Funding Your International Adoption with Grants

Experiences & Tips from our Four Adoptions

A helpful, how-to adoption article

Written by Kimberly Schildbach,
a Wide Horizons For Children Adoptive Mom

Kimberly Schildbach’s children: Sweet Mabel, An Qi (aka Winnifred), Frances and Anelia. Says Schildbach, “We are so lucky!”

We have been so blessed to adopt our four daughters in the space of less than six years while relying on online fundraising (and generous donors), adoption grants, and personal donations. It definitely took a lot of time and energy and serious commitment. It required us to work strategically and in union with one another. It was worth all of it because by using a variety of different techniques and from the generosity of individuals, business and granting organizations, we were able to adopt our beautiful daughters!

When we started down this path, we didn’t have any assurances that our fundraising efforts would pay off. We had to think creatively!  We raised money through selling hand-crafted goods and anything in our house that we could part with, applied for every grant we were eligible for, and put on in-person and online auctions.  This allowed us to stay one step ahead of all the fees and travel expenses.

In this article I will outline our plan of attack, how we combined different funding sources, provide you with resources and tips and provide an update you on what I’m doing now that I’m not actively fundraising.

I can’t promise my advice will help you fund your entire adoption, but I can at least give you a head start by sharing what worked for us.

Plan of Attack

First Agency Fees:

In order to pay for your adoption with grants and fundraising, you have to look at fundraising as “cobbling together.”  It’s rare that one grant or fundraising effort will pay for all your expenses.  Our plan was to always stay just one step ahead of our fees.  We felt that, as long as our adoption was being paid for with our funding efforts, all those late nights were worth it!  Our initial efforts were focused on paying off those first fees (for us that was homestudy and first agency fees.)

However, there can be a complication with those first fees.  Grants usually require you to have a completed homestudy (and sometimes your I800a) to apply.  There are a few exceptions (see the grants list below) but most will not allow you to apply and certainly not disburse the funds until a few months into the adoption process.

Since you can’t apply for (many) grants at this stage we use this time (and initial energy) for online or in person fundraising efforts.  We like online auctions but that is because we have a large friend base on social media (especially after adopting a few times) and our time is limited (because of said kids). You have to look at your resources and what will work best for you and then plan your first fundraisers.

  • Have a large local community? Consider begging area businesses for items and gift cards and have an in person silent auction.  Ask friends to donate services (babysitting, house cleaning) and auction them off! 
  • Have an active online social media presence? Do an online auction!  Have friends donate items, beg local businesses for gift cards, have friends offer goods and services.  Set it up as a public event on FB.  Make sure you comment on each and every bid – this helps to keep people engaged and know that this virtual auction is happening for real!  Keep it light and fun and say thank you a lot!
  • Sell everything and anything you can on Facebook marketplace or Craigslist. I even sold certain items on my Facebook wall.  As soon as we had set up an online funding platform (see the last bullet in this section) we would ask if people would pay through our funding page – I even gave the buyer a discount on the price if they agreed to pay there!
  • Make something! We have made sea glass candy, personalized tote bags and t shirts with freezer paper stencils, and glycerin soap.  We asked for a “minimum donation of X dollars” and people were so generous!  Don’t feel like you have to be an expert at making the item for the fundraiser – I didn’t know how to make sea glass candy or soap before starting these fundraisers – I learned on the job!
  • Set up an online funding platform. We love Connected Hearts Ministry. They will set up a tax-deductible funding page for your family and you can use social media to ask people to donate. They will even donate to any matching grants you get!
Glycerin soaps I learned to make and sold on Facebook.

Most people want to be a part of the very special thing you are doing.  Adopting is an act of faith and love so be sure to give your friends and your community a chance to be a part of it.  Don’t be afraid to push your fundraiser as much as you need to.  This is important – you are not doing it for yourself, you are doing it for your child.  

Second Agency Fees:

We always begin our grant writing two weeks before our homestudy is completed. That way they are ready to send right after we have the hard copy (most grants want some proof your homestudy is completed.)  We gather all the supporting documents, fill out the application (with a sticky note on the date completed to be filled in later) and even address the envelope.  We want them in the mail the day after our homestudy (or whatever milestone they need) is reached!

So then how should you begin? 

First let’s admit it does feel overwhelming. But then again, so did the idea of adopting not too long ago and here you are!  Just remember, the work upfront is huge but when you receive the first (of many I hope) grants it will all be forgotten.  Just sit down, take a deep breath, and begin at the beginning.  (Remember date nights can be grant writing nights!!)

Remember when gathering the paperwork for your homestudy and dossier seemed overwhelming? You can do this!

Step One: Gather Your Documents

Grants typically ask for some or all of these documents, gather and put together in one place in separate file folders:

  • Tax returns for the last two years.
  • A list of all the grants and fundraising you’ve already done. Grant agencies like to see you are working hard to bring your baby home!
  • Copy of homestudy (some will want your agency to send it directly, we like to have a few copies ready to go.)
  • Letters of reference (we ask the same person who does our reference letters from our homestudy to do another copy with “to whom it may concern” and no date. We ask them to print out 10 hard copies and sign them.  Some grants ask you to have your references send their letters directly to them.
  • Personal statement Make it bold! You are stepping out to do something big! Make sure your story says as much.
  • Copy of recent (two months) check stubs for all reported income earners.
  • Picture of adoptive family and child to be adopted. We just did a quick picture on the couch of all of us!
  • Statement of expenses from adoption agency (they should know what this is and sometimes the grants want it sent directly from them.)

Additionally, if you are applying for Christian grants you will need:

  • Statement of faith
  • Pastor letter (again we ask our priest to do a “to whom it may concern” letter with no date, then we ask for 10 hard copies signed.) Some grants ask you to have your pastor send it directly to them.
  • A few of the Christian grants ask you to answer specific questions. Check their application.  We like to do these questions early and have them ready to include with any application when our homestudy is done. 

Step Two:  Check Each Individual Grant

Grants are all different and here are some things to check before getting started with the application (nothing is more disheartening then spending hours on a grant you will never get).

  • Make sure the grant is still viable – some grants run out of money, others might change the focus of their work – just make sure the grant is active and granting money.
  • Make sure you meet the grant’s criteria. Some of the grants we could not apply for due to family size or because of the time between adoptions.  Other possible criteria can include:
    • Where you live (only granting funds to residents of Missouri, for example)
    • Religious beliefs
    • Marriage history
    • Characteristics of the child you are adopting
  • Check the application deadlines and timing of disbursement of funds. Sometimes a grant will disburse funds too early in the adoption for you to qualify (before you’ve reached a milestone) or months after it should be concluded. Some allow you to receive the grant once home, but some do not.

This is our current grants list.  This list should get you started but is not an exhaustive list.  Google “adoption grants” and visit Facebook groups such as “China Adoption Questions” or “Bulgaria Adoptions” and ask for grants others have had success with.  I’ve learned the most from other families in process.

Open to All:

Kids for Kayla (preference given to Colorado families)
Brittany’s Hope Matching grant (this one is distributed only through certain adoption agencies)
Gift of Adoption
Forever Families Foundation
Family Formation Charitable Trust
A Child Waits

Christian Applicants Only:

Sacred Selections
The Chosen and Dearly Loved Foundation
Show Hope
Muskogee (MCC)
Rollstone Foundation
Zoe’s Rainbow
Christian Orphan Fund
Stone Family Adoption
Hand in Hand
Katelyn’s Fund
Pure Gift of God
Every Child Has a Dream
Beauty Amidst the Ashes, Inc.
HeritageLink Adoption grant
One 17 Foundation
Heart of the Bride
Golden Dawn (needs I800A approval)
Helps Us Adopt . org
Sowing Roots
Joseph’s DreamCoat
JSC Foundation (require 2 years between “gotcha” days)
Claire’s Gift
Salvation International

Third Agency Fees:  Cut and Paste, Cut and Paste

Once you have filled out one grants you can cut and paste your information in the next application.  We like to do a few huge grant applications and one that is a bit easier.  For us that means starting with the online Show Hope application.  Every grant after that one feels easy!   (And they gave us incredibly generous grants!  Thank you, Show Hope!)

So, while your i800a (or other USCIS document) is grinding slowly through the bureaucracy, your grant applications are hopefully being reviewed and by the time your i800a is approved (our process was always at least 2 months) you might have some answers about your grants.

My agency has a huge fee due right after our i800a is approved and our dossier is ready to go to China.  We’ve been lucky with our system of sending out our applications early.  Usually by dossier time we have at least a couple of matching grants we are working on.

 How do I fill those matching grants?

The first time we adopted we didn’t understand matching grants and turned down a few.  Now we know that matching grants are key in cobbling together our adoption funding.

People love to give to matching grants!  Every donation is doubled and so advertise that when you post it on your social media and/or make a flyer for your church or local community.

My son Gaelan did freezer paper stencils on T shirts. He painted the country and then put a heart where the family requested. He had cute assistants.

We filled our matching grants in a variety of ways.  I sold soap, candy, T shirts and tote bags.  I begged continuously on social media (and generous hearts gave).   I babysat and asked the mom to pay me through our matching grant.  I sold everything I could on Craigslist and asked the buyers to pay to our matching grant – people love to help!  Don’t worry about overwhelming your friends, keep sharing your matching grant.  This is a chance for friends to participate in something big!

Last but Not Least – Almost there!  Travel Fees, Legal Fees and Orphanage Donations

After we’ve gotten some matching grants and filled them, and some regular grants and have paid all our agency fees, we turn our attention to travel fees, legal fees in country and our orphanage donation. 

Now’s the time to recheck your grants list and see if you put any off that you can still do.  Some we find out about from FB groups and some we put off until after our i800a was approved and some we put off because we were just plain tired – but now is the time to gather energy and leave no stone unturned.  Send them out!

This is also the time to remind others that you are almost at the point of picking up your beautiful child!  It’s a great time to ask for any last-minute personal donations.

And take the time to celebrate!  You’ve made it through all the paperwork and soon you will have your beautiful child in your arms!

Picking up our sweet Frances in Zhengzhou China in 2018. My daughter Olive was so excited to have another sister!

After the Fundraising is Done – Enjoy your child and find new projects

So, what am I doing now that I’m not spending hours filling out grant or adoption applications?  I’m raising money for aging out blind and visually impaired kids in China! 

Kids in China age out at age 14 and become ineligible to be adopted.  Blind kids are often overlooked and wait the longest.  Our funding work – Love at Last Grants – raises money through online fundraising, online auctions and other fundraising efforts to fill tax deductible funding pages specific to an aging out child.  When (hopefully) a family steps forward to adopt the child and gains acceptance from China (LOA) they receive the money raised.

Please “like” our page and consider donating.

I can be reached through Facebook if you need any advice on fundraising.  Please reach out!