Question: My sister and her husband have asked my wife and me to agree to be caregivers for their three children in the event of their untimely death. We already have three children of our own, and our finances are pretty tight. Is it possible to decline? Is there a way to decline without causing offence?

Answer:

Without more information, it’s too soon for you to say yes or no. The fact that your sister and brother-in-law have asked you to consider this important issue indicates a strong trust, and that they hold you in high regard. But you four parents have much to consider. What needs to happen first is deep, meaningful dialogue, so that both couples (and families) can explore and understand expectations together.

For instance, if the children in question are teens, what would they want in this situation? Does your sister expect you to adopt her children, or to foster them and help preserve their distinct family identity? What financial and legal issues would need to be addressed, and what resources do your sister and her husband plan to make available to you, should the unthinkable happen. Do they have life insurance or living wills?

At the same time, you will need to raise concerns you and your spouse may share. You mention that finances are currently tight in your home. Do you see potential for this to change in the future? Is your lifestyle one that could accommodate additional children who depend on you? Do both families have the same outlook concerning things of faith, or is there a significant difference here?

These and many other issues will need to be thoroughly explored by both couples before you are ready to step forward or step away from accepting a guardian role for your sister’s children. Consider investing in some sessions with a skilled family therapist to help explore these conversations. Focus on the Family Canada offers a referral service to help you identify Christian counsellors in your area. For help with this matter, you can contact us by calling 1.800.661.9800.

© 2015 Focus on the Family (Canada) Association. All rights reserved.

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