My husband and I talked a lot before we even started dating. We worked together for a few years and talked a lot during those times. One thing I wanted to be sure of in our intentional conversation is that we agreed on kids, both how many we would have and how we would have them. I knew I wanted kids, and I was completely certain that I wanted to do foster care someday. I grew up with foster and adoptive siblings, many of my family members and friends had fostered, I had done two short years of college studying Social Work-this was a non negotiable. Josh agreed that if it felt right for our family, we would do it in a few years-after all I was only 20 years old when we began this journey. We decided on a few years to settle into our marriage and we would start the classes.
Then we met Loo.
I’ll call her Loo in this, for privacy reasons. She was a spunky kiddo, in the double digits of age. We met her through one of those “family and friends” who also fostered. Loo was living in her home and had a pretty rough past. We spent time with her and fell in love. The foster family let us know the agency was looking for a forever placement and they couldn’t do it…and then my husband uttered words I never thought he would say; “I think we should get licensed right away.”
(Itty bitty baby us!)
So before my 21st birthday, before we had our wedding plans set, before we said I do-I was calling our local DCF office and asked them to begin the process of becoming a licensed home. As we took our marriage classes, we also took foster parent classes. We were picking out rings for each other and picking out bedding for a spare room. We had everything going our way and we knew, just knew our marriage was going to begin perfectly.
DCF decided we weren’t fit to become parents to this little lady. Her trauma was too extensive, her history too checkered, and we were young and unable to care for her because of those reasons.
Suddenly, our perfect future fell apart. We were forced to re-evaluate what we wanted and how we wanted to approach the foster care aspect of it all. Josh didn’t want to foster anymore at all and my heart was just broken. This setback shattered my heart into a million pieces.
This was the first time our marriage was tested by foster care, but not the last. Almost 7 months later, when we agreed to two placements, our lives changed immediately. Three months after that, when I said yes to two more placements on a whim while Joshua was at work, it tested us again. While we battled in court, as we did visits, as our entire life was put under constant scrutiny and questioning by lawyers and workers. We have celebrated adoptions and guardianships and reunifications together; we have mourned as we watch biological families fall into bad habits.
Foster care and adoption can be hard, y’all. Being married and living it day in and day out is really hard. We never knew who would be in our home the next month; we couldn’t go out on surprise dates because we could only use criminally checked babysitters.
Going through it with the person I love also made it that much easier though! I in no way want to discourage anyone from fostering or adopting through foster care-I have four wonderful forever children I got through foster care, who I would never give up all the nights crying or fights in court for.
But how do you survive foster care and subsequentially adoptions effect on a marriage then?? I have one pretty big piece of advice and it’s the number one reason our days sitting in offices and reading case files didn’t tear us apart.
Always put your marriage first.
This can be a controversial thing to say, but I’m okay with that. When it comes to surviving foster care or adoption, put your marriage first. Spend time together, enjoy your spouse, trust them and always ask them before you make any plans. Let them get through the system the way they need to. My husband and I are very different when it comes to biological families-I strive to understand and love, he gets angry at injustices and keeps himself at a distance. Neither of us are right in the way we approach it-it’s just how we are.
Keep your marriage first. Put it before bio families. Put it before the court days, before the visitations, before the children even. And keep fighting to put it first. Love each other loudly and be on the same team, always. Pray together, for each other, for your own weaknesses and strength. Put Jesus in the center of your marriage and your marriage as one of the most important parts of your life.
Foster care has been one of the most trying things to our marriage, but it’s also been one of the sweetest gifts.
Have we had nights where we disagreed? Yep. Have we felt our lives being attacked, our opinions and child rearing beliefs being dismissed? Yep. Have there been times when we had to step back and say no to specific placements, because one of us wasn’t getting the go-ahead while praying? Yep. Has our marriage been tested? So much yes.
But we agree the most important thing for helping your marriage survive the crazy world of foster care is, please, put each other first.
That’s how we survived. It’s how we thrive daily still. Intentionally putting our marriage first, with Jesus in the center of it all.