Friday, January 24, 2014

Debt Free Adoption

After presenting at our monthly local orphan care meeting, I had a few requests to post all the info I'd gathered online somewhere for easy access. And it just so happens I have a blog for any platform I want. Lucky you guys!

Back in the olden days, before the internet was a legit thing, a hot young couple hastily jumped into an international adoption with an "Eh, we'll figure it out somehow" attitude and made dumb decisions. So this post is the opposite of what we did, kind of a "wish we would have known about that when we started all this biz years ago…" entry.

This only applies to private and international adoptions as adoptions through foster care do not cost the adopters anything. This also won't address tax info. That's over my head, frankly, but I have a couple people you could contact if you have questions about that. I will tell you though to keep a folder where you have copies of receipts of EVERY PENNY you spend on your adoption because the tax credit will need to be proven to be awarded. Give future-you a present by keeping all of that in one handy place from the beginning.

****Important point**** Make sure your fundraisers aren't always asking for money from the same people. Think of ways your community can reach out to others beyond your circle. Think of goods or services or events you can sell that would interest more than just your direct family and friends.

Before you look at my list and get super impressed, know that I gathered the majority of my info from (Author of Adoption without Debt). Her blog and book are PACKED with ideas and organizations. Go there. Often.

*Direct Grants- you fill out an application and they award you money (going to your agency, not your pocket). There's always criteria and rules. It's a lot of work to fill out the applications but IT'S FREE MONEY, PEOPLE. And once you fill out one application, a lot of them require the same info that you've already gathered. Go to to save yourself weeks of research. She's done all the hard work in finding and organizing all the grants out there. She keeps it up to date. She's your new best friend and probably has a pair of traveling pants with someone. (Check out Show Hope, A Child Waits, Affording Adoption, and Gift of Adoption to name a few)
*Abba Fund- Check with your church to see if they have an Abba Fund account. It works like an interest free loan. There are guidelines, of course, so check details!

(giving you a visual on what you're working so hard for)

Partner Organizations
*Pure Charity is a great online organization that you can channel funds through. Funds go to your agency, not you and as long as your agency is a 501c3, your donors get a tax deduction. Also, as long as you have an account, friends and family can go through your page to shop at Target, etc and you get credited a percentage of their purchases.

*GoFundMe and Paypal work similarly, except with GoFundMe you create a page, have a goal, can add updates and pictures, etc.

*Give 1, Save 1: Apply to this website to be their "Family of the week." They feature your family story for a week and run a campaign for a week. Lots of $1s add up!
(another visual)

Big Events (all eggs in one basket kinda stuff) (side note: if you know a friend with event planning skills, ask for help! You may be losing out on maximizing your event if you've never done something like this before!) (another side note: I don't believe you can sell alcohol at any of your events without the right permits. Look into that…)

*Both Hands Foundation: This is by far the best organization to help with fundraising that I've ever heard of. You raise potentially huge amounts for your adoption while serving the needs of widows in your community. It's brilliant. Check out the website!

*Food! Whether it's a pancake breakfast, spaghetti night, or pig roast, you can raise a lot if these are done right. Start with asking for donation of food items. Ask for volunteers to help cook, decorate and serve. Host a silent (and/or live) auction. Ask for big donations to auction off. Hold raffles all night. Host an "after party" that costs extra.

*Yard Sales: ask friends and family for donations of their stuff they're getting rid of anyway. Run a bake sale/lemonade stand along side it. Advertise like it's your job. Contact yard sale hosts the few weeks leading up to yours and ask for their leftovers (assuming they were taking it all to Goodwill anyway.) Make sure you indicate (in ads and at the sale) that proceeds go to an adoption.

*Photo Mini-session: If you've been here very long you know that we had a day of mini-sessions through Fresh Art Photography before Desmond's adoption. People paid a set amount (or more) for a time slot, we had multiple backdrops (all in a warehouse) and a variety of props. The photographers donated their time (which was unbelievable). I had friends bring us lunch, coffee or sodas as needed since we packed that day with A LOT of families.

*Karaoke Night: I read about this on Julie Gumm's website and loved it. See if you can get a venue, equipment and snacks donated (low overhead cost). People buy tickets to come but can also buy a "No Sing" necklace upon entering. This is important because you can pay a set fee as often as you want to make other people sing. Unless they're wearing the necklace. Make them expensive. =) I would also recommend raffles and silent/live auctions at this event.

*Trivia Nights are huge in St. Louis. People bring (and pay tickets for) a table of their friends. There's usually ten rounds of ten questions. Again, raffles and auctions are great at these.

*Freezer meals: One family had their community make a deep freezer full of ready-to-cook meals and raffled it off. The freezer was donated as were the meals. They made a significant amount of money raffling it off.

*Restaurants: A lot of restaurants will often partner with a family or organization for a percentage of one evenings meals to go to your cause. Then you advertise like crazy for family and friends to fill that place that night!

*Direct Sales Fair: Know anyone selling Arbonne, Mary Kay, Pampered Chef, Noonday? They're all looking for more customers anyway, so combine them all into one venue for one afternoon. Obviously asking them to share part of their proceeds with your adoption.

*Mustache Fight: I heard a story about a wife who wanted to her husband to shave his mustache. He didn't want to shave it. So they held a competition. Whoever raised the most money in a weeks time got to make the mustache decision. They raised over $1000 in the first 24 hours. This could also work with shaving head or dying hair a crazy color, etc. Get creative, peeps. It's just hair.

*Bingo Nights!
*Golf tournaments! Mini-Golf tournaments!
(A double visual, keep working hard.)

On-Going sales
*T-shirt sales

*Just Love Coffee: sign up for a "store front" and encourage your people to buy coffee through that site.

*ThredUpGather clothes (especially name brands) from family and friends and ship them (for FREE) to this company. They resell them online and you get paid up to 40% their resale value if they make the cut. You can do this as often as you want. They pay you via Paypal.

*Cash4shooz: This website pays by the pound. Gather up unwanted shoes and send them in!
(And another)

How to ask for donations, straight up.
(These can also be AT your big events)
*Puzzle Pieces: Buy a large numbered puzzle (depending on how big you think you're donor pool is). "Sell" pieces of the puzzle for a suggested donation. As people donate, you write their names on the blank side of the puzzle piece and once all pieces are bought, you put it together and frame it to post in your house somewhere.

*Envelope Tree: Get 100 or 150 envelopes and number them 1-150. People take the envelope with the number of what they're willing to donate. 100 envelopes = $5050, 150 envelopes = over $11,000.

*Tag-a-bag: (especially for international adopters or domestic traveling to another location) Get a piece of luggage that can be written on with permanent marker. Charge people a fee to write a message/sign their name on the suitcase (like they would a cast.) Then use that luggage for your pick up trip.

That's all I got, peeps. Seriously, go to Julie Gumm's website often. She's solid biz.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Those who constantly attempt to become legends rarely do. -Ancient Proverb I just made up.

I just came inside from running a puking dog out to the front lawn. I'm on day three of these yoga pants and have accumulated enough fuzz on them to prove it. My youngest is crying at the door because I won't let him go outside. (It's winter and he's insisted on being naked all day.) I'm 11 days behind the "Read-the-bible-in-a-year-plan" and it's January 12th. My Christmas tree is sitting dead in the corner, it's needles slowly creeping their way around the house. The dog needs a bath. The kids need a bath. I could use one myself, actually. We're out of milk and I couldn't tell you the last time my kids ate a vegetable. I'm ignoring all the committee emails from my eldest's school. I'm not a natural home-maker so being a SAHM feels like prison a little bit and if I'm totally honest, I often get jealous that the hubs is in his dream job. I'm still not sure what I want to be when I grow up and I'm weeks away from turning 37, which in my head feels like turning 40 three years early. And this isn't even a bad day.

I would hate for today to be the day I'm scrolling through my mom's Instagram feed from 25 years ago and see that all the pics of me have a #worldchanger hashtag.

I'm noticing this trend among my parenting friends, specifically my christian ones. Posting a picture of your kid and adding the hashtag "World Changer."
#dailydez #worldchanger #clothesoptional

This morning as I took pause and looked at the reality of me right in this moment I was extremely thankful my parents never added that title onto my identity, at least not that I'm aware of. Holy pressure! Upon seeing that I think I'd start cataloging all my "good deeds." I could read fifty articles about how being a mom is one of the highest callings, I could look at our ReSource ministry and pat myself on the back, I could assign undue credit to the influence our adoption stories have had on our community, all these in attempt to build my own heavenly crown, hoping to prove to myself I'm being a good steward of my life, that these things add up to *kind of* changing the world?

But you know what? These are not the things I should be finding my identity in, and neither are the fuzzy yoga pants and puking dog. I don't feel like I'm disappointing anyone because I'm living today as a child of God. That is my identity. No additional banners attached.

Do I want my kids to be world changers? Duh. But to put that on them is unfair. (To put that on me is unfair, for that matter, I don't know how to grow world changers, although I'm sure there's a book out there that can teach me.) I don't know what my kids will do with their life but I want them to proceed just doing their best. Doing what they feel is their purpose, doing what glorifies God without the standard of pushing constantly to be a world changer. Adding that title changes the goal. I want them to be so secure in their love from both God and us that they feel the freedom to pursue even the most mundane life-style if it glorifies God and they love it.

It's not that I have low expectations for my kids. It has more to do with me wanting them to figure out what they love, discover what they're good at, what God created them to do and work at it with all their heart, regardless of the outcome.

I'm not trying to add to the mommy wars, not trying to say we're doing anything better than anyone else. We've just been talking lately about the weight of the common things we say to our kids and trying to think more critically about why and what and how that may impact them.

There's nothing wrong with wanting to change the crap in our world. There's nothing wrong with wanting your kids to make this place better for everyone. If you need to call yourself a "World Changer" as you get out of bed each day because thats the motivation you need to do what you do, then great. At the end of the day, though, simply call yourself a child of God. Because at the end of the day it's not about whether you checked stuff off your list, whether you failed or achieved, it's about resting in a place you couldn't achieve no matter what you did that day.
#childofGod #clothingstilloptional

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Adoption TMI update! Cuz who doesn't love TMI?!

Here's what needs to happen in order for us to be ready:

Get re-fingerprinted
Get physicals from the Doc
Finish the PILES of paperwork for our home study
Finish our adoption classes (just one left!)
Collect a couple missing documents for home study
Create a "life book" (pics/info) to show at "staffings".

Process our fingerprints
Mail in our physicals
Mail in our recommendation letters and employment verification
Schedule our adoption class that was postponed
Put all of that together and update the home study (biggest responsibility)

Then we wait. You remember that part, right? Speaking of waiting, this was me waiting to meet our newest social worker last week. Just a normal Friday, ya know?

The next steps are ones we've not experienced yet. In our home study we've specified ages and disabilities we can/cannot accept so when a child becomes available through the state that fits in those categories, we'll receive an email asking if we'd like to be considered. At that point we can put our name in the hat or not. The team (any where from 8-12 people) narrows it down to three families and hosts a "Staffing". A "staffing" is a meeting where they look at the specific child and his/her needs and decide as a team which family would best fit that child, ranking them 1,2,3. (Somewhere before that is an interview from the team.) Birth families are not involved at this point.

We could be interviewed for staffings for months or even years and still not get picked. And that's okay.

Please understand this process through the state is child-centered, as it should be. If we don't get picked right away, it's not our opportunity to be offended. No matter how you view us, we may not be the right fit for a child, where another family may be. We want the team to be critical about these decisions, as it's in everyone's best interest especially the child.

We're not hoping for this to be quick, we're hoping for this to be right.

So, that's it. Now, off to my paperwork pile! Feel free to pray, feel free to ask questions, feel free to send Starbucks.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Snow Session: Fresh Art Photography

A Saturday in mid-December surprised St. Louis with enough snow to cancel our adoption class so Jodie and I decided to do an impromptu family session instead! Click here for the full blog post of pics! (Here's a peek though...)

Thursday, January 2, 2014

'Twas the Night Before The Home Study (re-post)

...when all through the house,
not a dustball was stirring, and certainly not a mouse;
The family pics were hung on the wall with care
with hopes that the social worker would soon be there;

the child was nestled in front of a movie with care
while visions of a sibling danced in his head;
With Russ in his toolbelt, and me in my cleaning cap
we got swiftly to work, yelling "No time for a nap!"

Away to the window, I flew like a flash,
Windexing the panes and dusting the sash,
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But boxes of stuff we don't need, it was clear,

To the dumpster Russ flew, so lively and quick,
I knew it was gone when I heard the lid click.
More rapid than eagles, with cleaner I came,
I whistled, and shouted, and called them by name;

"Now, front stairs! now, banister! now, vanity and tub!
On, corners! on baseboards! on, trucks and stuffed cub!
To the top of the mantel! to the top of the wall!
Now scrub away! wipe away! dust away all!"

So into the trashcan the dust-mites they flew,
With my arms full of supplies, and Russell's arms, too.
And then, in a twinkling, I heard on my phone
The social worker appointment being postponed.

As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
Into the room Russell came with a bound.
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head,
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread;

"An extra week we have to prepare,
My gorgeous princess, you have no reason to despair."
And I heard him exclaim, ere he walked out of sight,
Happy home study to all, and to all a good night!

**Reposted from early 2010.

We are actually having a home study visit tomorrow (again). I should actually be cleaning but instead I'm reading old blogs. Seems like a good idea.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

The Book.

Not THE Book, like the Holy one, I just mean my book. My memoir of Eliot's adoption.

You'll be happy to hear I've not touched it since I finished it. That's what I call progress. I'd like to blame the holidays and about four other things but I just needed a little space from it. I needed to clear my head. I needed to lay down my premature dream of getting published and refocus.

I've spent that time reading this book and this book.

Essentially I need to edit. To chop. Like Locks of Love chop.

It's like buying the absolute perfect house but it was previously owned by hoarders who disappeared and left all their stuff there. You can see the sound structure and spacious rooms. You saw peeks of beautiful crown molding and intricate tile work. But it's all covered by crap. THE STUFF. The stuff is all consuming and you needed some space after the initial walk through before you went back at it.

If you can't picture that, think of it as a huge pile of mental vomit and now I just need to pull out all the good chunks.

I'm excited about it again. I'll keep ya posted once I make more actual progress. Thanks for always asking about it. You guys have been such a huge support.