Covering The Costs Of Your Open Adoption: Tips and Tricks

JulieGummFor many hopeful adoptive families, finances are the biggest barrier to adopting. But for Julie Gumm, the cost of an adoption should never stand in the way of giving a child a loving family.

Drawing on her personal experience and those of 30+ adoptive families, Julie is the author of Adopt Without Debt: Creative Ways to Cover the Cost of Adoption — a hands-on guide that contains more than $80,000 worth of creative fundraising tips and ideas, plus loads of interesting and, yes, fun ways to save money for your open adoption. Most people would be happy to make a few hundred dollars from a garage sale. Julie shares stories about families that have made thousands of dollars.

With detailed information about how to raise money from events ranging from dinners to dances to T-shirt sales and karaoke parties (stick around, she’ll explain that one in a moment), Julie shows you how to afford an open adoption — and still have money left over for parenting. Recently I had a chance to ask her about her favorite money-saving tips and tricks for adopting families.

1. What’s the first thing hopeful adoptive parents should do financially when they decide on pursuing an open adoption?

The first thing they should do is take a long hard look at their current finances. If they don’t have a household budget they need to get one ASAP. That can seem daunting but there are some great resources on and it’s something that will help them long after the adoption.

2. What’s the biggest misconception adoptive parents have when it comes to paying for an adoption?

I think a lot of people just assume that they will HAVE to take out some sort of loan to complete the adoption. Maybe in the end you do, but I want it to be the last resort. Many families find they don’t have to. If you do need to do a loan, by all means look into the many interest free adoption loans that are available before you take out a home equity loan or put it on your credit card.

3. What are some of the ways that hopeful adoptive parents can stretch their budget and save money on their open adoption?

Two of the biggest areas that people can usually trim are in their entertainment budget and their groceries. The average American family spends over $400 a month eating out. Over the course of a year that’s nearly $5,000 that could go toward the adoption. I’m not saying never eat out, but can you trim that to $100 a month? A lot of families don’t realize how much money they’re spending on groceries. The national average is $700 a month for a family of four. I feed a family of 6 on about $450. A lot of this comes down to meal planning and organization, not necessarily using coupons. There are great resources like the book “Family Feasts for $75 a Week” by Mary Ostyn or online sites like Emeals.

4. What about raising money — are some methods more effective than others?

Definitely but some of it depends on the people. There are a few that tend to always be effective, like garage sales. I always encourage people to think about their circles of friends and then figure out what would be the most effective way to get them involved. A worship concert might work great for someone involved in a really close church. But someone in the military might find that something like a tattoo party works great.

5. What’s the secret to a successful adoption fundraiser – good prep work, sound organizational skills, generous friends or a flashy sales pitch?

Hard work and getting lots of people involved. Don’t try to do it all yourself. Not just because you’ll burn out, but by involving other people in your story you’re getting them excited and they in turn will tell others. I think people value honesty and sincerity over flashy.

6. A lot of people reading this may say that fundraising takes a lot of time and effort, and I just don’t have that kind of patience or skill set. Are there easy ways for them to raise money?

They’re right. It does take a lot of time and hard work. One mom told me it was basically like having a second job for a year. I love garage sales because they don’t take a ton of planning – just some lead time in gathering donations from friends. A couple really busy, long days but families have made between $3,000-5,000. It’s also something you can do more than once – at the beginning of the process and again at the end.

7. What’s the most successful adoption fundraising idea you’ve come across?

Without a doubt, The Both Hands Foundation. It involves getting together a group of your friends who agree to do a one-day work project at the home of a widow in the community. They get friends to sponsor them just like you would if you were golfing for a major charity. The average Both Hands project raises $10,000. Both Hands partners with Lifesong for Orphans and the money is distributed in the form of a grant and so families have to meet the Lifesong grant requirements.

8. What’s the craziest one?

The most unusual one and the one that always gets great reaction is the Karaoke Party. This is a great example of finding something that works with your circle of friends. The adoptive dad works in law enforcement so they wanted something really laid back and FUN to do with his co-workers. They got a local pub to let them hold it on a weekday night. The karaoke service gave them half off the cost. The rules go like this:

  • For $10 you sign someone up to sing a song
  • When they are called up they can pay $5 to make a friend join them or to change the song.
  • Or they can pay $15 and the person who signed them up has to sing it.

For those that just want to come and enjoy they paid $30 at the door and wore a Mardi Gras style necklace. The family raised $1,300 in one night and had a blast!

9. Many hopeful adoptive parents are uncomfortable with the idea of advertising their adoption plans or asking strangers for money, let alone family and friends. What advice do you have for them?

I totally understand that. Everyone has their own comfort level and that’s good. You have to decide what you’re open to and be good with that. Again, a garage sale is a really great way to raise money and you’re helping other people by taking their junk off their hands. There are also jewelry sales that you can do so that basically you’re bringing in a second income rather than asking for handouts. Part of our adoption fund came through my husbands eBay sales. He’d buy stuff at thrift stores and then resell it.

10. You tell the story about how you managed to get a discount on your adoption by redesigning your agency’s website. How else can hopeful parents get creative when it comes to saving money with their agency?

That was a pretty unique situation for sure and I didn’t even plan on the discount when I volunteered to do it. First, check with your agency about any grants they may have, especially if your adopting older or special needs kids. I guess other than that I would just see if there’s any “holes” that you can fill for your agency.
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