For a long time now I have felt very deeply that I should be a foster parent, practically, socially, spiritually, economically, and in every other regard I am ready. This is my calling. But my wife doesn't feel ready and I wonder if she will ever feel ready.
I've been working with youth and children through church, scouting, and other mentoring groups. I worked with some pretty tough kids too with a wide range of traumas. Even before we were married, I had mentioned that I wanted to help children, and we talked about fostering before we had children of our own. Our first kids, twins, had some serious health problem early in life. We certainly paid our dues. We struggled for a few years while I went back to school and we were broke living on charity. We relocated to Silicon Valley and I got a fantastic job, the health problems miraculously went away and we had another child. Things were great. We decided that we were ready to give fostering a try. We connected with an agency and made friends with other foster parents and children. We read books and did all of the training required, got a spare bedroom ready, and everything required. We were one interview away before being matched with a foster child and my wife backed out.
I was sure that it was something we could talk through and get right back into the program, but it turns out there were some very deep concerns. My twins were now 5 and were starting to develop some attitude and even acting out violently and sexually (there was some hazing going on by a neighbor kid). My wife was feeling overwhelmed. As new parents, I think we both had to admit that our parenting skills had much to be desired. We found ourselves shouting and arguing, and even some spanking that we weren't comfortable with. I realized that I was spending a lot of time working and commuting which left my wife with a lot on her plate. The elementary school situation was not good in our area and we chose to home school. The first year is pretty challenging. Ultimately, my wife felt that she was barely getting by and that if she couldn't handle our own children, how could she bring in a foster child to the family. I keep bringing up the topic when I feel like the time is right, but keep getting a no from my wife who still feels inadequate.
So, it's been a few years. Life has been great. We added another child to the family and my wife has decided she doesn't want to be pregnant ever again. I've been able to arrange my work priorities in a way that has allowed us to thrive financially and give me more time at home. As parents, in my opinion, we have made a lot of progress with our parenting skills, being more positive with more realistic expectations. We are giving up the rat race of Silicon Valley and moving to rural Utah next month. We will have a large home in an excellent neighborhood nearer to family and our support network. We've got the homeschooling thing figured out (although we might start kids in public school since the neighborhood is so great). Our children are perfect :grin:. Perhaps I can get involved with the fostering program initially in some administrative ways.
I think now is the right time to try and bring up fostering with my wife again. We've got a babysitter set up and the opportunity to make a romantic get away soon. How can I help my wife see that she has achieved so much and overcome challenges and that she is more than adequate to be a good parent to our own or any child for that matter?
We both feel that fostering is good, but I feel like her lack of enthusiasm and kicking the can down the road will start taking its toll on our relationship since I'm so passionate about this.
I don't know about the ethics of "convincing" someone they should be a foster parent. If your wife is not 100% enthusiastically on board, you may be setting up your family and any future foster children for very serious trouble. That's not fair to anyone.
That being said, if her issue truly is a lack of confidence, there are several ways you can ease into fostering. It may be within her comfort zone to be involved in the system, and gain skills and self assurance from there. Just learning the jargon, the norms, the range of experiences, etc. can really do wonders in terms of feeling like you "belong" in this world.
Perhaps you could commit to being a CASA volunteer first. Usually you cannot be both a foster parent and a CASA due to conflicts of interest, but you could commit to a case or two as a volunteer, follow those cases to their resolution, and decide after that if you want to pursue a foster license. Afterwards, or instead, you could go ahead and get licensed as a foster home but commit only to providing respite care. This is a great service for foster homes. You would be a licensed home providing short term care, such as if a foster family is going to an out of state family wedding but their child's bio parents won't giver permission for the travel. Or if a foster child has a long term/pre-adoptive foster home waiting for them, but the family has a pre-arranged trip first and an interim placement is needed. Respite care tends to be short term and clearly defined. You would be providing a service to foster kids and foster parents, you would learn a lot and get to know the local case workers, but you don't have to commit to a long term placement of your own.
You are probably right that not sorting this out could strain your relationship. If my husband hadn't been on board with fostering, we definitely would have had an issue. But if, even after dipping her toes in the system, your wife is still not comfortable, perhaps being a CASA volunteer or respite home could be a long term solution for you to fulfill your calling without overwhelming your wife. However with your big move to Utah coming up, it sounds like you will have an environment that is more conducive to taking on a new challenge in the home - maybe she will be quite happy fostering in your new situation!
Best of luck!
Thanks for the info. CASA and respite are great suggestions. I'm obviously not going to go against the wishes of my wife or family. They have to be on board 100%. There's a big difference between persuasion and manipulation.
I recently volunteered as a CAFA. Not quite the same as a CASA. I was a mentor and court advocate for a youth who had been arrested. The youth ran away, ODed, moved, changed his phone number, moved again, got arrested again and again, and his case manager, parents, and PO relied on me to keep deal with all of it (rather than the other way around). I gave it my best effort, but the lack of support made me relieved to finish my 12 month obligation.
I carpooled with a woman for about a year who was a CASA and she had a very good experience. She was assigned with a 4 year old I think and was always gabbing about getting ice cream and buying clothes, etc. and how she really felt like she made a difference. I know that the CASA program is very different from what I did, but, I do have a bad taste in my mouth.
After backing out of the foster process, and after some time, we wanted to do respite, but enough time had passed that our training had expired and my wife didn't want to go through all of that again. I think that makes a lot of sense for us. Have given respite or used respite as a foster parent? How frequent do you imagine respite opportunities come up?