Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Nonprofit helps families defray adoption costs

At different points during their 11-year marriage, Amanda and Erik Schierer have taken in family and friends going through a rough patch or two.

So they thought nothing of it last year when a pregnant friend needed a place to stay.

Five months after giving birth, the Schierer's houseguest moved out.

It turns out, the woman didn't want to be a mother. She terminated her parental rights, giving the Schierers the gift of parenthood.

But adopting baby Lucas proved bittersweet. The pair were thrilled about their son but anxious about how to pay the thousands of dollars it would cost to make him officially theirs.

And because they were not licensed foster parents, the Schierers had to move fast or Lucas could fall into the child welfare system.

"My 'gotcha' moment is when I knew he was going to be leaving me and I wasn't happy," Amanda Schierer said. "I was going to fight because he was mine."

Their jobs — Amanda is a billings analyst for a healthcare system; Erik, at the time, was a long-distance truck driver — made for a comfortable living but seemingly put adoption out of reach.

The cost of adoption in the U.S. can range from $2,500 for a foster care adoption to up to $40,000 for an adoption through a private agency, according to the Child Welfare Information Gateway, a federally-funded adoption information service.

Such costs can be staggering and make adoption prohibitive for middle-class families. Brian and Holly Festa, a Riverview couple profiled in the Tampa Bay Times earlier this month, have taken to fundraising.

For the Schirers, there's Gift of Adoption, a nonprofit organization that awards families grant money to help with adoption costs.

It has given more than 1,800 adopting families $5.4 million dollars since its founding in 1996. Now in its 20th year, the organization boasts several chapters around the country, including Arizona, Connecticut and Florida.

The process begins with prospective parents completing an online application. After submitting income documentation and completing a home study, a team evaluates the family and makes a recommendation.

Factors like an applicant's marital status, gender, race, creed, national origin, religion, age, or sexual orientation is not part of the review process, according to the organization's website.

Some applications receive a higher priority than others, such as if a family already has taken in a sibling of the adoptive child or if the child has special needs.

The average grant is between $4,000 and $7,500. The money can be used to pay attorney or agency fees or, in the Schierers' case, cover living expenses for two months after Erik quit his job to look for employment that would keep him closer to home.

"We took a huge loss but we've wanted this for 11 years," she said.

Loreen Spencer is the president of the Gift of Adoption's Florida chapter.

Early in their marriage, Loreen and her husband Marc learned that having children of their own wasn't probable. The couple decided to adopt.

Relying in part on an $8,000 reimbursement from Marc's employer, Bank of America, the Spencers were able to cover the costs. It was a welcomed bonus given that they received only six hours notice that they were to become parents.

After bringing their daughter into their family, they were looking for a way to help other couples who wanted to adopt when they learned about Gift of Adoption.

The pair helped establish the Florida chapter in 2002.

Based in Tampa, Loreen Spencer estimates the chapter has dispensed about $750,000 to adopting families since its inception.

With just two percent of families completing the adoption processes, the goal is to make adoption a reality for many deserving families that otherwise are turned off because of the expense, she said.

"Money is the greatest obstacle to adoption," she said. "We try to fill that void that separates needy children from families that can't afford that cost."

After 14 years, the Florida chapter is poised to help create more families as awareness about Gift of Adoption increases, Spencer said.

Because many Gift of Adoption recipients live in the area, it's not uncommon to encounter the families on a daily basis at the park or grocery store, Spencer said.

"It's a wonderful feeling," she said. "We're so fortunate because we can meet the families because they're in our community."

Contact Kenya Woodard at [email protected]

National Adoption Awareness Month | Last in a Series

>>catch up

Today's adoption stories conclude a series of stories published in the month of November, National Adoption Awareness Month. To read other stories in the series, follow the links below

• Former Bucs coach Tony Dungy leads campaign to find homes for 23,000 Florida foster children

http://tbtim.es/18oq

• Tears, teddy bears and togetherness mark Adoption Day

http://tbtim.es/18or

• Riverview couple raises funds before raising adopted child

http://tbtim.es/18os

Nonprofit helps families defray adoption costs 11/24/16 [Last modified: Friday, November 25, 2016 6:04pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Dunedin man arrested for having destruction devices, deputies say

    Public Safety

    DUNEDIN — Deputies will be speaking later today to discuss a Dunedin man who was charged with possessing destruction devices in his home.

  2. Officials release names of those aboard plane that landed in St. Pete neighborhood

    Accidents

    ST. PETERSBURG — Officials released the names of the two people aboard the plane that made an emergency landing Wednesday on a neighborhood street in south St. Petersburg.

  3. Spencer: 'A better and more beautiful world if people like me were in power'

    K12

    In the a small theater crammed with cameras, Richard Spencer and a small group of his coordinators clashed with reporters as his controversial speech in the Phillips Center drew near Thursday.

    A crowd gathers ahead of Richard Spencer's appearance at the University of Florida on Oct. 19, 2017. [LUIS SANTANA | Times]
  4. Analysis: George W. Bush's unmistakable takedown of Trumpism - and Trump

    Columns

    For the last nine years, George W. Bush has largely stayed out of presidential politics; he declined to criticize his successor, Barack Obama, and he chose not to endorse but largely ignored President Donald Trump. While Mitt Romney and others spoke out publicly against Trump, Bush stayed above the fray.

    That …

    Former President George W. Bush speaks at a forum sponsored by the George W. Bush Institute in New York on Thursday, Oct. 19, 2017. [Seth Wenig | Associated Press]
  5. Fennelly: Even frustrated Bucs fans hold out hope

    Blogs

    Many fans wrote back when I threw out an all-points the other day, asking if Bucs fans are perpetually in a state of expecting the worst.

    Bucs fans cheer during a preseason game against the Washington Redskins in August at Raymond James Stadium.