Monday, August 4, 2014

Funding Our Adoption

How much is it... total? You know you want to ask. Or maybe you have.

When it's all said and done, it'll be about $25-30K. 

Enter one of two: stunned stare or a quick, "that's about what I had heard," to recover from said stunned stare.

So how did we plan on being able to cover this amount? Several factors played a role in our plan:

  • We were living overseas when we began the process. Our financial situation looked pretty different when we were living below the poverty line in the IRS's eyes. We had savings, we had refunds, we had enough to live on there with little expectation for more. We weren't interested in having a car, we rented, and our grocery bills could be easily managed according to how much we ate like the locals.
  • Travel expenses to pick up our child in-country were pretty minor. 
  • We saw other families around us who had adopted and they looked a lot like us--their heart, their life stage, their financial situation.
  • We were working off of an incorrect number. Our naivety on adoption made us only ask about our adoption agency's fees. $12K. Not a small amount of money, but we could wrap our minds around it. (We did not take other government agency fees, couriers, orphanage fee or travel expenses into account.)
  • We had heard about grants. Who wouldn't want to help a family adopt an orphan? Aren't there big government agencies and organizations backing this sort of thing?
  • We knew that adopting was squarely placed on our hearts by God. We had seen how He had come through on similar "left-field" plans from Him. We didn't doubt He'd take care of the details on this one. After all, He had already moved the greatest boulder of all--my heart.

And so, our funding plan looked like this: 
our savings + tax returns + grants (if needed)

We could do this. It was a bit fuzzy, but we could sleep at night. 

Enter: curveball. Like the kind of curveball you get when your entire world is flipped on its head "curveball." 

We moved back to the States. 

Plan A went out the window. Its remnant became Plan B: apply for grants, and try to rebuild savings. It didn't feel like a plan so much as a grasping for a former glory. 

One route we did not want to take was fundraisingWe'd been there, done that, and were tired. We were even told that we needed to go to a course about fundraising to get us re-ignited and re-strategized. (It was probably a worthy suggestion, but timing didn't work out.) We said in our hearts, "as long as we don't have to ask for others to help in this adoption, we're all in!" 

The factors that lay before us now:

  • Our savings were depleted within months of moving back to the United States. We bought a house (that's the responsible thing to do, right? It'll look good to the social worker, right?)
  • Ryan got a great job that provides well for our bills! (This is a good thing, ya'll!) But with that, bye bye hefty IRS checks. :)
  • Savings that we worked on replenishing kept being needed for all the little things... house repairs, cheap cars, insurance and things we just didn't think about while living in China. We can't complain. We were given so much! Furniture, a car, family "housewarming" gifts! But it's just a lot to get use to, lots of expenses we didn't know to expect.
  • Travel for our "gotcha day" to get our adopted son would double our adoption costs.
So, we managed. We worked on paying adoption bills out of pocket little by little, and I got determined in filling out extra paperwork--grant applications. The process and amount of money we could hope for was obscure, but I knew it was time to give it a stab as our social worker report was complete at this point. We applied for five total.

Our first grant application was accepted--yay! It was one run by a couple from a church that we use to be members of. (Actually, they even had us over for dinner and we met their adopted son from Taiwan... back when adoption wasn't a blip on my radar!) The Abba Fund accepted us and... guess what?! We were now free to fundraise!!!

Wait. What?

That's what they do. That's what I was applying for. They help families mobilize their network to get involved in adoption. The Abba Fund manages donations via their 510c3 organization, making donations tax-deductible and protecting families from committing tax blunders. They also offer debt-free loans. 

Funny how God removes your conditions. He's into the unconditional. Unconditional love, unconditional devotion, unconditional submission.

Here I was, so excited, and befuddled. "I guess it'll be good to have something we can refer people to in case they'd like to give towards our adoption." I read the success stories and saw how families were empowered to overcome the greatest said hurdle to adopting--financial burden--and weave children into their home that were once orphans. It's a beautiful, precious thing. 

I put our good news out on Facebook, telling our friends and family that they could give if they wanted to. I was surprised to see others jump right in, as if waiting for such an opportunity! 

Disclaimer / Spoiler Alert: Let me be clear. This is not the type of grassroots success story where we put out a little shoutout on social media and watched the ticker go bonkers while we're hitting refresh on our computer and jumping with champagne in our hands. When I say I'm amazed at the response we got, it's because I'm amazed that anyone would give towards the future of a little boy they'll likely only know through online pictures. I'm floored that God moves hearts to decide to do something for the good of another and then take all the tedious stamps to fulfill that desire. 

An example would be my friend {of all of one year} who planned, invited, and organized a schnazzy fundraising show with the help of my schnazzy-at-hospitality in-laws. 

Another example is a friend and business collaborator who saw my online fundraising auction, and said he and his wife want to buy up any art that wasn't sold.

Or my little cousin giving from his savings. 

Or my mother and stepfather whose prison ministry we support, essentially giving us more than we send their way in a year.

Or the friend of a friend who I've never met, but felt he wanted to give. He serves children as a clown with a Bible visiting churches.

And there was the woman from church who got a gift in the mail and, "knew right away who I wanted to bless with it!"

Or the creative lifesavers like a Fed-Ex account number for the endless legal envelopes or airline miles for our coming travel.  

And the many stories of families, friends, and acquaintances who could've used those funds for an endless list of things, but didn't. 

THAT'S what leaves me staggering. And THAT is how God works. We didn't want to invite others into our adoption-funding equation. But God was pleased to bring a long list of others in; many people from different stages in our lives... or with whom we have no history at all. This adopting thing, it's mainly an our-family-thing, but it's not only an our-family thing. Any parent understands that the upbringing of their child is a shared labor. At the end of the day, you're responsible for it, but you're not the only one who's had a hand in it. 

Other people have become a big factor in our funding equation:
our savings + grants + donations 

So great. You're thinking. Let's talk numbers. 

These are very loose figures of how far we've come: about $19K

  • $7K - Our savings
  • $5K - donations and fundraisers! (via Abba Fund, ShowHope, personal gifts, art sales)
  • $7K - Grants (awarded two, declined one)

About $19K total DONE. YES!

What's left: about $10K
Travel • Passports/Visa/Adoption Legalities • Post-Adoption Visits 

We are over half of the way there! AND HOW! We will do the majority of the travel planning in order to keep our travel (airfare, hotel, food) expenses down. 

Our final funding equation may include a loan or some debt of some sort. I'm hoping not, but it wouldn't be the end of the world. At least it's debt that's well worth it, hurt worth hurting over... the good kind. (Should I loosely throw in a little 1 Peter reference into this circumstance or is that a stretch? :) ) You get what I mean.

I've really benefitted from reading others' stories of how they did it. The best stories have another factor I didn't explicitly list above. As circumstances changed, and even when I found myself crying before sending a FedEx shipment that didn't have the check it should have in there (yet), there was always the X-Factor.

When ridiculous people doing ridiculous things have amazing results everyone knows that God is the X factor. - Mark Driscoll, Sermon: Resurgence 2013 Conference, Call to Resurgence 14:13 min.

Our story isn't over, but the stage is certainly set. God has been too good to keep it to ourselves. I hope that our story (thus far) encourages you in your "ridiculous" (outlandish) adventure. Be passionate, plan, go for it, and watch it unravel.