed to do it. I was a definite “yes” and he was a “with respect, no.” We felt the tension and pain of being pulled in opposite directions, with equal force. At this point of impasse, we made a commitment to each other: I would slow down and stop pressuring Steve for a decision. He would earnestly seek God’s will about foster care. We agreed that if this was a calling, God would call us both, even if I’d heard it first.
Buoyed by Steve’s show of respect, I did my best to cool my jets. For me, this meant spending less time reading foster care blogs, listening to adoption podcasts, and following certain social media accounts. I stopped attending agency info sessions and forced myself to stop bringing it up at the dinner table.
Steve also upheld his end of the bargain and prayed about foster care daily. His devotion was such a blessing to me. During those months, I slowly stopped wishing he would wake up and see how right I was. Instead, I grew to trust that if he said “yes,” it would be a wise and thoughtful choice, and if he said “no” the same would be true.
I will be honest—even though we are now in the late stages of becoming licensed for foster care, we never had an exciting, definitive “yes” moment. We haven’t hashed out a master plan for how our family will serve through foster care. We don’t have a unified vision for how many kids we could accept into our home, for how long, and with which trauma behaviors. Certainly, he still thinks I’m crazy for not letting this thing go.
Fortunately, it’s possible to think your wife is nuts for wanting to do foster care and still give an enthusiastic “yes” when a preteen girl needs a place to land for a bit. This is possible because a couple doesn’t need to agree on everything to agree on some things. First, he agreed we could interrogate friends who have fostered and adopted. After that, we made a choice to interview agencies (together, this time!), with the understanding that this was not an implied commitment on his part. Eventually, we agreed to invest real time in getting trauma-informed. Through these small steps, taken in unity, we’ve reached a place where we are both comfortable accepting the calling of foster care.
Realistically, there are still so many opportunities for disagreement ahead of us. Are we open to emergency foster placements, or will we just provide respite for now? Can we accept a placement of more than one child? What if our biological children no longer support our decision to foster? If Steve and I had to respond to these questions today, I can already tell you that we wouldn’t give the same answers.
We’ve decided that we can deal with the unknowns as long as we both respect two basic ground rules: with an open mind, he will prayerfully consider any idea I bring to him, and I won’t resent him when he says “no.” In the absence of being on the same page about everything, we are leaning on our shared desire to serve families through foster care and our faith in each other.