What to Do When You Want to Foster but Your Partner Does Not

“I’m all in but what if my partner doesn’t want to foster?”

This is a very common question we’re asked. The answer is simple: You can’t foster. That doesn’t mean you need to give up your goal of fostering, but we’ll get to that later. State child welfare agencies rightly wouldn’t allow foster certification for only one of the adults in a house for the protection and overall well-being of the children.

Even if just one of you in the home was allowed to be certified, it would be a recipe for disaster–for your relationship, your biological kids (if you have any), and especially for the kids who will be in your care. Being foster parents is one of the biggest decisions a couple will face in their lifetimes. The stakes are high both for the family who is fostering, and even higher for the kids in their care who can’t just choose to not be in foster care if things are really hard or aren’t working out.

Kids in foster care need caring and loving adults completely committed to them and who are all in–together!

This will provide the type of loving and healthy household that will offer them crucially needed stability and consistency in times of so much uncertainty. Uncertainty is the nature of being in foster care for so many kids. 

For kids in foster care, difficult questions swirl around like a mirky, menacing fog. Questions like: “Will my parents show the judge enough that I can come home?”, “Do they want me to come home?”, “Am I going to get adopted instead?”, “Will I go to another foster home? The lingering uncertainty of the future is one of the most brutal realities of being a kid in foster care. You can see why then having fully committed adults who love them and provide stability is so necessary to both their coping and continued healing from all the accumulated trauma and loss that’s been part of their journey so far.

There is hope though that your partner will become inspired and bought in at some point. 

The encouraging thing here is that many people who’ve went on to become great and passionate foster parents didn’t start out that way. It’s really common that one of the two catches the inspirational spark first and their partner takes longer to consider the idea. For some individuals, it may be a slower process of being convinced that they have what it takes or having more pragmatic concerns around various issues in and out of the home. That’s completely normal and ok. What’s not ok is to bully over your partner to agree to do this or to move forward together in the process if one partner still isn’t really bought in and is just going through the motions. 

So what can you do in the meantime?

Be patient. Take the time to help your partner see and hear what has gotten you so inspired. It could involve sharing resources on the need for more foster parents. Maybe it’s sharing stories from former foster youth talking about the powerful impact their foster parents had on their lives. It could be watching inspiring videos together and hearing stories of how impactful fostering has been for foster parents. Maybe it’s talking with friends who’ve fostered. You know the things that motivate and inspire your partner. If they’re open to exploring the idea more, do so at their pace. Learn more about fostering. The reality is they may never get onboard. Even if that’s the case, you have the ability to still tremendously help kids in foster care and the foster parents caring for them.

 A great way to get some “hands on” involvement with foster care is to find ways to support local foster parents and kids in foster care in your church or community. A growing number of faith communities across the country have foster parent support programs known as “Wrap Around” or “WRAP teams.” These offer volunteers’ tangible ways to serve local foster families through providing meals, doing laundry, yard work, and the list goes on. Learn more about supporting foster families in your community.

Some faith communities host “Parents Night Out” events where volunteers can serve foster parents and the kids in their care. All of these foster parent support opportunities allow you both the chance to see foster care at a closer view and in some cases meet kids in foster care and talk with foster parents. Often the journey into closer proximity breaks down pre-conceived barriers, and some people who were once volunteers supporting foster families go on to become foster parents themselves. 

Unity together in heart and mind is so crucial in this decision to foster. It shouldn’t be rushed. As the writer Paulo Coehlo once said, “Give time, time.”

Meanwhile, continue to learn more about ways to get involved and find other ways you can help support foster parents in your community. As you do, keep spreading awareness on the need for others to become engaged in supporting foster care in all the ways you’ve learned so far.

These actions are no less valuable than being foster parents! 

WATCH: The profound impact fostering has had on one family

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