That was me. I believed foster care was a great idea…for other people. And like most wives, my wife was gung ho about foster care and adoption. I came along willingly, albeit kicking and screaming. But deciding to foster or adopt is a big life decision and should not be made haphazardly. Both partners need to be on board in order to be successful. So how do you do that?

1. Have an open, honest conversation with yourself.

What is your motivation? Trying to keep up with the Jones? Infertility issues? Pressure from mom to produce a kid? Do you have other unmet needs? Please keep in mind that the needs of the child come before yours. And sometimes, the needs are deep. Are you willing to wait till your spouse comes around?

2. Have an open, honest conversation with your spouse.

Have you spoken with your spouse? He may have reservations that are valid like time and a change in the dynamics of the family. Perhaps the reluctant spouse is concerned about safety, has not come to terms with infertility, or feels she will be left out. Here is the bottom line. If you move before he is ready, the whole plan may fall through. Everyone needs to be on the same page—down to the youngest child—and sometimes even the dogs. Well, maybe not the dogs. How stable is your marriage/relationship? I’ve seen many a marriage end up in divorce court after they started the process of foster licensing because one person felt left out of the process. It is a dangerous thing to choose foster care over your marriage. Don’t be that person who went ahead with the process, regardless of the other person’s feelings. There needs to be a compromise, not a winners vs. losers scenario.

3. Have an open, honest conversation with another couple.

Are there other couples who have been down the same road as you? What reservations did the reluctant spouse have? How did they resolve their issues? Pick their brains. Ask probing questions. Be transparent. Be teachable and take advice. If there are areas in your relationship that you need to work on, work on those things first before you foster. I guarantee you, if you don’t do it as soon as possible, those red flags will turn into a runaway locomotive, sooner or later.

From my point of view, fostering was an opportunity to mentor, to provide and to protect a child in need. To give children a better life they may not have normally had. I was reluctant the first time. However 25 years, 10 foster placements, and 6 adoptions later, I can honestly say it has been a blessing to us. I took the lead and pursued foster care licensing and adoption and have had no doubt that it has benefited all involved.