I’m Ready to Adopt: Choosing an Agency (Part 9)

July 2, 2015 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments

Today we’re back with our I’m Ready To Adopt series with the ninth in a 10 post mini-series by Kelly – who blogs at Mine In China – on How To Choose An Agency. You can find links to the previous posts here.



Grants, Fundraising, and Understanding the Business Side of Agencies


Finances are an important consideration for many parents. Few have all of the costs needed when starting the process and fundraising is increasingly becoming an accepted part of the process. First, if you do not have all of the funds starting off, be sure to ask potential agencies for a payment schedule. Some agencies require that you have at least half of the funds upfront. Most agencies will have points where you cannot progress further if you are not paid up, often at either dossier submission (DTC) or travel. 

Be sure to budget carefully knowing what you need to pay when. My agency had us pay the orphanage donation at LOA, although you could make payments on it until travel. Most other agencies don’t have you pay that until you travel, but it can often be difficult for people to come up with the orphanage donation funds plus travel costs all at the same time. If you add in an agency that requires you to pay several thousand for post placement visits at the same time, that is a big chunk of money to come up with at one time and it comes up must faster than you think it will when you first begin the process.


If you are beginning an adoption without the full amount of funds available you should give serious consideration to how you expect to make up those funds. Ideally you would have a large portion of it when you start and a plan for how you are going to bring in the rest. Tax refund, selling stocks, home equity loan, fundraisers, whatever. Make sure you consider carefully how and when you think the money will be coming in, and remember that you can choose to delay several months or a year before starting the process if you need to be more financially secure.

If you are feeling daunted at the thought of the cost of international adoption, No Hands But Ours has two excellent articles on raising funds which you will find helpful. 22 ways to raise funds for adoption and 4 more ways to raise funds for your adoption.

In the previous article we discussed how difficult it can be to compare costs between agencies. When you are comparing the “sticker price” of agencies, don’t forget to ask about grants that an agency might offer which could lower their cost. This can sometimes make a substantial difference in the costs between two agencies.

Other related questions to ask potential agencies:

  • Do you offer grants for waiting children?
  • Do you offer a returning client discount?  Military discount?
  • Is there is an agency fee reduction for adopting two children at the same time? (if applicable)  
  • Are the grants automatic or is there an application process?
  • Do you partner with any organizations such as Brittany’s Hope?
  • If I have funds available through an organization such as Reece’s Rainbow or Adopt Together, will you count those towards our bill? Do you charge a processing fee for the transfer of these funds?
  • Do you have a way for people to contribute directly toward our adoption costs? Is there a fee associated with this?
  • If people contribute funds that are more than the amount owed to you, will you keep the extra funds or are those returned to us?
  • If I receive notice of a grant after my child is home which is paid directly to the agency, will that amount be refunded to us (since you’re already paid off the bill) or does the agency keep the grant money?


When you are comparing agencies it can be helpful to understand why it is that costs vary so much between agencies. While people sometimes assume that “bad” agencies charge high fees and “good” agencies charge low fees because they only care about finding children homes, this view is missing the basics of how businesses are run. Larger agencies often have higher fees because they have higher operating costs. Supporting a dozen orphanages in China rather than only one is just one of many differences that can add to an agency’s operating cost. A larger agency will often spend more than a smaller agency’s entire operating cost on humanitarian aid programs alone!

A larger agency will:

  • Have multiple offices in the United States (multiple buildings, staff, etc.)
  • Operate programs in five or more countries (adds travel to multiple countries)
  • Have in country offices in multiple countries (buildings, staff, taxes to multiple countries)
  • Operate aid programs in the countries where they have adoption programs (again requires more staff and travel)
  • Sometimes will continue to operate aid programs in countries where international adoptions have closed such as Guatemala or Cambodia.

Now maybe you’re thinking “That’s all well and good, but I can’t really afford to pay more in agency fees because they have to pay a lot of staff. I’m all for donating to charity but I can donate money to my own charities after I have this adoption paid off!” Every family will have different priorities when choosing an agency, so it is important to decide what is most important to you and choosing an agency based on that. For some families ethics and humanitarian aid are a priority while for others it is keeping the adoption costs as low as possible, or which agency will match them the fastest. We will discuss priorities more in the next post.

While a smaller agency might have lower fees, smaller agencies can end up with more profit per adoption than a larger agency with higher fees because of the higher operating costs for larger agencies. One large agency told me that they actually lose money per adoption, but they are able to make up the difference because they have other sources of income such as investments, heritage camps, and major fundraiser activities (this information was verified by an independent audit of their finances). However, while smaller agencies might have a greater profit per adoption, they operate on a much smaller profit margin and don’t other sources of revenue to offset their costs.  


Generally, smaller agencies seem more likely to use the travel costs as a way to generate more income. Since most people focus on whatever is labeled “agency fee” on the cost sheet, and because travel costs vary by time of year so much, it is easier to hide some extra fees in that column. As I wrote in the last post, larger agencies can use their travel groups to obtain group rates at hotels or with guide services. Smaller agencies aren’t able to do this. This is a generalization that doesn’t hold true for all agencies however, so use the questions in the travel section to try and figure out if you will be facing unexpectedly high travel costs with an agency that seems to have lower fees overall. One good question to ask to try and determine if the agency is padding the travel portion is “Will I be able to receive an itemized receipt for the travel costs?”

Why am I giving you this general information about operating costs? Because there is a lot of money involved in international adoption. When you’re running low on funds and feeling stressed it is very easy to feel that the agencies are all about the money. “Someone out there probably is getting rich off of adoption!” But for most agencies, big or small, the decrease in international adoptions paired with rising overseas costs means that they are doing all they can to stay in business. Agencies can and do close and the reality is that they need to bring in some money in order to stay in the black. You need to use your financial resources the best you can so that you can bring home your child, and similarly your agency needs to use their financial resources the best that they can so that they can continue to help children find families.

In the next post, the final in this mini-series, Kelly summarize the main factors to consider when comparing agencies, with some ideas to help you rank the services you consider most important, to help you in making your final agency decision.

– photos by Stefanie

what we’re reading: 7.2.15

July 2, 2015 by nohandsbutours 1 Comments

It is our pleasure to bring you another episode of What We’re Reading. We have a long list of traveling family blogs to share with you. These people are becoming lovingly acquainted with the heat of summer in Guangzhou and other regions of China, Lord bless them all!

Thank you to everyone who shared their links and blogs with us!

To share a blog post or news article go here.
To share your blog with our readers, as a soon-to-be traveling family, go here.


Ashley Ann from Under the Sycamore has teamed up with the Morning Star Foundation for an amazing outpouring of love and support called “The Love Project.” The purpose of the project is to raise funds for surgeries for children in China. Sounds amazing, doesn’t it? Well that’s not all. The funds will also assist in family preservation and abandonment prevention efforts, so amazing! Go read more about it and treat yourself to one of the beautiful prints which support the project.

A few weeks ago Jean debated whether she shares too much about her family and children on her blog. She courageously concludes that, “If even just one child comes home to their forever family because of our sharing, it was worth it.”

A Berry from China ponders what life is like for the child they are awaiting. What is life like for this child they do not yet know? Life in an Orphanage is a short and sweet essay as this family waits for their son.

In A Perfect World for Special Needs Moms, Katie dreams of how life could be better for those of us who are mothering children with special needs. Can you relate to any of the scenarios she mentions? Can you relate to the fatigue she mentions at the end of the post? And most importantly of all, do you acknowledge Him and give each day to Him?


Have you ever wondered how many children are on the CCCWA shared list? How many are waiting on the list to be chosen? The Red Thread Advocates do a great job of explaining the numbers, the ages, genders, and so forth. Go over and become better acquainted with the make-up of the list.

Show Hope shares with us 9 Powerful Stats About the Orphan Crisis. These statistics are eye opening and highlight the importance of continued awareness and involvement for each of us.

Do you like learning about the different ethnic groups in China? If you do, then you must check out this compilation of Family Portraits which represent all the different ethnicities found in China. These pictures are so beautiful!

The 2015-2016 U.S. News Best Children’s Hospital rankings have been announced. We all aim to obtain the best possible care for our children. Taking into account these rankings and talking to parents who have walked a similar road can be very helpful as we advocate for our children with special needs. Connecting with a Mentor Mom can also an invaluable step to take.



Krissi with her precious son Bear who was adopted in June

In China now (or super soon)…
Crazy Blessed
One Love, One Family
A Miracle for Meg
From Great Wall to Great Lakes
Bringing Home Holland
Joy In the Waiting
Strengthen My Hands
Bringing Charlie Home
White House Adventures

And just home from China…
His Grand Design
Blessings Beyond
This Little Sparrow
A Sister for Mia
Love Hope Adopt
Trusty Party of Six
Beautiful Chaos
Tea in Fairyland
Growing Beards
Mama of a Big Bunch of Kids

Getting close to travel for your little one in China? Share the link HERE.

Thank you for joining us for another What We’re Reading, see you again in August!


The China Trip: a Tip a Day

July 1, 2015 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments

As much as I hate to see the end of our June feature, I can’t wait to begin our July/August Feature: Going to China! We will cover all things China-trip related: packing, traveling, gotcha day, orphanage care vs. foster care and setting realistic expectations. We’ll even have some fun Q and A posts from the NHBO contributor team. It’s going to be so fun!

Our very own Amy recently traveled to China for her newest little one, Tyson. Before she left we asked her if she’d be willing to take a few moments, every day, to jot down a tip or a thought that might help future traveling families. She graciously agreed, and here are her 14 tips.



Day 1: Our family flew United Airlines and was very pleased with the experience. Ryan, Noah, and I were not seated together for the long 16-hour flight from Newark to Hong Kong. The gate attendant and flight attendants all helped move people around so that we could sit together. The food was fine, nothing too special, but I felt satisfied after eating. The first meal (chicken with noodles, carrots, and green beans, a roll, a brownie bar, and a house salad) was served a couple hours into our flight. Then, midway into the flight we were given a snack of a deli sandwich on a small roll, chips, and a cookie. Last, about an hour before we landed, we got a last meal of either chicken and noodles or an egg dish. I chose the eggs and liked them just fine! There was some type of potato au gratin served in the shape of a triangle, and the flavor was ok. I skipped the meat patty; honestly, I’m not sure if it was beef or sausage or somewhere in between. They also provided another roll and cookie. The drinks came throughout the course of our flight, and if you needed additional water, coffee, or tea, you could walk to the galley at the back of the plane to serve yourself. The bathrooms were kept clean throughout the flight. Consider bringing a bottle of water or a reusable water bottle on the plane with you in order to refill it versus being given those small plastic cups during your flight. I also grabbed a sandwich at the airport before we took off, and I ate at the beginning of the flight and the other half during the flight. Ryan filled out our immigration forms (one for each person in our traveling party) on the plane, so they were all ready to go once we reached the airport.

If you are flying into Hong Kong, the airport is very easy to navigate. Just follow the immigration signs until you reach the line. We made it through immigration very quickly – maybe 10 minutes total with many people ahead of us. We found a kiosk to figure out where to pick up our luggage, as I was not a good listener on our flight. Our luggage came out quickly and without incident. When you exit the airport, there is a train ticket counter in the very next room. Although it was our original plan to take the train all the way to our hotel (which would mean switching trains twice at different stations), the gentleman at the counter showed us how we could take the Airport Express Train to the Kowloon Station and then take a free airport shuttle bus to our hotel. It was all very easy to navigate and did not cause any stress! So, when you arrive in Hong Kong, breathe easy and trust that you will be at your hotel before you know it.


Day 2: Ideas if visiting Hong Kong – Go to the Star Ferry station if staying in Kowloon. Feel free to visit the Hong Kong Tourism Board storefront to learn about various activities to do in Hong Kong. The the Star Ferry across the Harbour and be sure to ride on the upper deck for the better view. Buying tokens is very easy. Find the machine to purchase tokens. It looks like this (attached). Push the adult button for each adult token needed. Then push concessionary for each child ticket needed. Insert Hong Kong Dollars as directed, and then just take your change and tokens. Because it was rainy, we chose the Big Bus Tour, which is a hop on-hop off audio tour. You have three different daytime routes from which to choose: Hong Kong Island, Kowloon, or Aberdeen and Stanley. We chose Hong Kong Island and loved it. We took the tram up to Victoria’s Peak, which was an incredible experience. It was a perfect adventure even in the rain! Visit the Kam Wah Cafe in Kowloon for the very best don tots and pineapple bread! Be sure to order the milk tea, as well.

Day 3: If you have the opportunity to visit a prayer room at the airport, definitely take advantage! There is something so sweet about meeting the Lord in a land so far from home.

Day 4: Before meeting your new child, consider writing him/her a letter. Pour out those raw emotions to help your child know someday what was on your heart. You will be so glad that you did! Focusing your thoughts and prayer on your child will help you be in the right frame of mind on Family Day.

Day 5: Do not stress out about the gifts you buy for people in China. They will not open them in front of you. Consider buying gifts that help an organization. For example, we purchased two purses from By Tavi, which is operated by women in Cambodia, striving to make a better life for their families. We bought the dozens of small $1 hand sanitizers from Bath and Body Works to give to many people. Our guide said, “Let everyone know not to get the men a green hat!” He said this is very bad in China, as it means that you have had an affair on your wife or girlfriend. Beware of green hats, adoptive momma friends!!


Day 6: Even when you are not feeling 100%, and you are considering skipping that tour of the local park, please go anyway! You will be so glad that you did. Your time in China is so short, and you will want to take in as much of your child’s country as possible. This is your chance to fall in love with China and learn about its rich history. Sweating buckets of sweat in 110 degree heat with a baby strapped to your chest in an Ergo is totally worth it!

Day 7: Really, really consider visiting your child’s orphanage and finding spot. This is such an important part of your child’s history, and one day, he or she will have a lot of questions about his/her past. Having pictures and video of your visit to both places will be so valuable. Consider having the nanny sing a song that will be familiar to your child. If your child was in good care, be sure to thank the people who filled in the gap until you could arrive. Some may not want their child to experience these two trips, so maybe your spouse or another adult traveling with you can document those parts for you. Remember, the short term situation may be difficult, but in the long term, the benefits often outweigh the costs. Many children experience their goodbye at the orphanage as a positive one.

Day 8: When leaving your province, consider letting your children, who are traveling with you, watch Chinese cartoons. Our son loved them! Also, if your in province guide left an impression on your heart, writing a letter to thank them and including it with your gift might be a great idea! Pack plenty of snacks for the airplane ride to Guangzhou. Remember, in country China flights are often delayed.

Day 9: During your child’s medical appointment, consider taking the usual snacks and drinks, as well as something that will entertain your child and the other waiting children like bubbles. Take the time to smile as you see so many families with other agencies and from other countries working to bring these children home. Do not give your child a blue sucker before the exam, as one parent learned that blue suckers equals blue lips and tongue, which is concerning to doctors who then might think your child has a heart condition!

Day 10: When shopping in Guangzhou, think about buying your daughter or your son’s future wife a pearl necklace to give before her wedding. If you want to buy good chops, I highly recommend Peter’s Place on Shamian Island. He will sell them for 55 Yuan, which includes the ink. His craftsmanship when carving the chops is beautiful!


Day 11: If your family is Christian, consider buying a English/Chinese Bible from Jenny’s on Shamian Island. I have purchased one for both of our sons from China. Each page has one column in English and one column in Mandarin. I’m sure you can purchase these in the US, but having one from China during the trip when they were adopted is so special.

Day 12: When you go for your consulate appointment, ask your guide to take a picture with your cell phone outside of the consulate and then hold your phone for you while you go inside for your appointment. You will treasure that picture! Do not go to the Aeon grocery store on Tuesdays because that is double point day. Every housewife in China will be shopping there, and you will wait forever to check out.

Day 13: On your final day(s) in China, make sure you go out to eat with families you’ve grown close to during your time in China. These are special friendships that will last a lifetime! You will miss them when you go home, and you will be glad to have one last meal together.

Day 14: When you travel home, don’t bother worrying about how the trip will go or how you will keep your child entertained. Take things one step at a time and don’t look too far ahead. Focus on each small segment individually, and once you complete it, think about the next part. It is a long trip home regardless of your worry, and remember, the flights will end. You will eventually be home, hugging your children, family, and friends, and you will sleep in your bed soon enough.

— photos by K&R Photography

The Simplicity of Prosthesis

June 30, 2015 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments

That would probably not have been our reaction if you would have told us seven years ago that we would have multiple pairs of prosthetic legs in our house. In early 2009, we were researching China’s special needs adoptions after adopting twice through the non-special needs program. Some of the special needs just looked too …Read More

Who Would Want a Dad Like Me?

June 30, 2015 by nohandsbutours 9 Comments


Finishing up our June Feature, Let’s Hear it For Dads, with a post by Mike, a former (and much-missed!) regular contributor. We at NHBO enjoyed this series so much that we are working on bringing in more “dad” voices. Because dads are awesome, too. So grateful that Mike agreed to share this wit and wisdom with …Read More

find my family: Lenny

June 30, 2015 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments


Precious little Lenny is 1 year old and is listed as a special focus file with Lifeline through an orphanage partnership. his special need is postoperative CHD. Lenny is a handsome little boy! When his caregivers speak to him he will smile and laugh! He can hold his own bottle and feed himself a biscuit …Read More

Let’s Hear it for the Dads

June 29, 2015 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments


Baba. Daddy. Dad. Your name is worthy of celebration. You are worthy of celebration.   Your name is powerful. For our children, your name means comfort, safety, strength. Perhaps you were the daddy that our child was scared of, and so lovingly and patiently, you pursued our little one. It took time, lots of time …Read More

find my family: Katie

June 28, 2015 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments


Katie is, and always has been, a favorite at her orphanage! She was born in August of 2013 and found shortly after birth. Her file says, “the child is optimistic, has rich facial expression, the child has a ready smile, although there are so many small dark spots, this does not affect her lovely, she …Read More

God of My Children

June 27, 2015 by nohandsbutours 1 Comments


Ever learn something, quickly forget it, and need to be reminded again? During our daughter’s extensive surgery last November, God tapped into my medical momma’s fearful heart, comforting me with the revelation that I don’t have to be God of my children. It was a breakthrough parenting moment.  Little by little though, I again started mentally and …Read More

God’s Plans are Always Best

June 26, 2015 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments


God’s plans are always best… even when we fight them. After years of dealing with infertility and finally placing our desire for children into the hands of our Father, He revealed that His plan A for us was adoption. When my husband and I first started our adoption process, we told our agency that we …Read More

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