I make a lot of assumptions in my day-to-day life…sometimes they are correct, and other times they are best left un-assumed. I was confronted with one of these (better left un-assumed) assumptions the other day that caught me completely off-guard. It is directly related to our adoption story/process and fundraising especially, so I am taking challenge given to me and addressing it as best I can.
My assumption was this: Fundraising for an international adoption (or any large-fee domestic adoption) is a normal process and a universally accepted and understood practice.
My unexpected confrontation with my mistaken assumption was a series of questions asked of me that I wasn’t prepared to need to answer! I was flustered, and frustrated, while at the same time bewildered at the idea that my world of perceived “universal” acceptance and understanding was not so universal after all – and happened to include people close to me that were as foreign to my fundraising concept as I was to their own bewilderment!
(side note, does anyone else feel a slight twinge of a need to watch an episode of Project Runway about now? “Bewildered” is a word that I do not often use, but when I do, I feel like I should be wearing an impeccable plaid suit and addressing designers in a workroom like Tim Gunn…“I am…utterly…befuddled and bewildered right now! I just cannot even comprehend the placement of this horrendous pleating!”)
Back to my thoughts. I realize now that there are many people who are not comfortable with this fundraising concept – not because they are callous people or Scrooges, but simply because they don’t understand. I was challenged to post a Q&A of sorts addressing this issue – and these are not necessarily questions that I was asked (although some will be) but are those that I allowed myself to think through after being made aware of this other plane of thinking. I tend to write as i think in my head, so (disclaimer!) I apologize in advance if it drags on forever! 🙂
I began to sense some sort of glitch in the matrix when I got the question, “Is this what you guys were expecting?” mid-stride when discussing the stress of planning our upcoming auction. After some probing, I realized the question was more along the lines of “were you expecting this much of monstrosity of cost involved financially when you signed on the dotted line??!!” My immediate answer was, “of course!” Our agency is amazing at preparing families for everything they can – both financially and commitment wise. We knew that heading into this international adoption we were looking at a hefty financial investment. However, we also knew without a doubt that we had been handed this opportunity and the door had been flung open. Kris and I both have a heart for children and for expanding our family, and there is a black hole within each of us where compassion runs infinitely. We were positive that if God was calling us to make a decision of this magnitude – both for our family and financially, that He would provide the finances to do so. We weren’t sure where the funding would come from – whether it was to be gifts, donations, fundraising efforts, or in the form of increased paychecks from Kris’ employer. But we knew (and continue to trust) that He will provide and lead us toward and through what He has placed in our path.
We knew the price tag, and even then, we know it has always been simply an estimate. There is always an extension of grace on these kinds of cost-evaluations, because with an international system of governments like this, there is always the possibility of things to go awry, an extra document to be needed, another trip you’re required to make, or for the entire country to shut down it’s adoption wing. In that case, many times you are forced to start again from scratch either for a different country, or for the same country when it does reopen, because everything you already put together has expired.
The main piece of information that I felt was vital to give when answering this initial question was that we’re not asking for “money” or “donations” because we’re broke. It’s not a mad dash and a desperate scramble to scrape up $35,000 because we got in over our heads on a commitment we weren’t well-enough prepared to keep.
To me, that’s not the heart of fundraising. A definition of fundraising (as per googling “definition of fundraising”) is “raising money for a cause or project”. If you think about it – not many people do fundraisers for something that does not have a cause or a project behind (or in front of) it. What was the last auction or fundraiser you were involved in? Humane Society or other Pet-friend Auction or dinner? International Mission-organization event? Did you buy a coupon book for a local school fundraiser, or attend a Bingo Night for the PTA? All of those are fundraisers for a cause – or a project. People don’t ask you to donate because they are broke (although I may rest my case with the school system), they ask you to donate in order to partner with them in the cause.
If you give to the Humane Society you are making a difference to those extra animals that are provided with better care. It’s not YOUR animal, necessarily – most likely someone else’s – but you’re being invited to join the cause – and to attach your heart to the outcome. If you buy a coupon book, or Bingo cards, or raffle tickets at a PTA function – you’re showing your support and your encouragement towards the project or the cause – you are helping to provide more students with better education, better tools for learning, updated programs, additional funded programs, etc. Your child may not even go to that school – but you believe in the cause – and you believe in promise of hope to some extent that the outcome holds.
Now you may see where I’m heading with the subject of adoption. We’ll get there in a minute!
There are several different ways that a family could pay for an adoption. Sometimes the financial cost is small – even borderline free – other times, especially in international or special needs adoptions, the cost is astronomical. Our experience/country is just one of many of the significantly large estimates, although they can skyrocket to way over $45,000 depending on the situation. I’ll speak to international adoption here, as they are usually the highest cost with multiple governments involved and translation fees, dual court fees, etc. Most families who contemplate international adoption will not have a discretionary spending or charitable giving account with a running balance of $20,000-50,000. In fact, most of us probably don’t even know more than one or two people in our entire circles of friends/acquaintances who have that kind of money that is not already allocated. Most likely that number would have a (-) negative sign in front of it, or be in a red colored font!
Sometimes in an adoption situation, you will have prospective adoptive parents who do not have any biological children, who have either tried other ways to have a child, or who decided early on that their intention was to adopt. In those situations, sometimes several years has gone by in the prep/planning stages, enough time to save a “nest egg” of sorts to use towards the funding of the adoption. But even in those situations, you would have to have an extremely good income to be able to save an extra $10,000/year in addition to your savings accounts and other budgets. It can be done, but takes a high amount of financial discipline and stability, and sometimes years of preparation.
More likely, you have either prospective adoptive parents with no biologicals, or parents (like our situation) with one or more biological children who have not had the extent of time to financially plan for this kind of decision. Some of these families choose to fund their adoptions via loans that they will pay back with money saved, or with their adoption tax credit in the spring. Many more, however, will resort to some kind of fundraising attempt, or applying for grant funding from organizations nationwide like Lifesong for Orphans, Help Us Adopt, Gift of Adoption, the Abba Fund, and Show Hope (to name a few). These organizations are put in place due to the intense need of families for orphaned children worldwide. These organizations are fully aware of the high-cost of adoptions and are poised to provide grants to selected applicants throughout each year.
Grant funding is a wonderful option, when applicable, and when it is awarded – however there are large numbers of families in need of adoption funds, and not enough grant funding supply to meet the demand. There are strict guidelines that grants are awarded within, and even if a family does qualify, there are hundreds if not thousands of other families that have all qualified and are applying for the same grant.
The other option is fundraising. Here now, is the question of the day – Adoption is such a personal decision – YOU are deciding with your spouse to adopt a child that will be placed within YOUR home. So – how does a decision made privately like this all of a sudden become a public fundraising effort? Why would you ask others to contribute to a financial plight of a personal decision that you made? Good question. As foreign as it is to me, I am admitting now that it is not a foreign question to many. Here’s my answer as best as I can give it and part of this answer is directly in line with the examples of the Humane Society and PTA fundraisers above:
It becomes public, because to us, the extent of the “private” and “personal” decision ends right after we say “yes” to adoption. From then on, the ripples of that decision touch each and every one of our family and friends who know and love us – it extends to neighbors and schoolmates and teachers and clerks at our well-trafficked grocery store. (I keep a sleeping bag on the cereal aisle tucked behind the Cinnamon Life) Essentially, it’s not just us adopting a child, it’s our entire daily world adopting this child as their own as well.
I really, really want to believe that everyone has some sort of desire to be a part of something bigger than themselves. I know that isn’t true across the board, but I really feel like it SHOULD be. For those that do have that intrinsic (albeit sometimes hidden under a whole laundry list of other things) longing, I know that not everyone is called to fulfill those desires in the same way. Not everyone is called to be an Animalitarian (seriously, I’m a grammar and spelling freak I know that’s not a word – but what is the term for someone who is dedicated to the safety and protection, welfare and survival of animals? Besides PETA.). Not everyone is called to serve on the PTA board at their local school. Not everyone is called to be a doctor or do missions work, or to teach special education, or be anyone serving pro bono cases. Not all of us are called to make a difference in the same way. However, we can all identify people that are called in different ways – and we can make a difference by helping them make a difference.
Most of us have a cause or a project or benefit that drives our compassion. I may not be called to physically walk onto the mission field, but I have so much respect and support and admiration for those that are called. And I would gladly do what I could to help them get there – because I know that I believe in the cause/project, I believe in the hope of the outcome. I will serve on and support the PTA at our children’s school, and donate to what I can, not because I’m obligated, and not even just because they ask – but because I believe that through that effort, the education will be better for the kids at that school, and the environment will be healthier and more efficient for the teachers serving there.
Same goes with adoption – not just for our family, but for families all over the world. We ask you to join us – prayerfully, emotionally, physically, financially – but we aren’t looking for obligation. We’re offering a way for you to make a difference WITH us. We’re asking you to partner with us in the cause (of adoption). This isn’t just a “Wow cool, how heroic, you guys are adopting, kudos to you, the world needs more people like you!” (trust me I’ve heard it all – and I AM thankful for your kind words) – But we aren’t in this to do it alone. We don’t live life that way. God didn’t create any of us to do life by ourselves. He created us to go through life hand-in-hand with those we love – and with those we like – and even sometimes with people we don’t like at all! 🙂 Families that raise funds for adoptions are offering others an opportunity to take ownership in that difference! To know that even if you weren’t called to be a forever family to that fatherless child, you can still do something to make a difference to that one! (remember the starfish story from a few weeks ago?)
And maybe after all this, if you’ve even survived reading through my novel (I’m notorious, ask anyone), you are beginning to realize that maybe you ARE being called to make a difference in a very practical way. Maybe you have a home that feels one little fry-short-of-a-happy-meal, maybe you and your partner/spouse have long harbored a heart of compassion for those in need – or maybe this is just a shove in a direction other than standing in the same place you’ve been for a long time.
And still, maybe, hopefully, after this lengthy write-up, I’ve answered some questions, or at least given you a broader perspective on where we are coming from.
Alas, it could just be really late, and quite possibly no one will read this anyway. So my 6 hours slaving away (and EDITING – seriously, this was 3x as long before the EDITING)…was just a nice way to spend my afternoon/evening.
Blessings to you all, wherever you are at in your perspective, once again – thank you for your support and encouragement – and partnership in this cause, and for stepping out to make a difference WITH us, in the life of ONE.