Thoughts on Crowdfunding Adoption

by Camille on September 7, 2013

Lately, adoption fundraisers have been flooding my Facebook feed.

Screen shot 2013-09-12 at 10.17.56 PM

 

From Open Clipart

And in case you were wondering, I’m okay with that. I’ve bought t-shirts, raffle tickets, puzzle pieces, and I even won a beach trip. Awesome. And in the meantime, with a little money here and there, I’ve been able to be a small part of creating a family. Beyond Awesome.

Over a year ago, I got into a bit of a “spirited” on-line discussion in the comment section of a post on adoption fundraising. Since I don’t like to waste words, I always intended to go back and turn those thoughts into a post. Now feels like the right time.

In all honesty, I don’t want to write this post. There are some people in the adoption community who are adamantly opposed to potential adoptive parents fundraising, and I’m probably opening myself up to a whole host of angry comments. In adoption, there tend to be two extremes of people…those that view all adoption as inherently evil, coercive, and unnecessary and those that view it as all perfect sunshine, rainbows, and always the best option.

Of course, it’s neither, and extremes rarely lead to progress or positive change. So I call to my sisters hovering somewhere in the middle and say, let’s talk about this. Let’s change what needs to change and celebrate what needs to be celebrated. And let’s try to do that without hurling insults at the other side.

Naysayer comments included:

“The fundraising for adoption makes my skin crawl.”

“Just my gut feeling: icky. Icky to fundraise online for IVF or adoption. It is way too close to buying a child in either case. Can you imagine being that child and finding your own “fundraising page” online? It creeps me out.”

So, here are my responses to some common complaints regarding crowdfunding adoption and adoption-related expenses in general. (I’m not addressing IVF here as I believe that’s a separate issue entirely.)

All adoption agencies are about the bottom line. Even non-profits pay high salaries, high rent on property owned by employees, etc. It’s all about profit. Babies are their business, and the high demand leads to coercion and unethical practices. 

That certainly is true for some agencies, but assuming all agencies are unethical is equally unfair. Those groups facilitating adoptions should be held to the highest standards and constant review, and in my opinion, the idea of for-profit agencies is abhorrent. Children are NOT a product. However, until we live in a perfect world, there will be a need for adoption agencies. My agency is housed in a tiny, one-room office in a local church with drab carpet and old furniture. The director drives a mini-van. The agency employs a secretary and a social worker. I know the neighborhoods they live in, where their kids go to school, and based on that, I’m fairly certain they don’t have a secret Cayman account. Of the women they counsel, more choose to parent than to adopt, and they are fully supported with all available services. Potential adoptive parents must assume responsibility for researching ethical agencies and knowing exactly how funds will be spent, but there are agencies that are truly concerned about the well-being of all parties.

Adoption is buying a baby. 

Actually, it’s not. Talking about the financial aspects of adoption can be tricky, but here are some thoughts. Even in the most ethical adoptions, there are still very real costs. Social workers, counselors, and lawyers earn salaries. Travel to other states or countries is expensive. My agency often houses mothers in hotels or apartments for months, and that’s not free. A good friend of mine breaks down the costs of her international adoption HERE, and as she writes, “You see that you are absolutely not paying for a child…you are paying people for their hard work and services in helping you with a legal process.”

Here’s another LINK to a blog explaining the costs of adoption from Rage Against the Minivan.

Adoptive parents should be well-off enough to save the money. If they need to fundraise, they obviously can’t afford another child.  ”Instead of buying a new car, save $500/month for four years and drive the old car. No need to fundraise!”  

I agree that families should plan, but current adoption costs can send the best of plans scurrying to hide under the covers. Teachers, social workers, pastors, missionaries—these and so many others might make excellent parents, but it’s unlikely their salaries are going to allow for extra thousands at a given time. The majority of adoptive parents I know currently having fundraisers are attempting to bring home children from other countries. Toddlers from Ethiopia. Teenagers from Latvia and China. Little girls from Honduras. (And yes, there are babies that need adopted sometimes too. Baby-adopters, no judgement here. I am one of you.) All of these people are hard-working individuals who are the definition of fiscally responsible. However, adoption remains cost-prohibitive for many people who are excellent parents…especially international adoption and/or of sibling groups.

Sure, families could scrimp and save for years…..or they could provide a loving family and safe home to a child who needs one now because a few hundred friends choose to give up Starbucks for a week and donate the money instead. And in case you’re one of those folks who thinks the word “orphan” is a fabrication of evil adoptive parent imaginations, I’d refer you HERE.

But fundraising is just icky! Why should I help anyone else become a parent? It’s not my job to pay for other people’s families!

Right. That’s why no one is forcing you to give money. Cool how it’s a choice, huh? So if you feel icky, don’t give. No hard feelings, mmmkay?

While I agree that some adoptive parents cross lines in fundraising, many create respectful Web sites through which friends and family can donate money to help with adoption expenses.  Others raffle off donated vacation weeks, electronics, etc, host garage sales, or sale t-shirts or homemade crafts to raise money. I’ve participated in dozens of fundraisers, and I was happy to do so.

And as for the why? In Isaiah 58, God commands us to care for the orphans. Many of us aren’t in a place to personally bring home Latvian teenagers or special needs toddlers, but through donations, we can still help answer the call. I feel much better donating my money to help create a family rather than contributing to the “organ fund” at a church.

I agree that some people will misuse adoption fundraising, but I don’t agree that the practice itself is inherently evil. In any case, most donations generally come from friends and family members. An on-line giving option just makes it easy for those friends to help.

Think of it as an extended baby shower. Is it “icky” when people choose to have baby showers to which grandparents, cousins, friends, and co-workers bring hundreds of dollars of frilly pink dresses, jogging strollers, and Diaper Genies? Guests are supporting the new parents and helping to provide for the new baby. Adoption just comes with a few extra financial considerations.

Adoption isn’t cost effective. You should just give money to an orphanage or some program that benefits more children for the same amount. 

Please refer to the “so why didn’t I just send the money to Haiti” portion of this link. I mean, if we use the logic of that argument, then you’re not planning on having any biological children, right? I mean, they’re not exactly cost effective either, and for the nearly half million it’s going to cost you to raise two kids,  you could probably get something named after you at an orphanage.

Wait. What’s that? You want to raise a child as your own?  You believe you can’t put a price on a human life? On family? On love? Yeah, me either.

Folks, I know that adoption is never going to cure the orphan crisis in this world. It only scratches the surface for the millions out there, and as adoptive parents, we must be advocates for programs that fight poverty and work to keep families together both locally and abroad. We must look beyond adoption to programs from World Vision, Kiva, Noonday, Help One Now, and more.

As Jen Hatmaker wrote earlier this year regarding adoption ethics: 

Clearly, if we are truly concerned about orphan care, international adoption simply cannot be where we concentrate all our efforts. It leaves too many children behind. It isn’t even remotely comprehensive, nor does it affect the millions of families on the brink of poverty-induced relinquishment. It is very good news for a very small percentage of genuinely orphaned children, but it doesn’t even scratch the surface of the crisis, will never address the root issues of disparity and oppression, and exists as a possible answer on the back end of a tragedy, not the front.

Check out her post for more fabulous ideas on where to send donations.

Of course, Jen and others are quick to point out that while adoption isn’t the answer for all, it is a valid and life-saving answer for some. It’s like the story of the boy walking on the beach and throwing starfish back into the ocean. We might never save them all, but isn’t making a difference for that one worth it? You’d be hard pressed to find any mama, adoptive or otherwise, who doesn’t believe her child is worth everything. Cost effective or not.

But it’s still just icky! How will an adopted child feel to find his fundraising page on-line? 

I’m assuming his interpretation will greatly depend on how it was explained, but I’d love to have some adoptees share thoughts here. I imagine I’d say to a child, “See son, so many people wanted to share love and help bring you home. Aunt Susie paid for the plane tickets. Uncle Joe paid for the hotel….etc.”  Raising a child (or bringing one home) takes a village, after all.

You’re just saying all this because you want to justify your own fundraising. 

Actually, Charlie and I have been immensely blessed thus far and have been able to cover our adoption expenses from savings. Our next adoption will be finalized in November, and as we’re adopting from foster care, there have been few costs related to the process. (We’re about to go broke buying chicken wings for a certain teenage girl, but that’s another story.)

But I’m not ruling international adoption or another infant adoption out of our future (we’ve learned that God just laughs when we bother to make plans), and at that time, we might decide to give a shout out to our friends and family and say, “Hey. Show me the money!” 

 

Please understand, I’m not saying that the financial aspects of current adoption practices are not in need of reform. There are far too many agencies that treat children like a product and use unethical practices to coerce and pressure mothers who are capable of parenting into making adoption plans. There are agencies who inflate costs to squeeze profits from hopeful adoptive parents without any real concern for creating families.

But I also believe that the way to confront these ills is going to have to come from a place of mutual understanding and respect rather than a place of hurling “icky” words.

With slight hesitation…..what are your thoughts on adoption fundraising? What things have you seen that you didn’t like? Why? 

 

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Tonya September 8, 2013 at 9:15 pm

Camille,
We were uncomfortable with the idea of fundraising. It was humbling to ask others for money. But, along the way, I discovered that I appreciated every single gift. Small to big, the financial gifts and the encouragement that comes from others. While we did find that a few people did not want to support us financially, a lot more were more than happy to offer a gift. Because like you said, when it boils down to it, adoption is expensive. Fees, plane tickets, more fees, travel expenses, etc. Not everyone feels called to adopt or desires to, but we are called to love each other. So for those who have chosen to contribute to our fundraisers, we are super grateful and for those who do not, it’s okay. Generosity is about more than money. We’ve also realized how important it is to support others. I’ve enjoyed giving to other adoptive families. Even when I can’t give a lot, I know that every gift means something to them, because it does to us.
Thanks for the great post!
Tonya
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Camille September 9, 2013 at 10:57 am

Tonya,

Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts and for your encouragement. :-) I’m so excited for you and your growing family, and it’s nice to know that even when we can’t give a ton, every gift is appreciated.

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Nancy September 8, 2013 at 10:11 pm

Thanks for this balanced discussion. I am a huge promoter of ethical adoption, but when people talk about agencies/home study providers just being in it for the money, I want to take them to the tiny offices of the amazing social workers who helped us with our daughters. They’re really living the high life with their 12-year-old cars, used office furniture, and whatnot . . . ;)

We’ve done two international adoptions, and didn’t fundraise for the first one. But for the second one, it was necessary for us to fundraise — my husband trained for and ran his first marathon, and people sponsored his run. It was humbling for us, but had such a great unforseen ripple effect. Lots of people have thanked us for allowing them to be part of ensuring that another child will have a family. Almost every one of them has said, “We can’t adopt because __________, but we always wished we could — being part of your daughter’s story has blessed us.”

And for people who think fundraising is “tacky,” I just want to ask if they’ve ever visited an orphanage? Once you see hundreds of kids who will never know life outside an institution, you will do just about anything to make sure one or a few of them won’t have to grow up that way. I would do many, many “tacky” things to make sure that they can have brothers and sisters, and a mom and dad.

And yes, we do also give monthly to a children’s home in our daughters’ birth country for kids who will never have a family. Not that it’s any of the nay-sayers business, but that’s a huge myth about adoptive parents too — that we’re only in it for our one child, and don’t care about all those left behind.
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Camille September 9, 2013 at 10:59 am

Nancy,
As always, I appreciate your thoughtful comments so much. :-) Thanks for sharing part of your story. I also agree about the myth that adoptive parents only care for one child. I think because of adoption, most families become incredibly more aware and involved in the global community.

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