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Helpuadopt.org is putting adoption within reach for our families!

Eight years ago, Jay Faigenbaum messaged Adam Jacobs on the dating site Match.com. Adam had let his membership lapse, however, so wasn't able to read the email. “I'd kind of given up on dating at that point," Adam admitted. Still, he was intrigued by Jay's mystery message.

“I called customer service and said, 'Dr. Phil promised me six months free if I didn't find love on your site,'" Adam laughed, referencing a commercial from the time featuring the self-help guru. Sure enough, the company offered Adam six months for free. But as it would turn out, one extra day was all he needed.

“Jay's email was the last I ever read," he said.


Adam and Jay with their infant son Ethan

Though Jay and Adam, who are both now 39, had a fairly seamless courtship, the same would not be true of their path to parenthood. Four years into their relationship, Jay and Adam were ready to start their family, and began navigating the labyrinthine maze of the adoption process. They researched agencies, hired lawyers, and filled out a seemingly endless mountain of paperwork.

Eventually, they received the news they were so hoping to hear: they had been matched with a birth mother in West Virginia. The couple dropped everything — jobs, appointments, family obligations — to travel to the Mountain State to witness the birth of their son, Ethan. As they began to make arrangements to bring him home to New Jersey, however, they received some startling news.

“The state of New Jersey claimed we were not in a 'stable adoption' because of issues with the birth mother," Adam explained. To Jay and Adam's knowledge, however, no such issue existed. “[The birth mother] never asked for Ethan back or anything like that," Adam said. “We had no idea what this was about."

Regardless, the powers that be in New Jersey insisted that Ethan stay in West Virginia until the matter could be resolved. This left the couple in limbo — legally, financially, and emotionally — while they were forced to take care of their newborn son in a Holiday Inn.

“We had no kitchen, no way to earn a living, and no way to come home," Adam said. “They wouldn't hear an appeal, and wouldn't take our phone calls. We'd been warned that issues can arise in New Jersey with private adoptions, but didn't expect to deal with a problem like this."

As Jay and Adam found out the hard way, when the unexpected arises within the context of adoption proceedings, it often comes attached with a hefty price tag. “Suddenly we had an extra $15,000 in unanticipated legal fees," Jay said. “All in just three and a half weeks."

“Thank god for Helpusadopt.org! The $15,000 they gave us got us home," Adam said, whose son Ethan is now two years old. “Without that money, one of us would still be working a second job every night paying it back. This money made it so when we finally did get home we were able to give this boy the life he deserved."

***


“Believe me, starting a non-profit was not on my to-do list of things to accomplish in my life," laughed Becky Fawcett, who, along with her husband Kipp, founded the grant assistance program, Helpusadopt.org. “It just became a necessity."

Adam, Jay and Ethan with Becky Fawcett

Becky and Kipp are themselves the proud adoptive parents of two children. But originally, the couple attempted to start their family through a series of grueling in-vitro fertilization (IVF) treatments. Out of five rounds, Becky successfully conceived three separate times. Each pregnancy, however, ended in miscarriage. After her last miscarriage, on Christmas Eve of 2004, she was done trying.

“I don't mean to be dramatic," Becky said. “But it was devastating. It really was such an emotionally, physically, and financially draining process. I just couldn't do it one more time."

So instead, Becky and her husband decided to adopt. However, as they discovered, the adoption process comes with its own unique set of challenges. “The average adoption costs $40,000," Becky explained. “But the average family income is $54,000 in this country. Can you afford a $40,000 adoption? Not easily. Adoption isn't an open playing field for everybody."

Becky and Kipp with their children

Fortunately for Becky and Kipp, they happened to have exactly $40,000 left in their savings after their multiple rounds of fertility treatments. “We were very lucky," she said. But even as she began the happy process of starting her own family, she was continually nagged by this question: What happens to the families that aren't so lucky?

Many families, she learned, are simply never able to scrape together the money needed to bring a child home. “So they're living a childless life, but not by choice," Becky said. The ones that do manage to find the money, however, often take out loans or spend their life savings to do so or, like Adam and Jay, are hit with unanticipated fees along the way. “They go down this road of financial ruin, and then must live this life of debt with their child."

For Becky, neither of these were acceptable outcomes. “There are over 100 million children around the world who need homes," Becky said. “I don't ever want to hear that someone couldn't adopt because they didn't have the money."

For this reason, the assistance provided by Helpusadopt.org can be substantial — up to $15,000, as in the case of Jay and Adam. “I wanted to give grants that actually do something," Becky explained. “I don't want our grants to be a Band-Aid. I want the money our grants provide to be the piece that is going to bring that child home."

***

When Allan Berkowitz, 45, and Brent Ward, 41, learned that the average cost of adoption hovered around $40,000, they began looking into assistance programs that might be able to offset some of the substantial fees associated with the process.

The results were discouraging.

While Allan and Brent found several such grant programs, to their knowledge, none would do so if you were gay. “There was nothing I found that would help us," Allan said. “Most were religiously funded, so we didn't even bother trying."

Instead, they saved and took out a loan, all with an eye towards meeting that ballpark figure of $40,000. The final costs of their adoption, unfortunately, ended up more in the nosebleed section of that particular stadium.

The first day Allan and Brent brought Ayden home

“There were so many additional costs that we couldn't have predicted," Brent said, reflecting back on the nearly two year process before their son Ayden, now 4, came into their lives. “Whatever number you're told, you've got to be prepared to add more on top."

Similar to Jay and Adam's adoption journey, Allan and Brent's surprise fees came in the form of legal costs. In the midst of the process, the couple moved to Las Vegas from Los Angeles — partly so they could more easily shoulder the adoption costs thanks to Sin City's lower cost of living. Ironically, however, the move ended up costing the young family more in the short term.

“Our adoption agency has several offices across the country," Allan explained. “But they don't have one in Las Vegas." So suddenly Allan and Brent found themselves shelling out money for costs they thought they had already covered. They needed a new local lawyer to finalize the adoption in Nevada, for instance, and had to complete a new home study. Additional surprise fees that were out of their control surfaced as well, such as having to hire outside help to facilitate the termination of the birth father's parental rights.

“We just kept coming across new hurdles," Brent said. “Each new hurdle would cost more money." As the bills piled higher, the dads-to-be were at a loss. They had spent all their savings and did not think they could afford to take out yet another loan to finance their adoption.

Then one day, seemingly out of the blue, they received a call from their adoption agency.

Allan and Brent's wedding

“They said, 'Hey, there's this organization looking for LGBT applicants who need financial assistance to apply for a grant,'" Allan recalled. “So we went online, found the application on Helpusadopt.org, and got in for their next grant cycle." Before they knew it, the couple's remaining bills had been paid for in full.

“It was the perfect amount of help to get us over that final hurdle," Brent said. “Thank god Helpusadopt.org was there!"

***

To Becky's knowledge, Helpusadopt.org is one of the very few non-profits that include grant assistance to adoptive LGBT parents as a part of its mission. “It's a large part of why I decided to start my own organization," Becky said.

Originally, she figured she would simply find an existing organization to support, rather than create a new one. But as she began researching the grant programs available to adoptive families, she discovered — just as Allan and Brent had — that they all defined “family" in a very narrow way.

This did not sit well with Becky.

“What happens if you're gay or lesbian or trans and want to have a child?" she asked. “What if you're an interracial couple? What if you're single? Why would you disqualify a whole group of people from receiving assistance — particularly gay men, who can't physically have a baby? You're just not going to help them?"

Since she couldn't find a mission statement she could support, she began writing her own — one that is explicitly inclusive of all types of families. She estimates that in the nine years that Helpusadopt.org has been operating, roughly 20 percent of her grants have supported LGBT parents.

Still, it's been an uphill climb. “Honestly, it's very frustrating," Becky said, who noted that during the organization's most recent grant cycle, only two out of 370 applications came from members of the LGBT community.

Allan and Brent on a family trip to Mexico

“People are hesitant because they don't want another door slammed in their face," Becky said. “Or maybe people think, 'Oh my god, why is this straight blonde woman from the Upper East Side talking to me about adoption?" she laughed. “But help comes in all shapes and sizes. And this time, it's coming from a straight, blonde Upper East Side woman and our large army of donors who believe in this mission."

***

Becky is obviously thrilled with what her organization has been able to accomplish in the nine years Helpusadopt.org has been operating. Still, she is not yet satisfied, and has a favor to ask of Gays With Kids readers:

“We have money to give!" she exclaimed. “But we can't give it to the LGBT community if we don't get applications. You might not need our help, but you know someone who does. So please, help us get the word out. Post this on Facebook and Twitter. Who knows? You could help someone who's struggling right now with the click of a button."

It's clear, moreover, that once you've become involved with Helpusadopt.org — as a grantee or a donor — you're in for good.

“You really are part of their family," Adam said. “Becky has built a team that is unbelievably kind and generous. We've only met their team a handful of times, but they know intimate details about us and about Ethan. They'll be like, “Oh my god! He's so big! He's talking and walking and running!"

“I truly feel like we're part of their family now," Allan echoed, for his and Brent's part. “Now, whenever anyone asks me about adoption, I immediately tell them to get in touch with Helpusadopt.org, and to do it now; call this company."

***

The next grant will be awarded end of February 2018. The application deadline for this grant award is December 9, 2017; the complete application (and supplements) must be postmarked by December 9, 2017. All applicants will be notified of the decision via email by February 28.

If you are interested in applying for a grant, you can download the application here and view their FAQs. Want to help other families adopt? Get information on becoming a donor or email Becky to learn about joining their Board of Directors.

***

Watch this quick video to check out more gay dad "forever" families that Helpusadopt.org has already helped create.

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There's little argument that having a family in the U.S is expensive. But for gay men, creating a family can be even more complicated and expensive than it is for our straight counterparts. An adoption process can set you back anywhere from $20,000 to $60,000. You might find yourself asking, “How can anyone afford that?" The answer is: The majority of us don't. Those of us that do are forced to find the necessary funds by making savvy financial decisions. Here are some of our suggestions for doing so:

1. Create a Budget (and Stick to it!)

Perhaps the most obvious tip (and we'll break it down further) but don't underestimate the power of saving money where you can. Start paying attention to where your dollars are going – from that morning cup of joe when you're on the run to the bought lunches everyday at work. All of those small purchases add up!

Are you used to eating out regularly? Don't! Cut eating out or date nights to once a month and make it extra special. And extra special doesn't have to mean extra expensive. Think local delicious restaurant, preferably BYOB, and turn your phones off – make it count.

"It is so important to cut any unnecessary spending," shared Edward (not his real name), father of a 1-year-old daughter through adoption. "Keep your goals in sight and plan for the future."

Helpful hint 1: Make your coffee in a to-go cup before you leave the house; take a packed lunch with you to work. Sound simple? That's because it is!

Helpful hint 2: Set aside a change jar and put all your coins in it. At the end of every month, you'll get to hear the sweet sound of "ka-ching" as you put them through the coin machine.

Helpful hint 3: Plan your meals and stick to a grocery budget. Make a list (check it twice) and then don't go off it at the grocery store. Also, use coupons to further cut down on your grocery expenses.

Helpful hint 4: Cut home expenses: Get a less expensive data plan for your mobile phone. Stop wasting electricity. Turn down your A/C. Don't buy the newest phone model. Choose a basic cable package or cut the cord completely and use one online streaming service instead. You probably don't need Amazon Prime Video, HBO, Hulu AND Netflix. I mean, how much free time do you have? Amiright?

"It's crazy how much you can save by not eating out, not going out with friends, couponing and sticking to a grocery list," said Ben, dad of two boys through adoption.

​2. Open a Savings Account (and Put Money in it)

Start getting into the habit of transferring money into a separate (preferably hard to touch) savings account every payday. Figure out how much you can afford to save and transfer it as soon as you can.

"We set up a budget where we saved and automatically deducted money from our paychecks into a savings account," explained Ben.

3. Apply for an Adoption Grant

Did you know that there are nonprofits ready and waiting to help couples and singles create their family through adoption? Well, they really do exist! Check out Helpusadopt.org, an organization that offers up to $15,000 for families regardless of martial status, sexual orientation, race, religion, gender or ethnicity. Grants are awarded three times a year. So what are you waiting for? Fill out your application today!

​4. Refinance your Mortgage

Did you buy a house when the interest rates were higher than they are now? Refinance and pocket the difference into your savings account. The same goes for student loans. Shop around folks, shop around.

5. Save your Tax Refund

Ben and his husband used their tax refund as a starting-off point for their savings. But make sure that you're paying the correct tax rate so you don't get a nasty surprise in April. And the adoption tax credit?

"Tax benefits for adoption include both a tax credit for qualified adoption expenses paid to adopt an eligible child and an exclusion from income for employer-provided adoption assistance. The credit is nonrefundable, which means it's limited to your tax liability for the year. However, any credit in excess of your tax liability may be carried forward for up to five years." – IRS

6. Rent Out a Room (or your Entire House)

If you have a spare room in your home, consider renting it out for a year. Or sign up for AirBnB and play host to vacationers.

​7. Raise Money

From Kickstarter to IndieGoGo to GoFundMe, there are lots of options to put it all out there and ask others for financial donations. Read the Gays With Kids article on crowdfunding.

8. Find your Talent; Get Creative!

We're not all blessed with talents that result in piles of money, but we all have personal interests. These dads turned their passion for renovating and flipping homes into their key ingredient for saving for adoption. Time to start thinking how to turn your skill into a paid resource.

No untapped talent to speak of? Get a second job or try selling some of your things that you no longer need in a yard sale or on Craigslist.

"Get a second job, budget and start living as if you have that child," advised Ben, whose two adoptions cost $71,000 in total. "Children cost money once they get here. Change [your lifestyle] now and save that money!"

9. Check your Employee Benefits

See if your employer provides any financial assistant to families who adopt, and if they don't already, consider speaking with your HR department. For example, active duty military personnel may be eligible for a $2000 reimbursement.

​10. Ask your Relatives

This isn't possible for everyone but for those who can, consider asking your family for help. Relatives often don't realize how much an adoption costs, but once they do, your parents (or grandparents or loaded uncle) might want to help. It could be by way of a low or interest-free loan, or as a gift. This might be your last option, but it's worth giving a go.

"If you are close to your family, think about asking them for help, if it's within their financial means," said Edward whose one adoption cost $36,000.

Bonus: Consider Foster-to-Adopt

Foster-to-adopt can be a totally free option but it can come with its own set of hurdles. Ultimately you have to decide what the best path to fatherhood is for you.

** The path you choose to create your family is a very personal one. Gays With Kids supports you, whatever your particular path to fatherhood. Check out our "Becoming a Gay Dad" section for the different paths, and please keep us posted on your journey! **

For more, read our article Adoption Glossary Terms Every Adoptive Gay Dad Needs to Know."

And read Agency or Independent Adoption: Which Should Gay Dads Choose?"

Don't forget to read our indispensable guide to adoption:Paths to Gay Fatherhood: The Adoptive Dad."

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