By Marcy McKay & Rebecca Gruenspan
“How am I going to pay for this?” is very likely one of the first questions prospective parents ask themselves when considering adoption. Often, people rely on personal savings, employer-provided adoption benefits, gifts from family members, loans, fundraisers and grants to pay adoption fees. Tax credits can help to recoup a portion of fees, after adoptions are finalized.
I had an opportunity to speak with Marcy McKay, Chapter Board Recruiter at A Gift of Adoption Fund (Gift) to learn a bit more about the grant process. Now, keep in mind, like with anything in adoption, every agency, every state, and every organization does things in their own way. I’m only reporting about one grant-funding source. There are many.
Gift of Adoption Fund is the nation’s leading provider of adoption grants on a non-discriminatory basis. There are many funds that have criteria based on religion and other measures. Gift of Adoption is NOT one of them. They offer grants to adopting parents without considering an applicant’s marital status, gender, race, creed, national origin, religion, age or sexual orientation. Instead, Gift of Adoption requires applicants to be U.S. citizens and to have an approved home study from a licensed and accredited provider. People adopting internationally must be working with Hague-compliant providers.
Every year, Gift receives over 500 applications. Since they can fund slightly less than half of all approved applications, priority is placed on adoptions…
- That keep siblings together
- Of children with medical/special needs
- That prevent children from aging out of foster care or orphanage care
- That prevent children from entering foster care – this one would include infant adoption.
Gift of Adoption grants are meant to serve as “last mile” funding— money that separates children from the permanency of loving parents – as envisioned by the organization’s founders, Gene and Lucy Wyka. After spending months (instead of weeks, as they had anticipated) in Peru adopting their oldest son, Gene and Lucy were troubled by one question: How was it that they were home safe and sound while so many other would-be adoptive parents had to abandon their adoptions and leave children behind? That’s when the Wykas decided to begin funding grants to provide parents with money that would prevent them from having to abandon adoptions they were close to completing.
It really became clear to me, in talking with Marcy, that the emphasis in giving grants is placed on the child. They will look at whether it’s the child’s last chance before being put into the “system,” or the child’s best situation. The review committee asks…”By giving a grant, can trauma be reduced on this baby by moving straight into this family’s home?” They will look at the risks to the child to determine if the grant will elevate the child’s outcome.
By giving a grant, can trauma be reduced on the baby by moving straight into this family’s home?
Here are a few scenarios based on the four criteria above…
Let’s take the first group. The adoptive parents have adopted previously. The birthmother becomes pregnant again; she’s due in 4-6 weeks and decides she needs to make another adoption plan for her baby. She would like this baby to be with her other baby and reaches out again to the adoptive parent(s). The adoptive parent(s) apply for a grant because they can’t possibly fund an adoption in a month.
In the second scenario, Jill, a single mother of four, recently receives a grant to adopt an infant who was born with Spina Bifida. She was asked to foster the baby but agreed to adopt him after spending a day with him and his mother at the hospital. “There was no financial way for me to do a private adoption, but the [birthmother’s] adoption agency said that they would reduce their fees and help me get grants if I was serious about adopting him,” Jill said. The agency, recognizing the challenge of getting children with significant special needs adopted, led her to Gift of Adoption Fund for assistance— and Isaac became Jill’s fifth child. She said that when you remove his diagnoses from the equation, he’s just like any other kid—one she can’t imagine her life without.
In the next situation, Bradley and Brittany received a grant to complete their adoption of a 13-year-old boy who had spent nearly half of his life in an orphanage. The couple used their savings, held personal fundraisers, and even initiated a home-based business to fund their adoption. When reflecting on the impact of the grant, the couple said that they had worked very hard to raise more than half their combined annual income to complete the process, and the grant enabled them to get their son home sooner. He had waited long enough.
Finally, here’s a testimonial from a couple who received a grant for their infant adoption. “The birth mother made the decision to place our daughter for adoption shortly after delivery, which lead to a very short time frame for us to make the decision to pursue the adoption. If an adoptive family wasn’t found, she would mostly likely have been placed in foster care. Both of us have worked with children in foster care, so we did not want to see a newborn have to enter that system if it could be avoided. As soon as we saw our daughter, there was no doubt in our mind she would come into our family and we signed the match agreement that day.”
Justin, Shawnna, daughter Mya and newly adopted son Xavier.
“With the help of this grant, we were able to adopt our son Xavier,” Justin said. “We held him in our arms for the first time when he was just three days old.” The couple’s journey to parenthood was long and fraught with tremendous difficulty. “Knowing about grant organizations definitely influenced our decision to begin the process sooner.” Xavier is the couple’s second child.
You will notice that in each of these scenarios, an adoption situation has already been presented and/or a match made. Typically, if there is a need at that point, an agency social worker may suggest a granting organization or the adoptive parent(s) will do their own research online.
No matter what the scenario, the prospective parent, when applying for a grant, needs to show financial need (the average household income of a grantee in 2015 was $60,000) and what they have done to fund their adoption thus far. Have they exhausted all their options and just need help to be able to bring home their baby?
When applying for a grant through Gift, the prospective parent asks for the specific amount that they are lacking. Therefore, it’s best that a family is matched FIRST before applying. If they haven’t been matched yet, the application will be placed on hold.
Grant money is raised by volunteer board members who want to positively impact children’s lives. Often, Gift of Adoption Fund board members are adoptive parents and adult adoptees who feel a pull to give back. Chapter board members from across the country meet via conference call monthly to review applications and grant funds. Emergency meetings are called as needed to review urgent requests, and all applications are reviewed up to three times for consideration. Last year, grants averaged $3,569 and went as high as $7,500. Once a grant has been approved, the money is given to the provider (agency or attorney), NOT the adoptive couple, to insure that the money is going to complete the adoption.
Bottom line, if applying for a grant with Gift, you have to wait for a match and be able to present a compelling case. Explain your need AND risk to the child if the adoption doesn’t go through in a timely manner.