You can’t put a price on love, but with an adoption costing upward of $35,000, it can feel like an insurmountable barrier for many working- and middle-class couples.
One nonprofit is helping families cover those upfront costs — and, because of its unusual operating strategy, every dollar donated goes directly toward its mission of funding adoptions.
Gift of Adoption awards grants ranging from $1,000 to $7,500 to adoptive parents who are often just weeks away from completing the process. There are no income thresholds. Married, single, gay and straight people are all encouraged to apply, and applications are reviewed with names redacted to ensure fairness.
“If somebody wants to put themselves out there and raise a child, we need to help them, not hinder them,” said adoptive parent and Minnesota board member Rod Simons.
Wisconsin couple Gene and Lucy Wyka, parents of three adopted children, started Gift of Adoption in 1996 as a private family foundation. They turned it into a nonprofit in 2001.
Through its nearly 20 local chapters, the charity has awarded $5.4 million nationwide and helped 1,820 families afford adoptions.
The national nonprofit, based in the Chicago area, has a 45-member investor board that covers all salaries and administrative costs. Board members agree to give a minimum of $7,500 over the course of three years.
“That differentiates us from other organizations,” said national spokeswoman Laura Keller. “People find an organization where they are passionate about the cause, but they don’t know where the money is going. It makes them hesitant. Every dollar you donate [to Gift of Adoption] goes directly to making an adoption possible.”
The Minnesota chapter, formed in 2005, is also lean. It has no staff or office space. Its volunteer board members — all with personal ties to adoption — meet at a Caribou Coffee and rely on e-mail and phone calls to collaborate on fundraising and discuss applications.
The Minnesota chapter has awarded grants to about two dozen families this year.
Tom Murphy, an adoptive father of three, describes the days he brought his children home as “three of the greatest days of my life.”
That’s why he now serves on Gift of Adoption’s national grant committee and its Minnesota board.
“There are a lot of people going through the adoption process and, God bless them, I don’t know how they are making ends meet,” Murphy said.
After spending thousands on failed fertility treatment, Murphy and his wife, Tracy, turned to adoption. The Golden Valley couple were fortunate to have the means for three international adoptions. They saved and took out a second mortgage. Their two sons and daughter were all born in South Korea.
“It is a long process. It can be $35,000 or $45,000. I have seen as high as $65,000 with people trying to adopt two children at a time,” Murphy said. “That is what turns most people away. Seventy-five to 80 million people consider adoption each year. Less than 1 percent complete that process. It’s because of the cost.”
Gift of Adoption helped Minneapolis mom Dorothy Bode adopt her two youngest sons, Isaac, 7, and Jeremiah, 8. Bode has eight adopted and three biological children ranging in age from 7 to 20.
Bode often counsels couples curious about adoption.
“They are 100 percent worth it,” Bode tells prospective parents fretting about the costs.
“I love sending people to Gift of Adoption. They play that critical role. They fill a gap and they do it beautifully,” Bode said.
Simons, a longtime television journalist, is one of the charity’s most vocal fundraisers and advocates in the Twin Cities. The Rod Simons Golf for the Gift celebrity tournament, in its 10th year, has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for the charity.
Simons and his wife, Pam, adopted their 11-year-old daughter, Annie, when she was a baby. It was a slow, expensive process and Simons said as they anxiously waited, they promised God that if they ever received a child, they would pay that back tenfold.
When they were finally able to cradle their baby girl in their arms, the couple threw themselves into charity work that supports adoption.
“There are a lot of life-or-death charities out there. We understand that. I think every day how fortunate I am, because without the adoption we wouldn’t have had a family,” said Simons, choking up a bit. “We’ve seen what these grants can do,” he said. “There is something beautiful about starting a family. A little hope goes a long way.”