Adoption Fundraising: “Earn the Money Rather Than Ask Me”

Dawn Davenport


Adoption fundraising

If you want to heat up the discussion on any online adoption forum, just introduce a comment about adoption fundraising and watch the sparks fly. Online fundraisers for all things are becoming more common, but fundraising for adoption seem to incite the greatest ire.

So, should you ask others to donate money to help you adopt?

The SheKnows Parental Advisory column received the following question:

Q: I’ve come across some Facebook posts recently and I’m not entirely sure how to feel about them. In short: one couple is asking for money to help with medical costs related to their pregnancy and the other is asking for help with funding their adoption. I certainly feel for both couples, but if you can’t afford to have a child…should you?

Granted, after searching GoFundMe for a bit, there are a lot of “help with vet bills”, “help send me to [place]”, “help with medical bills” etc. Who am I to judge? Mostly I’m just curious and would like your opinion. Is it commonplace to ask for money this way when starting a family, and I’m just living under a rock? Maybe I’m just being a jaded hard-ass. I guess I could just go start a GoFundMe for paying off my student loans and paying for my cat’s bladder surgery…


A: For most people on social media, fundraiser links have become a regular part of everyday life. It’s a rare week that I don’t notice a new fundraiser in my personal feed, and like you, L., I’m always scrutinizing a person’s or couple’s motives and asking myself philosophical questions about the role these fundraisers play in modern society. …

We live in a time when having a child is so expensive, I feel nauseous just thinking about it. Giving birth in a hospital can cost a couple upwards of $20,000, and that’s without any complications. I’ve known several couples whose babies were in NICU for weeks or months, and a few of them had jobs with excellent health care, and a few of them didn’t. (None of them hosted a fundraiser.) Before I can ask myself if fundraising in such a scenario is appropriate, I have to acknowledge that living in a country as wealthy as the U.S. and being faced with hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt due to a broken health care system is a problem for many Americans, and one that we have inherited. It sucks.

There’s also this idea that it takes a village to raise a child, but should it take a village to have a child? That expression was rooted in the idea that if everyone in the community pitched in and helped each other out, taking an active interest in transmitting cultural history and mores to the next generation, everyone would be better off for it. The people who turn to fundraising in order to have or adopt a child are probably thinking of their Facebook friends as their village, but I would argue that your Facebook friends are not your village. An old classmate who donated to an IVF or adoption fund from across the country isn’t invested in the child’s future, nor should they be. And I don’t get the impression that couples who are raising these funds are really looking to their friends to help them make parenting decisions. They’re treating their village more like a bank, and that’s why these fundraisers rub so many people, including me, the wrong way. …

When you donate to a fund for a friend who needs help — not just wants it, but needs it — you can see your donation “pay off.” But asking people to contribute financially to a decision to have kids is actually just asking them to give away their money. Sure, a missionary couple may be trying to adopt a baby from a poor country and that child will benefit in untold ways, but that’s what a church is there for — to financially assist those couples or provide aid to children in those countries. If it’s an unnecessarily tall order for me to ask my friends to help me recoup some money because my cat broke his leg, it’s equally unfair for people to put their friends in the position of paying for a baby’s conception, adoption, birth, schooling and so on. I chose to adopt my idiot cat, and whatever costs I incur are mine to deal with. That’s life. And no couple should feel comfortable asking their friends, or the world at large, to pay their child-rearing costs for the same reasons. It’s a choice. An expensive one, but that doesn’t mean the costs should get outsourced to our networks of friends, family, colleagues and strangers under the guise of an online baby shower. …

Helping out friends is great, but the truth is, everyone needs a bit of financial help at some point in life, and most of us will just deal with our problems the old-fashioned way — by earning the money to pay down the costs, one annoying, astronomical bill at a time.


I’ve expressed my own problems with fundraising for adoption (and IVF), but I think this questioner and advisor are missing the mark. There is a difference between asking for money to raise a child and asking for money to pay for an unfortunately very expensive way to have a child.

adoption fundraiser idea

Differences Between Cost of Raising a Child & Cost of Adopting a Child

The cost for having a child for the vast majority of the people in the US is covered by health insurance. Even if you don’t have health insurance when you become pregnant, there are several ways to get your pregnancy covered.  Unfortunately, adoption is not covered by insurance.

Adoption usually require a large lump sum of money to be paid at one time. Raising a child requires small(ish) amounts of money to be paid out over time. Many families can afford the cost of raising a child, but don’t happen to have $30,000 sitting in a bank account to pay at one time to adopt the child.

adoption fundraiser Facebook post

I venture to guess that most people who are fundraising to cover the cost of either adoption or IVF did not anticipate that they were ever going to be in the position of having to pay that much money to adopt or treat their infertility. If they had, they might have been able to slowly start saving money to pay for it. And plenty of people, I dare say the majority of people, still do just that by:

  • Taking on an extra job or working overtime.
  • Put aside each month the cost of childcare and diapers in your savings account. By wanting to adopt or have a baby, you acknowledge that you can afford to pay these monthly costs as part of parenting, so start putting this money aside now to help create your family.
  • Cut out buying new clothes and shoes for a year or two.
  • Make homemade goodies for holiday presents rather than spend money on gifts.
  • Stop buying coffee in coffee shops.

The problem is that it can take years to save enough money to pay for adoption. Perhaps you think that’s how is should be and you are entitled to that opinion, but at least acknowledge the unfairness of it all.

adoption fundraiser gofundme

Adopting to Rescue a Child??

The Parental Advisor said that adoption fundraising misconstrues the “it takes a village” concept. At least when it comes to people who feel called to adopt and provide a home for a child in need, I think they are wrong.

Putting aside the whole adoption as saving a child point, which I have problems with if it’s the primary motivation for adoption, from the fundraising standpoint, most churches see themselves as part of the village it takes to bring this child home and actively encourage their members to both fundraise and to contribute to other member’s fundraising efforts. It is an accepted part of the church culture, so why should any of the rest of us criticize.

adoption fundraiser disagreement

The Child’s Point of View

With all things we do in the family-creating arena, we are supposed to consider first and foremost the best interest of the child. I don’t personally think that adoption fundraisers are inherently against the child’s best interest, but I think adoptive parents need to understand that there will be a strong temptation to overshare information to make a more compelling case for giving, and I do believe that this oversharing is not in any child’s best interest.

My litmus test for adoption fundraisers is how your efforts will be viewed from the eyes of your child when she is a teenager. Will she feel proud or mortified or somewhere in between?

It is also worth noting what some adult adoptees say about adoption fundraising. TheAdoptedOnes  has pointed out that many adoptees are already sensitive to the cost of adoption and knowing your family fundraised might add to that feeling and make an adoptee feel even more commodified. “The mere thought that others contributed to save us would have added yet another layer to being an adoptee.”

Did you do an adoption fundraiser? Would you fundraise for adoption?

Other Creating a Family resources you will enjoy:

Image credit:
Beards for Adoption Fundraiser
GoFundMe Fundraiser
Social medias posting from SheKnows article

14/11/2016 | by Dawn Davenport | Categories: Adoption, Adoption Blog, Blog | 5 Comments

5 Responses to Adoption Fundraising: “Earn the Money Rather Than Ask Me”

  1. Avatar JoBen Barkey says:

    Interesting points.
    One of the things that has been so frustrating within the adoption process.. is that there is one label- “Adoption”. An international adoption of a child above 9 years old is classified by many/most host countries as a “Special Needs” adoption simply because of the special needs that will require attention because of prolonged exposure to trauma during important development years. (Many of these children are YEARS behind in both mental and physical development). TIME is so important!! Additionally there is a really big difference if you host a child through one of the many hosting programs, prior to adoption. The process is significantly sped up because you are not waiting for a referral (Which has been reported to take 1-5 years). 5 years to save $10,000 a year is not an impossible task (Many international adoptions have so many fees that by the time you are done its well over $40,000 and even close to $50,000). After hosting a child, with no wait for a referral, you can actually adopt within about 7-8 months of Starting the process. Most adoption Grants do not let you apply until after the home study is completed.. which means that that 7-8 months is then trimmed down to 3-4 months. So, 3-4 months to come up with $50,000 is… discouraging. You begin to think about the reality that your son/daughter will stay in the institution for longer, exposed to the risk of even more traumatic experiences related to loneliness, abandonment and change.. and the ONLY thing keeping them there is money. That is hard to process, very hard. So then you ask yourself this internal conversation:
    “I feel VERY uncomfortable sharing with my family, friends and extended friendships through social media that I can’t do this on my own. I feel like its my first “fail” as a parent for this child… I am curious about this discomfort I feel. I am realizing that what I am dressing up as “discomfort”.. may actually be “pride”. Wait, am I willing to let my son/daughter continue to risk exposure to experiencing more trauma and neglect… because I am too proud to ask for help. Whoa. Deep Breath. I better not be so proud that I would be willing to put a child at risk in order to preserve my imaginary status/pride”

    THAT is the VERY REAL conversation that many of us have internally. So we finally ask for help… we finally ask for people for Help… Help to Love, Pray for, Think about, and Encourage a family who has said YES to something that most families can not responsibly say yes to. And adoption should ONLY be done responsibly. You should ONLY say yes if you are willing to FIGHT every day for that child to learn to love himself/herself as much as you do. The ugly pain and scars from trauma and abuse WILL enter my home when my son/daughter comes home. They are his/her history. But Dangit, he/she will NEVER fight that fight alone again. I will Fiercely Love this child.

    “He is ours and We are his”

    THAT is what it can often feel like to be on the other side of people sharing their opinions with you about how your adoption page.. and how asking them to share it makes them feel uncomfortable.

  2. Avatar Carrie says:

    I fully understand that there are many people who ultimately have the view of why should I care about your financial problems when I have my own, and I didn’t ask anyone for help.
    BUT…. as with anything online related, you can’t please everyone, and if you don’t like it scroll past and move on with your life. Just because it makes your hackles go up that someone needs support, doesn’t mean that there aren’t far more people who love to be able to help others (yes, even with financial burdens of their own)
    Because as you stated, we’ve all been in a situation of financial stress at one time or another.
    So at the end of the day, you are right in one sense, who are you to judge? Your not. Is it physically harming you if people are setting up a fund my adoption? If you’re answer is no…than you probably shouldn’t waste your time shaming them. Let people alone. Your not obligated to help anyone, but there are plenty of people who are happy to give. Even if the reason is as seemingly as silly as a cat bill.

  3. Avatar Tom says:

    I concur with Jacquie, even though our experience was many years ago. We chose to limit the “asks” to close family members or friends who voluntarily inquired in a way that seemed to say, “we’d like to help–can we?”

    Dawn, I’m wondering if there isn’t a difference between “asking” when adopting a very young child (there are certainly fewer internationally) in contrast to “asking” when adopting an older child (10 and older, for example). To me, that is where the “village” concept may play a true role, and where the “mission” aspect may be valid.

    Regarding “that’s what churches are for,” I’m wondering if the writer attends a church where the pastor is “adoption minded.” If they are it makes a world of difference.

    • Dawn Davenport Dawn Davenport says:

      Tom, I think you raise a really good point about the distinction between the age and special needs involved. I’m not sure, however, that distinction will matter to those that argue that adoption fundraising is not in the best interest of the child. I think the “attitude” and mission of the church makes a huge difference as well. It makes a difference in so many ways, including how many people from the church adopt and how supported they feel through the process and as they parent.

  4. Avatar Jacquie says:

    I’m personally against fundraising now that I’ve experienced familial backlash after my husband and I set up a site. I wasn’t against fundraising, and I’ve helped out a lot of other friends on fundraising sites in the past, but our family had a lot to say about it. We decided it wasn’t worth the cost of strained familial relations just to get some help to offset our family-building costs. We ended up taking a loan out from the bank. The bank doesn’t judge- they just charge interest! Luckily we are in a position to get into debt and have the means to pay it back in a timely manner (if nothing goes wrong). Not everyone is so fortunate!

    You also have to consider the age limits on adoption- especially for infant and international adoption- where it’s unrealistic to wait to save the money since you will age out as a couple by the time the savings are in place.

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