Monday, March 5, 2012

Discerning Adoption: Part I: The Practical

This week (if things do not get too crazy here!) I hope to post this series for all of you who are new to the idea of special needs adoption and wondering how it works and how to get started....

some premises...

1) I am not an expert. Just a mom who went through (and is still going through!) all that special needs adoption entails. Don't take my word as gospel. Ask others, especially those more experienced than I.

2) I will be focusing on international special needs adoption in this series, although much will also be relevant to non-special needs and domestic adoptions. Let me make clear - I LOVE DOMESTIC ADOPTION!! I just was not called to it....if you are, AWESOME! I will help you as best I can. But children in the US foster system at least get to attend school and access American medical care and live in a family structure. My heart is especially broken for children in other countries who are denied education, have only rudimentary (or sometimes no) health care, and live in orphanages and are destined for institutions to be warehoused for their entire lives.

3) I am also focusing on those families who already have children, either through biology or other family circumstances. Adoption seems to be a more "clear cut" option for those who have no children yet.  But as a practicing Catholic Christian for my whole life, I never remember anyone in the Church or among my friends who were believers bringing up the idea that people who could (and DID!) have biological children might ALSO want to adopt. THIS is an omission I especially want to correct!! Who better to bring an orphan with challenges into a family than an EXPERIENCED mom and dad with siblings there to SHOW the adopted child the love (and how to act!) in a family!!


I called this series "Discerning Adoption" because I have only seen other resources refer to an "Adoption Decision", a title I do not think is accurate for the following reason.

A "decision" is to buy black shoes or brown shoes. Have pizza or a hot dog at a ball game. Go to Disney or Universal Studios for vacation.

No moral judgments or lifelong consequences are involved. Either decision is fine. No problem either way.

We are called to DISCERN the BIG stuff in life.....

should I marry? what career should I follow?
should I be open to adding another child to my family??

To DISCERN means to ASK GOD for His input in the decision.

To not rely on YOURSELF....your own preferences....

your own comfort level....

to ask God to SHOW STRETCH HELP you....

so I am convinced and CONVICTED that we NEED God's help in order to consider and then CARRY OUT the adoption plans we believe that HE HIMSELF has called us to!!!


And how do we carry them out?

Well I can just tell you how WE did....

Reece's Rainbow (which I will refer to as RR) is a ministry that lists children available for international adoption in many countries...they other VERY IMPORTANT thing they do is provide a "grant fund" for each child where people can made TAX DEDUCTIBLE contributions to that child and/or the family adopting them (once a family has "committed" to the adoption process for a specific child)...

This is HUGE because people here in the US really LOVE to get a tax deduction for their charitable giving!

At the top of the Reece's Rainbow home page are a bunch of information tabs including lists of waiting children (listed by their ages and special needs and things like "substantial grant" or "new listing").....


go to the "How to Adopt" tab and in the pull-down menu you will see "International Programs"....

go read about the different countries programs and see the qualifications for each and if you qualify BEFORE you fall in love with a child....

I did not do that.

I found Henry's picture first.

THEN I looked at the requirements to adopt from Ukraine.

We met all of them (PHEW!!) but I know many a family has fallen in love with a child and then does not qualify for that country's program or for the more specific requirements of a region within that country (happens a lot in Russia)....

So we found Henry (more on the spiritual background of that tomorrow....and you can go read the blog archives from the beginning so you are up to speed)....

now all we needed was $25,000.

We did not have that sitting in a bank account.

We had just refinanced our house to the hilt to pay for a much needed new kitchen the previous summer (when adoption was not even the shadow of a thought in our minds).

Reece's Rainbow has lots of great fundraising ideas, again on the pull-down tab there is information on fundraising for your adoption.

I will warn you.

Some people will have a problem with you fundraising for your adoption. That is of course their right.

But saving a child from such dire circumstances can certainly be considered an act of charity, whether looked at through secular eyes and most certainly, biblically.

We can "save the whales" and "save the seals" about "saving the children who will be abandoned in mental institutions where a significant percentage DIE in the first year their due to lack of care".....???????

Ok, rant over.

This was how we did it.

We borrowed $10,000 from a relative and plan to pay it back from our tax refund this year. An international adoption completed in 2011 where up to $13,000 was paid for "out of pocket" (ie NOT with grant money) will receive up to a $13,000 tax refund. So we will have the $10,000 to pay back our relative when we receive our tax return. PLEASE be aware that this is no longer the case in 2012!! Adoptions completed in 2012 will only receive a tax credit UP TO THE AMOUNT of taxes OWED.....and in 2013 the amount may even go down to $6,000 (although there is a Bill being discussed to change this) this strategy might very well not work for you in the future.

Borrowing is still an option though.

We borrow $25,000 to pay for minivans.....I think a child is a much greater investment, don't you??

Next my fabulous Mom taught my 12 yo and 7 yo daughters and 9 yo niece how to make beaded bracelets and provided most of the beads and supplies! They were gorgeous!! Here is a small selection -

Our awesome Polish pastor let us have a table in the Church Atrium after masses on Mother's Day and the Sunday after and MENTIONED US FROM THE PULPIT (this was big!!!!) and we put a BIG POSTER of the pic of Henry you see at the top of this blog near a table with bracelets spread out and our family helped people find bracelets and answered questions and gave away 200 bracelets and raised $3000!!!!

My parents also volunteered their house (yes, I do have awesomely amazing parents, thanks Mom and Dad!) for a massive YARD SALE the first weekend in June!! We spent at least 3 weeks picking up donations from so many friends (a special shout-out to all my La Leche League and AP Chicago South friends!) and neighbors and even people I did not know but were happy to give us items to support our adoption. ALL MY SIBLINGS and their spouses and LOTS of their children (yes, I do have an amazing family, thanks everyone!) helped out loading donations and selling when open and then shutting down and getting the leftover items to other charities. We raised ANOTHER $3,000!!

We sent an "Adoption Announcement" card to everyone on our Christmas Card list, about 150 names. We explained our plans and our needs and asked them to prayerfully consider a donation to our grant fund on RR.... we raised at least $5000 from this effort!! Also contributing were many wonderful people from the Arthrogryposis community, which was the diagnosis Henry had on his profile on the RR website.

PS - while RR WILL give you a list of people who have donated to your grant fund and the amounts they donated, Paul and I chose at the beginning of our journey NOT to access this information and we made this clear in our letter and to our friends and family. I DID NOT WANT TO KNOW who gave what so that they could feel totally free to donate without being fearful we would judge them.

Finally, we had two amazing benefactors who donated $2000 per couple and two amazing women who had  very little and gave us $1000 and $500.

Making a total of $26,500.

In less than 5 months.

We did not sit on our hands and blithely croon, "The Lord will provide somehow."

We did what we could....and then left the results up to the heart of others....

and our amazing God!

The families on RR introduced me to a saying I had not heard before....


And He paid it in full!!


Discerning Adoption: Part II: The Spiritual - coming soon!!


  1. Wow, that's amazing! I used to be worried about the money, but not since this last few weeks. Now we are just discerning the ability for our family to commit to a child. Can't wait to read the next section!

  2. Thanks for posting this Carla! And thank you so much for the time you spent with me on the phone the other night.

    You are truly a blessing and an inspiration. I know that you and your family are being used well by the Holy Spirit to bring these children who need and deserve love to our attention.

    I am looking forward to your next post, and will post your site on my blog and hopefully more will know about the great need there is for these children to find loving homes.

    May this journey bring you and your family closer to the loving embrace of God the Father, through His only begotten Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ.


  3. I have been so uplifted by you, Carla, and by RR and the response that I have seen when these children are offered for us to love. God is moving mountains. (Go Brenda and Charles!)

  4. Replies
    1. Thanks for a great post, Carla...we are starting the adoption process and looking forward to reading your posts about adoption!


  5. Your adoption timeline is so valuable for those thinking of adopting. Thanks for the much needed information and answers.

  6. Hi Carla. Thanks for the post – very helpful! Please forgive me for having more questions! My biggest concern is not the adoption process, but afterwards, at home. Having the mental, physical, emotional , and yes, financial, reserves to care for my current children and the newest one. How has that aspect gone for your family? I so would like to talk to families who have made this journey, and really haven’t had anyone respond. Am feeling a bit discouraged, like maybe this isn’t what our family is being called to. Thanks. Laura Lewis

  7. Thanks for doing this, Carla! Can't wait to read the rest!

  8. I'm looking forward to reading all of these posts! I love practical info!

  9. Hi Carla,
    you are very lucky with your family. We started taking the pre-adoption class but my in-laws are giving us hard time and my husband is having second thoughts.. :(

  10. I can't wait to hear the rest of the story!

  11. We are Catholic. had 5 biological children (not all of them planned!) made the HUGE mistake of getting a tubal ligation, and realized it when we found we wanted more kids. I wanted to adopt within a year of our fifth being born. My husband was dead set against it. I left it in God's hands. 4 years later, he said let's do it. We were living abroad. It to us a year to figure out how, another year to get the paperwork together (much harder when you're abroad). We accepted a referral, and then the hell began. THREE YEARS later, we were no closer to bringing our kids (3 siblings) home. God took matters into His own hands: the earthquake of 2010 caused 1000+ kids in the process of adoption to be evacuated from Haiti on Humanitarian Paroles. Sort the adoption details out later, just get those kids out of there. That's how we got our kids home. Three beautiful children have completed our family. We finalized the adoption just in time to get the $13K X 3 tax credit. And then my husband lost his job. He's been unemployed for 1 1/2 years. We are scraping by, but NO REGRETS over the adoption!! NONE!!! Our kids are AMAZING! Not special needs, mind you, but now I babysit a boy adopted from China who is autistic, legally blind, and albino. He's so sweet and so cute! (That family has 3 biological and 2 adopted kids.) My adopted kids' younger sister was adopted by a family that also adopted a special needs boy and then gave birth to twins. So many stories to prove that this is both DO-ABLE and WONDERFUL GREAT!!!