Parenthood is an amazing thing—not for everyone, but certainly for me. I’m a sucker for pregnant bellies, babies and toddlers, but I don’t discriminate; kids of all ages bring me joy. Which is good, since I’ve brought five of them into the world. And even though my experience is changing as one-by-one they’re heading to, or graduating from, college (something I’m admittedly struggling with), I never lose sight of how generous biology has been to me; easy conceptions, easy pregnancies, easy deliveries, a not-so-uncommon feat for many women, yet impossible for others. A fact I consider every time I start to fret about my eventual empty nest status. Having five kids’ worth of parenting memories, and more to come as they reach new milestones, is a gift that I don’t take for granted. Because I know that many, many women, and men, would trade my lament for the chance to bring even one child into the world with such ease.
It’s heartbreaking to watch friends and family struggle with infertility. Equally so, with adoption, a word filled with possibility, but also with uncertainty. After months of failed infertility treatments, “uncertainty” is a very difficult state to sustain. I know, because I have looked on helplessly as several of my friends have navigated the path of uncertainty with mixed results. Adoption can be a beautiful alternative, but it’s far from smooth-sailing. And though not everyone chooses adoption because of difficulty conceiving naturally, those who do, are emotionally and physically tapped out by the time they reach that decision.
What these men and women need most, is a strong support system, friends and family who will share the ups and the downs of their journey optimistically and lovingly. Who can help them vet resources and find creative ways to pay the bills.
One such resource is Help Us Adopt, a financial assistance grant program that provides qualified couples and individuals (regardless of race, religion, marital status or sexual preference) with grants of up to $15,000.00 towards their adoption expenses. Since filing as a 501(c)(3) in 2007, this dynamic, New York-based nonprofit has awarded $770,000 to 91 families. Grants are awarded twice a year, in June and December. The most recent awards were just announced last week: $10,000 to 10 families—two LGBT families, five heterosexual married couples, and three single women.
This generosity would be welcome any time of year, but during a season that is unrivaled in its kid-centricity, the possibility of “family” surely feels nothing less than miraculous. As does this small, but growing organization’s ability to create such profound, lasting impact during a shaky economy wherein myriad others are fighting to carry out their missions.
Right about now, you’ve likely done a bit of gulping with each swipe of the credit card, fulfilling those holiday wish lists. I’m with you. But for today, take a deep breath and a moment to think about how much money couples and individuals spend on in vitro and other infertility treatments before their child makes its grand entrance into the world. This staggering sum is exactly why Help Us Adopt came into existence. And why founder Becky Fawcett works so tirelessly to summon donations and to get people involved any way they can.
Like the clients Help Us Adopt serves, Fawcett’s journey to becoming a mother was fraught with emotional and financial strain. Her story IS the story of Help Us Adopt. There are countless others, and these are the ones she wants you to hear—and share. Creating awareness about the need for financial support is the first step to achieving Fawcett’s mission of building families “one grant at a time.”
As noted above, I am well aware that parenthood isn’t for everyone, and neither is adoption. However, the fact remains that in this country alone, 400,000 children are in need of homes. Globally, that number increases to 153 million. On the other side, in the U.S., there are approximately 2 million individuals and couples passionately seeking to become families. These figures should mandate a review of how adoptions are handled across the board, and how costs can be minimized. There is no good reason why those who want to adopt should be stalled by finances when they’re actually taking kids out of the system and picking up the tab for their future. From a child welfare viewpoint, adoptions make sense. The prohibitive costs, don’t.
Unless you’ve had a friend go through the adoption process, it’s difficult to comprehend the expansive list of who needs to be paid—lawyers (the adopting family covers the cost for both parties), doctors, social workers, pet and house sitters—along with international tariffs, air and travel expenses, car rental costs… it goes on and on. Generally, adoptive parents can expect to spend a minimum of $25,000, a number that is out of reach for many deserving people. What Help Us Adopt aims to do, is be the final piece that enables an adoption attempt to succeed.
“That last $10-$15,000 can make or break a family’s ability to bring a child home,” says Fawcett. “When we are able to meet that need, it’s an indescribable feeling. We are helping good people who have enormous love and a desire to build a family no matter what the sacrifice. We are humbled every day by the applications and thank you letters we receive. It is very moving to learn how they got to this point, to us.”
With so many children around the world in need of stability and a sense of belonging—and so many men and women longing to become parents—finding a less expensive, and rigorous, means to bring them together seems logical. This, of course, is the beauty of Help Us Adopt; knowing intimately, what men and women feel, fear and desire over the course of an adoption, and being open-minded as to what a family looks like, enables Fawcett to give grant applicants something as equally valuable as money; sincere compassion for their experience.
“It’s a long and lonely process,” says Fawcett. “I’ve been there; I can be a cheerleader… the voice that can credibly say, ‘soon it will all be behind you.’”
While there are many organizations and individuals who strive to guide would-be parents as efficiently and trauma-free as possible, negative outcomes do occur. This is a source of personal frustration for Fawcett, who consistently witnesses how hard it is for applicants to navigate the system. “Red tape” is a necessary evil, but it can be overwhelming and stretch people’s timetables and budgets further than anticipated.
Says Fawcett, “Underneath the optimism and perseverance, there’s a high level of desperation and vulnerability. It’s easy for applicants to be taken advantage of. The ‘good guys’ are out there; the goal is to find them.”
As soon as you make that decision, she advises, get a legal team in place and find families that had a positive experience. Ask if they’re willing to share their story and if they’ll provide references. If you do this first, she suggests, when you hear the bad stories—which you will—you won’t be derailed.
“Find out WHY those adoptions were bad,” she says, “and use that information to guide you. Trust your instincts: If something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t.”
And most importantly, get comfortable with the word adoption. “Start talking about it every day, and everywhere. Don’t stop until you’re holding your child.”
To these words, I say, “Amen.” And, I invite you to learn more about this hardworking organization and those who’ve benefited. And to explore the giving options, as well as ways to get involved. As Fawcett so beautifully stated when summing up her appreciation for the 2000-plus donors who have made those 91 grants possible, “The fact that strangers heard our stories and supported these couples’ and individuals’ quests to be a family, is the biggest, most random act of kindness I can think of.”