My 2¢ on Adoption Fundraising: Applying for Grants

February 11, 2016 fundraising for adoption, Guest Series, My .02 on Adoption Fundraising 2 Comments

Today we continue with the second of five posts in a guest series by Laure Kline, who will be sharing everything she knows about adoption fundraising with us! We know that many potential adoptive parents say that lack of funding is the biggest roadblock to adoption and it is our hope that this series will encourage, enlighten, and maybe even help a little one find their way into a forever family!

Post 1: Writing a fundraising letter
Post 2: Applying for adoption grants
Post 3: Fundraising event and sale tips
Post 4: Using social media to raise funds
Post 5: Handling negativity during the fundraising process

Be sure to check back next month about this time to read post three in the series!


Applying for Grants

A note to any birth families, expectant mothers considering adoption, and adult adoptees: we recognize that this kind of frank discussion of the costs associated with adoption can be upsetting. Please accept my apologies for anything that feels disrespectful and let me know if you feel there is a more appropriate way to discuss these issues.


Of all the ways to put together the funds prospective adoptive families need to cover their process costs, grants can be the most intimidating and complex. There are a huge number of factors for families to consider and address.

First, adoptive families need to consider whether an adoption grant is right for them and their adoption process. Most grants are awarded by organizations that have a specific demographic that they focus on. Some of them are for families who are planning to adopt from a specific country or a child that has a certain special need or medical condition. Some are specific to a locale within the US or are for families of a designated religious faith. (As a side note, a family who is planning to adopt a healthy infant via domestic infant adoption in the US is unlikely to find a grant to assist them in covering adoption costs, though there may be some available.)

If you have decided that an adoption grant may be right for your family, here are my two cents about how to make things go smoothly from research to application to funds (or not).

How to Find Adoption Grants

Organizations that award grants to prospective adoptive families change regularly. When we were in process, our agency gave us a list of organization to look into; many of them were no longer awarding grants and some were simply no longer in existence. Because these organizations change so frequently, I am not going to include a list here. You’re going to have to do some research; head over to your favorite search engine and start looking.

Searching for “adoption grants” is going to give you 159 million results (seriously), so I recommend using specific search terms to narrow your results to those that will work for your family. You may be able to find grants that are more specific by using combinations of search terms including:

• Your religious affiliation (e.g. “adoption grants for Christian families”)
• The country you are planning to adopt from (e.g. “adoption grants for Chinese adoption”)
• Special needs or medical conditions that the child you hope to adopt has (e.g. “adoption grants Down Syndrome” or “adoption grants limb difference”)
• Your state (e.g. “California adoption grants”)
• Your marital status (e.g. “adoption grants for single parents”)
• The age of the child you hope to adopt (e.g. “adoption grants older child”)

Applying for Grants

When you have identified a grant that you are considering applying for, you need to take into consideration a number of factors before filling out the application form.

1. Verify legitimacy and source of funds.

Adoption is, unfortunately, a business for many shady people and organizations. Before you apply for a grant, do some research into the organization. Where do their funds come from? If donations, what percentage of donations made to the organization go toward the grants? If a private fund, how is that fund supplied or replenished.

Verify that the organization is trustworthy; after all, you’ll be sending them intimate details about your family and your finances. You can use online tools such as CharityNavigator and GuideStar to read reviews about nonprofit organizations and research how they are using their funds.

2. Verify details of the grant.

Find out how many grants are awarded each year and how many families apply. Look for information about how the grants are awarded. How are the applications evaluated, and who makes the final decision? Are there requirements that dictate how the funds can be used? At what point in the process are the funds disbursed?

We applied for a grant from a well-known organization and were ecstatic when we were awarded a much larger grant than we had anticipated. It covered nearly 20% of our process costs and filled a big gap that we had been scrimping and saving to fill for two years. We found out after being awarded the grant that the funds would only be disbursed after we finalized the adoption and returned from China, which meant that we still had to find a way to cover the costs until we returned home. This requirement was meant to ensure that their donors’ funds went to help a family adopt and not just help a family whose adoption disrupts or falls through before finalization. It makes sense to do it that way, and I am glad that the organization has those safeguards in place. Nonetheless, it was not what we had expected.

3. Verify family/status requirements.

Many grants are only available to families that are at a certain point in their adoption process—home study completion—but there may be other unwritten process requirements.

We applied for a grant that required home study approval, but we were asked to reapply when we were closer to traveling to China. We had already been matched with our son-to-be, but we were still waiting for our official Letter of Approval from the Chinese government. There was an unwritten rule that their grants could only go to families who were close to the end of their process. If I had asked in advance about their unofficial timeline, I may have been able to save us and our references a lot of time. We ended up not reapplying for the grant when it was time for us to travel because we only had three week’s notice, which was not enough lead time for the grant’s application review committee.

4. Make a note of application deadlines.

Some organizations have a rolling application and award system in which they award grants to families as the applications come in. Other organizations, usually the larger ones, have strict deadlines for applications, third party reference receipt, application review, and for awarding the grants. Make note of these deadlines well in advance so you can be sure not to miss your window.

Be sure to ask your friends and pastors for their help as references early in the process so they aren’t rushed to meet a deadline. If you are going to apply for more than one grant that requires multiple references, you may also want to ask them to keep copies so they don’t have write what they think of your family over and over. (This probably goes without saying, but you should also make sure that the people who are writing your references are people with whom you have discussed your family and adoption plans at length and you trust to be honest and supportive in their letters.)

5. Complete the application, saving your answers frequently in a separate document.

Most of the grant applications that we reviewed were online only. Some were downloadable PDFs that were to be completed digitally and uploaded. Some were online forms that could be worked on in pieces, saved online, and accessed for completion later. Some were online forms that timed out after a few idle minutes and reset all fields to blank over and over. All of them had similar questions about our family, faith, and finances.

Because there was so much overlap, we copied each of our answers to the application questions into a separate text document that we used as our own little grant application “wiki”. Some of the questions required a lot of thought and reflection, and it saved hours to have our answers saved and easily accessible.

Saving our answers about the personal financial questions saved tons of time too, though each application had a slightly different format for recording our family’s income, expenses, and budget. I would definitely not have wanted to do those from scratch each time.

When you are completing your applications, it’s important to keep in mind that you are more than your finances. The review committees are made up of people, so be sure to speak to them. Why are you pursuing adoption? Think beyond ideas of what is “meant to be” or that you are “called to adopt”. What are you looking forward to about having a new child in your family? What are you doing to prepare yourself for the challenges you may face? Why does intentionally adding this challenge excite you? Involve your spouse and your children, if they are old enough, in your application. Ask them some of the application questions, and incorporate their answers if it makes sense to do so. Why did you choose the specific grant that you are applying for? Don’t just write what you think the review committee wants to hear; they will get plenty of that from all the other applications. Write your family’s true story.

After Applying

Keep saving, living frugally, and working toward your goal in other ways.

I wrote about writing a letter last month, and I’ll be writing about a few other ways to raise funds for your adoption process including things like special events, craft shows, and other sales.

The best way to keep your adoption fund continuously filling up is to be putting money into it yourself regularly. Used a few coupons at the grocery store? Put that $12.30 into your fund. Going out to eat? Choose a cheaper restaurant and put the difference into your fund. There’s no penalty for tiny deposits, and they add up quickly! In the scope of $40,000, it may not seem like much, but every penny gets you closer to your goal. For me, fundraising was stressful and emotional, so seeing our little fund grow even the slightest bit each month helped me to feel that we were making progress and that we would, eventually, meet our goal (and we did!).

If you are awarded a grant, keep in mind:

Funds may not be disbursed before you travel, so you may need to secure a short-term loan to cover the costs until you finalize. Check with your adoption agency; ours had a program that allowed us to defer payment on a few things until after the grant funds were disbursed by signing a promissory note.

Consider how you can “pay it forward” with your federal adoption tax credit after you finalize your adoption.

Stay humble. In order for your family to receive the grant, many other families had to be denied. Pray for those families as they move forward with their adoption process in faith.

And if you do not receive a grant, keep in mind:

There are many other ways to put together the funds your family requires to complete the adoption process. Stay tuned to this series; I have some more ideas and tips for you!

Consider how you can support adoption grant organizations with your federal adoption tax credit so that granters can support a greater percentage of applicant families in the future.

Stay resolved. Just because you weren’t awarded the grant you had hoped for doesn’t mean you aren’t “meant” to adopt. It’s okay to be disappointed; I know I was. Don’t let that stop you. Keep moving forward in faith.

For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence,
for my hope is from him.
He only is my rock and my salvation, my fortress;
I shall not be shaken.
On God rests my salvation and my glory;
my mighty rock, my refuge is God.

– Psalm 62:5-7

Got any other grant application tips? Post them in the comments!


Laure Kline and her husband Joel have two children, a biological daughter and a son adopted from Hubei, China, in 2014. She blogs about adoption, faith, fundraising and more at One Thousand for One. You can also follow her family’s post­-adoption life at Adopting Baby K. Laure is the owner and principal graphic designer of Lime Creative, a creative studio specializing in design for churches and nonprofit organizations. She and her family dance awkwardly, sing loudly, and pretend to be completely normal from their home in Lancaster, PA.

2 responses to “My 2¢ on Adoption Fundraising: Applying for Grants”

  1. Jennifer says:

    Hi Laure! I am so glad I stumbled across your blog!

    We’re pretty new to this adoption process, and it feels like we just can’t get our feet off the ground. I was hoping you’d take a few minutes to answer a few questions based on your own experience.

    My husband and I decided we wanted to adopt well over a year ago. We applied to two well known Christian adoption agencies in June 2016, were approved by both, and settled on the one that seemed easier to work with. We were excited to be officially “in process!”

    We knew adoption was crazy expensive– like as much as I earn in a year (before tax!). So, we started saving and we started a GoFundMe page. But it has been a very slow road. So far, we have about $3,400 saved and a family member has pledged $1,200. So, we are looking at having $4,600 saved up by March. That’s a decent step, but it’s nowhere near where we need to be.

    Back in October, our adoption coordinator called me to check in on where we stood with starting our homestudy. We had been planning to start it this month. We got to talking about funding and she told me, “Oh, I think you are misunderstanding how grants work. They’re retroactive. They kick in after your adoption has been finalized. You still need to be able to pay for each thing (home study, dossier, program fee, travel, etc.) as it comes up.”

    I had no idea that was how adoption grants work… I had a few grants in college, and they kicked in -before- the semester started. I had no reason to believe adoption grants would be 100% retroactive.

    We applied for 2 adoption loans, but even with good credit history and a combined income of about $110,000, we were turned down for both because my husband has student loan debt (who doesn’t these days?).

    So, I have been feeling so disheartened. Adoption is 100% impossible for us if we have to cough up $40,000 out of pocket to do it.

    Anyway, from your post, it sounds like (some) grants are distributed at various points in the adoption process, based on the issuer. Is this correct? Was our adoption coordinator way off base telling us they’re 100% retroactive?

    I’m also curious about the “pay it forward with your tax refund” that you mentioned. Is there a way to get it *before* your child comes home?

    Bel Air, MD

    • Jennifer says:

      Hi Jennifer,

      Just offering some advice/encouragement: Our adoption is going to cost what I currently make in approximately a year and a half’s time. Luckily, my husband has a decent job, but it’s by no means glamorous (his salary is definitely within the middle-class margins.)

      I figured out how much our adoption would cost (luckily, our agency is very forthcoming about all expenses,) and then added a few extra thousand to account for incidentals. I gave ourselves a time frame (our adoption will take approximately 2 years, so I used that frame) and divided by pay period. That’s how much money we need to save back every, single time we get paid. We treat this amount as though it’s an actual bill – paying it is not negotiable. You’d be surprised at how much you can save when the saving is no longer an “extra”.

      Now, of course, I don’t know your financial situation. You say your husband has student loans, and of course, that has to be a priority as well. You may need to give yourselves 4 years instead of 2, or 6 years instead of 4…just know that, if you want it badly enough, it IS possible (for the average middle-class family). Don’t allow yourself to become discouraged! All in God’s time! 🙂

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