Q: Our family recently heard about the need for foster families, especially those willing to adopt. We're intrigued. What should we think about before deciding?
Jim: With more than 100,000 legal orphans in United States foster care waiting for adoptive families, more and more families are looking into adoption. It's a big step to take, and there are many things to consider.
This issue is close to my heart because I spent time in the foster system as a child. And my wife and I have fostered several kids over the last few years. With planning and lots of prayer, it can be a beautiful thing.
Dr. Debi Grebenik, a Colorado Springs-based licensed social worker with extensive experience in foster care and adoption, emphasizes that the adoption journey begins with a commitment for life. In other words, it's similar to a marriage. The adoption process calls for love and understanding, in sickness and in health and for richer or poorer -- because there will be unforeseen detours, mountaintop experiences and deep valleys along the way. But adoptive parents who begin the process faithfully and fearlessly are more likely to see it through.
Just like all moms and dads, adoptive parents must be prepared to love their child unconditionally. Some kids have deep emotional wounds after spending years in foster care. They may display manipulation, defiance, aggression, depression and other challenging behaviors. However, an adoptive parent's unconditional love may be the only lifeline these children have as they emerge from an unstable environment and learn what it means to be part of a permanent, solid family for the first time in their lives. And the blessings and rewards far outweigh the challenges for those who are willing to take the plunge.
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Q: A little bit of conflict is normal in marriage, right? My wife and I have our occasional "issues," but we get along a lot better than most couples we know.
Greg Smalley, Vice President, Marriage and Family Formation: Here's an analogy: What do you do when you see a crack developing in a wall of your house? Ignore it? Cover it with paint? Or do you figure out the source of the problem and fix it?
In 1995, employees at a five-story department store in South Korea noticed a crack in one of the support columns. Despite warnings from the building engineers, the store's owner refused to close the building for repairs. He insisted it was a minor problem. But the crack was a symptom of a much larger structural failure. Just a few months later, the entire building collapsed, killing over 500 people.
Similar catastrophes take place within marriages every day. Couples often notice the cracks in their marriage, but they choose to ignore them. The problem seems so small and insignificant. Why deal with it now and go through all that emotional upheaval for nothing? What couples fail to recognize is the crack may be the first sign of a larger issue developing within the relationship. Ignore those problems, and the structure of the marriage could weaken over time, bringing the whole thing crashing to the ground.
If you want a healthy marriage, look beneath the cracks in your relationship and address the larger problems hiding there. Strengthen your marriage by addressing small problems before they become large ones.
To jump-start this process, go to FocusOnTheFamily.com and search "marriage assessment tools." We offer a couple of checkup options, both free and at minimal cost, to help you and your spouse identify the strengths of your relationship as well as weak spots. And we have plenty of tools to help you fix the cracks.