Affording Adoption, Without Debt

Many readers know that we are very excited about being an adoptive family. We adopted our girls in 2005 and 2008, both under unusual circumstances and with substantial fees that left our family happy and fulfilled, but in debt to our eyelids.

That was before we drank the debt-free Kool-Aid. In fact, right after arriving home from Ethiopia with our second daughter, who was very ill, I received my layoff notice. That’s what sparked our debt-free crusade. We asked ourselves, how could we care for these children properly, when we were so financially vulnerable?

Our adoptions were both unusual circumstances, requiring more than the usual fees. Between legal fees, agency fees, home study, fingerprints, notarization and notary verification, dossier, medical checks and vaccines for travel abroad and ever so many plane tickets, the costs were staggering.

There’s no doubt about it, our kids our priceless. Truth be told, I would have done anything in my power to make sure my kids had a family that worked for them—even if it wasn’t our family.

With all of that said, I wish I knew then, what I know now about ways to be resourceful and adopt without debt.

Sure, we did some clever things—friends donated air miles to help us get to Florida over a holiday weekend for our oldest’s adoption (we had only four days’ notice and prices to Orlando were absolutely atrocious). With our youngest, a re-adoption proceeding was required here in the states to finalize her adoption. We completed that all pro se (by ourselves) by completing and submitting the forms to the court without the aid of an attorney—saving us $500-$3,000 depending on the attorney’s estimate. But we missed a lot of opportunities where we could have saved a bundle.

When we felt the call to adopt, it didn’t come with explicit instructions. Ok, so there was, Deuteronomy 28:12 The Lord will open for you His good storehouse, the heavens, to give rain to your land in its season and to bless all the work of your hand; and you shall lend to many nations, but you shall not borrow” but we just hadn’t connected the dots yet. We did the best that we knew how. We saved, liquidated savings, reduced spending and leveraged the adoption tax credit with an interest-free adoption loan.

Ideas for adopting debt-free.

  1. Use a no-fee agency. Friends of ours are using Antioch Adoptions. Antioch only accepts Christian families, but they are a ministry organization and do not charge an adoption fee.
  2. Use a low-cost program. Many programs have lower costs. Domestic, particularly foster-adopt programs have fewer legal costs, in part because the birthparents’ rights were terminated before the adoptive parent enters the picture.
  3. Sell some stuff. Many adoptive families that I know swear by the church rummage sale, or multifamily garage sale. Others E-bay or craft their way through their adoption expenses.
  4. Hold a raffle. Many families I know have held successful raffles for iPads, plane tickets, jewelry and more.
  5. Use a commercial fundraiser. Some great fundraising/profit sharing programs exist from MLM-type kitchen products (usually through a friend or family member who already sells) or organizations like Just Love Coffee.
  6. Use grants. At least two dozen organizations provide grants for prospective adoptive families.
  7. Use air miles. If your adoption involves travel, you may be able to buy air miles, or get donations of air miles to offset all or part of your travel costs.
  8. Create Work Parties. The Both Hands Foundation has an innovative way of helping families to adopt: the family creates a work party, and earns their fee by working on behalf of a widow or senior.
  9. Get a job. My friend Jennifer is a busy stay-at-home mom of ten (8 at home), and after adopting four children in four years, have been called to adopt one more. Though Jennifer is a military retiree and a professional woman, she wanted to bring home a little more ‘bacon’ without sacrificing time with her kids. To help close the funding gap, she took a job at a fast-food restaurant a few days a week on the night shift. When the kids get home from school and her husband gets home from work, Jennifer dons the hairnet and heads for the golden arches. See Jennifer’s story here.
  10. Get crafty. One of my friends raised adoption funds with hand-made dolls. Other friends make Christmas tree ornaments and beautiful artwork.


By , on Nov 8, 2011
Jessica Ward Jessica Ward is a full-time writer and adoptive mom to two wonderful children. She writes to support her parenting/adopting habit. For frugal family tips see The PennyWise Family or @jessc098 and my google+ profile.


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  1. What a great personal story of your own walk through family difficulties and your increased urge to reduce your debt circumstances, experiences like these are always very powerful

  2. Such an inspiring story, Jessica. I think costs stop a lot of people from even considering adoption. Your resources will no doubt let other people consider this. Thanks for sharing!

  3. These are great tips Jessica. We had FULLY drunk the debt-free kool-aid before our adoption and thought we were all prepared. Then my husband left his job and didn’t work the entire 1 year process. God still provided. I ended up writing a book called “Adopt Without Debt: Creative Ways to Cover the Cost of Adoption” that tells our story as well as providing creative fundraising ideas from 30 different families. There are so many great ideas and I love seeing people get excited about it.

    • Jessica:

      Julie, I only heard about your book after completing our last adoption. (Pre-kool-aid). If we start the process again though, I’m totally going to get it. I recommend it to many people who say “I would adopt,but I can’t afford it.” It’s truly a case of “where there’s a will, there’s a way.”

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