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Article adapted from this U.S. News and World Report article by Susan Johnston

Domestic and international adoption can cost thousands of dollars, but grants, tax credits and fundraising can offset costs. If they take advantage all the financial resources available, moderate-income families can adopt a child debt-free.

Each year, U.S. citizens adopt over 100,000 children, according to the Child Welfare Information Gateway. Costs can range from very little for adopting a child from foster care to $40,000 or more for a private domestic adoption, says Nicole Witt, executive director of The Adoption Consultancy in Florida.

Here’s a comprehensive look at strategies that adoptive families use to cover costs.

Adoption tax credit: For 2014, the IRS gives adoptive parents a maximum adoption tax credit (to offset qualified adoption expenses such as legal fees and travel costs) of $13,190 per child, which phases out for modified adjusted gross incomes between $197,880 and $237,880. “If you adopt twins, then you can claim double the tax credit,” Witt says. “Or even if you have a [domestic adoption] situation that falls through, you can claim it towards the expenses that you've lost.” The credit cannot exceed your tax liability, but you can carry any excess credits into the following year. Consult your tax preparer if you're unsure of how this applies to you.

Adoption grants: Jeremy Resmer and his wife raised over $47,000 so they can adopt twin girls from Congo debt-free and about two-thirds of that money came from grants. (The Congolese government has put all adoptions on hold, so Resmer, his wife and their 3-year-old son are currently living in the Congo bonding with the girls and waiting for the adoption to finalize.) The pair did exhaustive research on adoption grants, and Resmer wrote and published an e-book called “Fund Your Adoption: A Step-By-Step Guide To Adopt Debt-Free.” “We had to look in a million different places to find all the grants,” he says. “Sometimes income eligibility requirements will come in. Some organizations will only provide grants for domestic adoptions.” Because the application process can be time-intensive (collecting letters of recommendation, for instance), the couple applied for 10 grants that they felt they most closely fit the award criteria, and also looked at grants with the highest award ranges. They were awarded six of them. 

Not everyone will qualify for grants because some are income-based. However, a growing number of employers now offer adoption assistance. In fact, a 2012 Aon Hewitt survey of 1,000 major U.S. employers found that over half offered this benefit, compared to 12 percent in 1990. Fingerman says these benefits can range between $2,000 and $10,000 depending on the employer.

Loans: Sometimes people take a short-term loan to cover adoption costs and use their tax return (with the adoption tax credit) to repay the loan. “There are adoption loans out there, but I always tell my clients just because a loan has the word ‘adoption’ in front of it doesn’t mean it has most favorable terms,” Witt says. “Explore a general loan, home equity loan and see what the best terms are.” Not everyone has home equity they can borrow from, but Witt says having a line of credit ready to cover adoption expenses can be smart (so long as you're realistic about what you can afford). “You don't know exactly how much you're going to need and when you're going to need it,” she explains.

Some people also get a gift or interest-free loan from parents who want to be grandparents. “People sometimes have to travel to other parts of the country where the birth mother lives, so families have given them frequent flier miles or points to the Marriott,” Fingerman says.

Fundraising: Many people saving up for adoption take on a second job or plan fundraising events – Resmer did both. Friends, family and members of a religious community have long been a source of financial help for adoptive families, but online crowdfunding for adoption costs puts a 21st century twist on this tradition, which Witt says can be controversial. "On the one hand, it can be great because people love to help," she says. On the other hand, some parents worry contributors could "say something inappropriate in front of the child about how they helped pay for them," she says.

Witt has seen other families sell adoption T-shirts to friends and family members or temporarily rent out the room intended as a nursery for extra cash. Resmer's family raised several thousand dollars through an adoption carnival hosted by a local church. "They had dunk tanks, carnival rides, all sorts of food and a bake sale," he says. They also solicited donations from local businesses and held a silent auction at the carnival.

By tapping into all available resources, even moderate-income families have been able to make adoption a reality. "Most people who adopt don't have $40,000 sitting in their bank account," Witt says. "Most people I work with are typically middle-income families, and they find ways to make it happen."


Looking into adoption but need assistance with financing or any other aspect? We’re here to help! Feel free to reach out to us here at the Orphan Care Initiative at 949-609-8555 or email orphans@saddleback.com.

Another great resource is our monthly information seminar “Thinking About Adoption or Foster Care.” Come get your questions answered by families in our church who have already walked this road. The next Thinking About Adoption or Foster Care will be Wednesday night, February 4th, from 6:30 to 8:30pm in the MO2 gathering room of the Lake Forest Saddleback campus. 

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Are you an adoptive or foster family looking for parenting insight? Join us for a special two-day event designed to offer tools and help specifically for you!

The Empowered to Connect Conference on Febraury 13 & 14 at Calvery Chapel Costa Mesa is designed for foster and adoptive families, ministry leaders and professionals who want to deepen their understanding of how to connect with at-risk youth and children from hard places. 

Using trust-based parenting and proven techniques developed by Dr. Karyn Purvis, the conference will equip, empower and encourage you with tips, tools, and knowledge.

Early bird registration ends Friday – so sign up soon at showhope.org/connect! And be sure to use code FOCUSGUEST for 50% off!  


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Humans are built with a natural longing for interaction. A couple shares about their individual days at work, a teenage girl cries about a breakup as her friend comforts her, and a group of men share about their recent shots in a golf game. In the same way, children are in dire need of response from the moment they are born. But what happens when this need is not met? What occurs in the brain when expression is met with empty stares and immobile response? Although it is easy to overlook the problem of neglect, it is important to be aware of the gravity of children who are not receiving sufficient attention, because the foundation of healthy societies is built upon the proper development of interaction between children and caregivers. In  recent research from Harvard University’s Center on the Developing Child, psychologists study the cause and effects of this issue.

The problem of severe neglect is associated with abnormalities in the structure and functioning of the developing brain. This can start as early as infancy. During the first stages of childhood, there is a refining of the brain’s neural circuits that are being formed. While in this stage of life, the process of “serve and return” is essential. This is the concept that children naturally interact through facial expressions, cooing, and gestures, then the caretaker responds with similar expressions and gestures. If a caretaker fails to respond, the formation of the child’s brain may be interrupted, which can cause future damage in learning, conduct, and health.

Even more disheartening is the growing population of children inhabiting institutional settings. These often crowded children’s homes foster a sort of “assembly-line” system of caretaking. Children are looked after by shifts of caregivers, never being able to establish reliable connections, and only participating in minimal serve and return interaction. Even though they may be receiving sufficient basic living needs (such as food, shelter, and health care), they are robbed of the basic psychosocial communication that encourages healthy brain stimulation.

In tests of electrical activity in the brain, children from institutional homes, along with those with histories of neglect, show a lack of ability to react properly to stimulation, such as recognizing different facial emotions. Not only is the area of the brain that identifies emotion stunted, but the prefrontal cortex, which regulates roles such as planning, observation, problem solving, and behavior, has been noted to function on a lower level than those without a history of neglect.

Furthermore, the systems in a person that assist in handling stress and anxiety may be severely damaged as well. For example, in a typical healthy child, the stress hormone, cortisol, shows high levels of activation in the morning, acting as a boost for the body to function during the day. As night approaches, it gradually decreases. But in neglected or institutionalized children, this hormone displays low levels in the morning and continues a flat pattern throughout the day. In the long run, this lack of cortisol regulation has been seen to permanently damage the construction of the brain, causing hearth rhythm inconsistencies, depression, and anxiety.

So how can this problem be alleviated? Ultimately, a nurturing family system where relational connection can happen is imperative. Every child’s recovery depends upon the severity of the negligence and timing of rescue. The immediate shift of moving a child from a negligent home to an encouraging one is important, but the process of healing requires long-term and consistent relational support. Even after being removed from an unhealthy situation, a child is still prone to lack of recovery if they are not surrounded by relationships where they can build attachment.

The Orphan Care Initiative seeks to help every child remain in family, reunite with family or regain a family of their own, by equipping the local church to act as a key support. In Rwanda, we are mobilizing churches to get children out of orphanages and into families, as the country works towards the goal of zero children living in orphanages.

Read some of the incredible stories of how  children in Rwanda are leaving the orphanages for families of their own. Learn how you can sponsor a family in Rwanda to have the extra boost needed to adopt a child out of the orphanage  here.

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Ten years ago in Kigali, Rwanda’s capital city, an unspeakable tragedy left a young unmarried girl, Joselyn, pregnant with a baby boy. She felt ashamed and broken.

Shortly after she gave birth, Joselyn’s aunt took the newborn and sent him to an orphanage hidden in the mountains miles from Joselyn’s home. Her aunt told Joselyn if she tried to find her son she would be arrested for abandonment.

Last month, diligent orphan care volunteers from local churches near the orphanage began to unravel now ten-year-old Eric’s history. The story slowly unfolded. They found out this child living without hope of a family actually had a mother. When Joselyn learned that her Eric was waiting—parentless—she found new hope that she could reunite with her son once again.

The orphan care volunteers talked Joselyn through the potential challenges of raising her son. Undeterred, she made the bold decision to bring him home. In the course of their conversations and parenting training, the volunteers asked Joselyn if she knew about Jesus, how He cared for her, how He had come to redeem her pain and make her whole. Joselyn accepted Christ that day in her home. She realized that her current accommodations—a small house doubling as the community bar—was no place for a child, and she chose to move down the street to a humble mud home, one with an extra room for Eric.

Local church members paid Joselyn’s way to make the grueling six-hour bus ride to the orphanage where she and Eric were finally reunited. Tears rolled down their faces as they embraced each other at last. As Joselyn dried her son’s eyes using her traditional Rwandan skirt she spoke to him with the soothing, tender words Eric had waited so long to hear, “ I love you. I can’t wait to care for you. I can’t wait to hold you.”

Mother and son are now back home in Kigali, adjusting to their new lives as a family. Through the generosity of sponsorship donors, Joselyn has the means to provide a better home and a smooth transition for her son. Eric will receive love from his own mother who can now provide medical insurance, school fees and the home he never knew.  He will hear and experience the love of Jesus in the arms of his mother, with a family of his own.

This month, members of the local Rwandan church have decided to take a local PEACE trip to fix up Joselyn’s home, making it more suitable for their little family. They plan to paint the walls and add windows to the small rooms. Through the love, care and provision of Saddleback sponsors and members of the local church in Rwanda, Joselyn’s painful experiences have been redeemed through their miraculous reunion, and a little boy’s future is forever transformed.

You can help children leave the orphanage! If you are interested in helping families like Joselyn and Eric reunite, visit saddleback.com/sponsorship for more information.

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Laurence is a 17-year-old girl living with HIV in Rwanda. Lawrence’s parents died when she was just two years old, and she was sent to live in the orphanage. For fifteen lonely years, Laurence didn’t have access to the care she needed, and at times the painful skin condition she developed from her disease kept her out of school and isolated from other children in the orphanage.

Laurence lived depressed and without hope. Because of her age and her HIV status, the orphanage claimed she was unadoptable—that no one would want her. Laurence couldn’t see an end to her loneliness.

However, that is not how Laurence’s story ends. Five hours away from the orphanage, a woman named Kabibi also lives with HIV. Kabibi lost two children in the genocide, and though she heard God whisper that she would one day have a family again, but without a husband she couldn’t see how that was possible. She asked God, “Will you make me laugh like Sarah?”

Through the Global HIV&AIDS Initiative and the Rwanda Orphan Care Initiative, Kabibi learned about Laurence, one of the last children left in the orphanage, and her heart broke. Kabibi knew God had redeemed her pain so she could redeem others, and she decided, no matter the opposition, she could be a mother to Laurence.

As they met for the first time, Kabibi embraced her new daughter. Tears streamed down both their faces as Kabibi told Laurence, “I’m going to be your mother.”

Laurence saw that after years of living without a family, she could finally have a home with a mother who loved her deeply. She decided to go with Kabibi.

With the help of the local church and Saddleback sponsorship, Kabibi has been able to  adopt Laurence. Just a few days ago, Kibibi went to the orphanage to get Laurence. At last, Laurence left the orphanage and came home to a family of her own – to a mom who will love her and make sure she gets the HIV care she needs.

Half of the children who lived in orphanages in Rwanda when we began two years ago now have a family of their own. Together as a church, we can reach the goal of zero children living in orphanages in Rwanda.

Did you know you can sponsor a Rwandan family who is willing to adopt a child like Laurence? 

For just $38 a month you can bring a child out of an orphanage. Please visit www.saddleback.com/sponsorship for more information.

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