Welcome Home, Little One

Before September 11th, I regularly greeted families at the airport as they arrived home with their new child. I’d wait at the gate with a lump in my throat, and, as I’d see the family coming off the plane, my eyes would fill with tears. All of those months of paperwork, phone calls, excitement and frustration were all coming together in that moment – a new child, in a new family, in a new country. In those years, the agency I worked for was only 10 minutes from the airport, and I attended many arrivals. I’d even show up in the middle of the night for families coming home on red eye flights. There is nothing more exciting than seeing families and children when they first arrive home.

These days, I don’t go to many arrivals. With heightened security keeping visitors out of terminal areas, it’s more hectic to meet families in the middle of the frenzied international baggage claim area, and our agency isn’t close to the airport anymore. But if ever there is an opportunity to be there when a family arrives home, I try to take advantage of it.

This weekend, I attended an arrival for a special little girl here in the Seattle area. The roads were packed that day, and the traffic made me anxious. I didn’t want to miss the big moment! For the last year, this little girl’s story has captured my heart, and I wanted to be there to see her first moments with her new family here in America.

After parking the car, I hurried into the airport and found my position at the top the escalator that leads to the baggage claim area. Beside me stood family and friends with “Welcome Home!” signs, children running around, searching each face on the escalator, waiting for this celebrated little one to make her appearance. It was a loud and busy and excited bunch!

Then I saw her face, riding up the escalator, her hand firmly grasping her mother’s. And my eyes filled with tears. She was grinning from ear to ear, looking around and taking it all in. Her life here is just beginning — a life filled with promise and overflowing with the love of her new parents and family. She’s here!

I like to say that each piece of paper we touch here at Agape Adoptions is connected to a child, living in an orphanage, waiting for a forever family. It’s why we’re so serious about doing our work with excellence, because children’s lives depend on it. It is such an honor to see the culmination of that work in the face of a smiling child who has found a family to love her forever. That’s why I love arrivals.

Photo courtesy of Finally a Family of Five 


Creating a Fundraising Plan

In this four-part series, we’re discussing the costs of adoption. Today, in part two, we look at funding an adoption. Who better to talk about adoption fundraising than Adoption Finance Guru, Cherri Walrod? Cherri has scoured the web and other resources for the last decade to bring adoptive families the best information in the field on adoption finance. We’re happy to share Cherri’s top five steps for successful fundraising in this series on adoption costs. Enjoy!

Five Steps to a Successful Adoption Fundraising Plan

By Cherri Walrod, Founder and Director of Resources4adoption.com

cherriWhen my family began our first adoption process over ten years ago, there were so many times when we felt completely lost. It felt like we were crawling around in a dark room with a small flashlight having to feel our way around…especially when it came to the topic of adoption financing. There was, and still is, a lot of great information available to families about the adoption process, but there is still a serious lack of resources available to help families put together a solid adoption financial plan.

Since beginning Resources4adoption.com over two years ago, I have talked to hundreds of adoptive families. It has become very apparent that you are still experiencing what I felt all those years ago. You need someone to come into the room and turn on the light!

These five steps will help guide you through a successful adoption fundraising plan.

1. Research

Investigation and research is building block number one because you much first know what is available to you. Many people are completely unaware of just how many options there are available today. When I first began my research into adoption grants and loans over ten years ago, I was amazed and encouraged by what was available. However, you must narrow those options down for what will most likely work for your family’s situation and needs.

There are four main categories for adoption financing options: Your own personal savings, adoption grants, adoption loans and adoption fundraisers. Within these categories there are some sub-categories. For example, there are three types of adoption grant options: Direct grants, matching grants and fundraising grants. Likewise, adoption loans have several options as well as some limitations.

Many of the adoption grant and loan options do have some kind of application criteria as well. Examples of common application criteria includes: Marital status, religious affiliation, income guidelines, and so on.

Thankfully, there are now tools available to help you. Resources4adoption.com is the direct result of my desire to help you sort through the maze of options and narrow down your list of viable options. Read more here

© April 2012, Resources4adoption.com
Photo courtesy: Resources4adoption.com

Understanding the Costs of Adoption

As families begin their adoption journey, Agape Adoptions encourages them to learn all they can about the process. Families spend many months talking to other adoptive parents, reading adoption blogs, researching different countries, and preparing for the arrival of their new child. For many families, the financial aspect of preparation is the most daunting. Adoption often comes at a significant cost. Prospective parents field questions from family and friends who wonder “Why is adoption so expensive?” And, perhaps, in the midst of balancing the checkbook, they too begin to wonder, “Where does the money go?”

All families who work with Agape Adoptions receive a breakdown of all fees associated with their adoptions. But sometimes those can just look like numbers on paper. In this four-part series, we’ll discuss the costs of adoption – how the money is used, how to fund an adoption, and how Agape Adoptions works as a non-profit charity agency.


Part One: Understanding the Costs of Adoption

In 2010, Adoptive Families magazine estimated that the average adoption from China cost families $28,623. Many families engage in active fundraising for their adoptions, and the U.S. government offers tax credits to adoptive parents to offset the cost. Nevertheless, the choice to adopt is a significant investment. For many families embarking on an adoption, numbers like these can be staggering and beg the question, “Where does all of the money go?”

The costs for adoption can be broken down into four basic categories: agency fees, immigration fees, country fees, and travel expenses. While the specific costs vary according to country, these fees are consistent across all international adoptions and all agencies. Simply put, they constitute the financial investment all families must make on their adoption journey.

First, all families, whether interested in domestic or international adoptions, pay fees to the agency with whom they work. These fees cover the required home study for the family and post-placement costs paid in trust. For families pursuing international adoption, this fee also includes the administrative and legal costs associated with preparing a dossier to be processed by the country from which the family wishes to adopt. These tasks require skilled professionals who have a deep understanding of the adoption process, from social workers and attorneys to health professionals and translators. All of these participants are coordinated by the agency and paid by them.

In the case of international adoptions, families pay not only for local costs (preparing documents in the U.S.) but for immigration and country expenses as well. Immigration fees are a significant portion of the adoption cost as they are paid to the U.S. government both here and abroad for the parents and the child. Country fees include administrative and legal work to prepare adoption documents. Some countries also require families to give a lump sum to the orphanage from which they are adopting as a goodwill donation, helping to subsidize the cost of raising their child while in transition.

When all of the paperwork is complete, families see the final cost – travel expenses to meet their new child. Many countries require parents to remain in-country for a lengthy period (between 2 and 4 weeks, and in some cases longer). Travel expenses such as plane tickets, hotel stays and meals are included in this fee for families. A four week trip to Uganda isn’t a budget vacation!

To be sure, parents who embark on the adoption process make a huge investment. They offer their time, their emotions, and their finances to build the family for which they long. It is a significant act, one borne of selfless love and hope for the child who will become theirs. Adoption is a costly decision; but for children waiting for a forever family, it is a priceless one.

Next installment in our series: Where will the money come from?: Creating a fundraising plan


Images: J Aaron Farrar and MoneyBlogNewz, Creative Commons License (Flickr)