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We Paid Cash! :: Our Adoption Process

A testimony by Kate from San Diego Deals and Steals

Our family is middle class, but we felt called to adopt. When we adopted our son from Russia we fundraised, but planned poorly and came home with $10,000+ in debt. We promised ourselves that we would adopt again, but that we would not do so with credit.

When we started our second adoption process we had a solid and realistic budget. We were completely debt-free (other than our mortgage) and had an emergency fund worth one month of living expenses.

Since we had two healthy children, we requested to adopt a child with disabilities as they are less likely to be adopted. Our adoption process cost nearly $30,000. (Note: Depending upon the circumstances, it can cost less and there are also grants available, such as through ShowHope.)

How We Saved

Our adoption journey was just over a year from start to finish. We saved for it in a variety of ways.

::We got creative and found ways to make extra money. My husband took on a few more hours. I made crafts, babysat, and started my blog.

::We cut our expenses in every way we could. We took advantage of free entertainment and bartered for all kinds of things to cut our already tight budget down. Every extra penny we saved was deposited into the adoption fund.

::We put our tax refund check as well as the small raise my husband got immediately into the bank.

::We stopped buying stuff. We paid for Christmas with Swagbucks and we rarely bought clothing or toys.

::We learned to be content. We didn’t pay for cable or video games. My husband drove his trusty ’99 Camry with over 260,000 miles. I learned to use my crock pot even more, instead of going out to eat.

::We were blessed with donations from friends, family, and strangers. People gave willingly as they understood this was not only a way to grow our family, but also an important ministry for our family to a needy child. We saw God provide as we were faithful in answering the call to adopt.

It Was A Tremendous Blessing to Adopt Without Debt

Our adoption story is long, but the short version is that in late May we were made aware of a girl who was to be born “any minute” that nobody in the immediate network was willing to adopt because of some significant (but correctable) special needs that had been determined by an ultrasound. In June, our daughter was born. With our savings from the previous year and the donations we had been gifted, we brought our daughter home with no debt.

We thought we had a $100 surplus, but we got one last lawyer invoice – for $110! — so we dipped into our emergency fund for $10! It was a tremendous blessing to bring her home without any debt associated with her adoption.

Kate lives in San Diego CA with her husband Harry, and kids, Josie (homemade), Silas (handpicked from Russia), and Charlotte (handpicked domestically). She is passionate about adoption and having fun in San Diego frugally. You can see more at San Diego Deals and Steals where she blogs about both.

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  • Rose says:

    Thanks so much for sharing. When our daughter was 3 I had a kidney transplant. We want to expand our family but the cost of adopting seems so over whelming. We have thought about becoming a foster family, but my daughter is 6 and we worry about what that will expose her to.

    • Jennifer says:

      We are foster parents, we did not have children prior to becoming a foster parent. I do understand your concers about your daughter and exposure. In saying that, I would also encourage you if you are still interested in fostering to speak with a social worker and foster parent in your community. You have a choice in the ages of children you are willing to take into your home. We were also highly encouraged not to interfere with the higharchy of your home. So if your daughter is 6 you would never have a child older than 4 1/2 or 5. Trust me, they will call for any placement, and I know it is hard to say no but you have to stand your ground for what you are able to do.

      Saying all of this, we are completeing our adoption of 4 brothers & sisters – the state is paying for the entire adoption, plus assistance until they are 18. In July we recieved another call to foster an infant. So now we have 5 kidos. Though I know this situation is not for everyone, it has worked for us and helped form our family.

      I wish you the best of luck in how ever you choose to expand your family!

    • Sara says:

      Hi Rose, I have good friends who have 3 elementary age children. They have opened their home to foster children, but have specified with their agency they only are able to care for babies and toddlers at this point in their lives. Navigating the children coming and going has been hard but they’ve been able to talk thru it with their kids. Just wanted to let you know there are some options available if it’s in your heart to pursue it.

      • Anna says:

        Absolutely! All 5 of our then-foster, now-adopted children were age 15 months or younger when they were placed with us and one of our daughters was only 2 days old. At the time my husband and I did not feel ready to take on older children and the decision is always entirely up to you. But praise God there are families willing to take in older children – it is definitely a more challenging task in my opinion.

    • Amanda says:

      I totally understand those fears, but foster agencies are pretty good (at least were we live) about being cognizant of the family you already have and the types of kids they will place with you.

      We have a 7-year old foster daughter and our expecting our first bio child, and I have no significant concerns about how she will affect our child. In fact, I hope that it will help our biological children to grow up with hearts that love the downtrodden and care for the poor. It’s always difficult to trust the Lord with the lives of our kiddos, but I fully believe that he will give you the wisdom to make good decisions for your daughter and future children.

      Many prayers to you and your family 🙂

  • AnneJisca says:

    Wonderful story! Thank you for sharing! We started an adoption process last year but stopped because of finances (and a strong sense that God was asking us to wait before proceeding). We still want to adopt someday, and hope to also do it debt free. 🙂

    God bless your family!

  • chelsea says:

    Such a sweet story! “Homemade”- I love it!!

  • Sharon says:

    Praise God! That is a wonderful testimony, both financially and spiritually.

    We are in the process of adopting two children from Haiti and have been amazed at the Mountains that He is moving.

    We’re working on it debt free too – so Pray for us!

    • absolutely praying for you! It is amazing – we knew we could cut some things but we truly weren’t sure how it was going to be funded 100% – we were willing to work extra and just kept praying – we were blessed with several donations, praying you are blessed the same way!! =)

  • Chrystal Otto says:

    Wonderful story!

    After 4 years of TTC and exhausting all affordable options for a child of our own, I began looking into adoption. That month I was out I was pregnant!

    I’d love to adopt in the future, so this post gives me hope it be out of reach.

    • congrats on your ‘homemade’ 😉 – it TOTALLY is not out of reach – keep in mind it does not happen overnight – you could even start an ‘envelope’ for it now (if you end up not adopting – you could donate it to Show Hope or another adoption grant organization) – but there are also adoption tax credits & sometimes employer benefits – and of course Fost adopt is 100% FREE – kids of all ages (including babies) are available =)

  • Jessie says:

    OMG, this is so inspiring. I feel a calling on my heart to adopt as well, which is why I started a part time business so I could put the money I earn towards that. Thanks for this timely and inspiring post!!!!

  • Lisa-PanaMOM says:

    Love this post! Sitting her sobbing. Sweet!

  • Karen says:

    We did that as well. It was wonderful to not add the stress of bills to the joy of adding a family member. Good for you! We also went to Russia to bring home our daughter. She is now 13 and brings us great joy! Congratulations!

  • I am inspired by your determination, planning and selflessness in choosing to adopt your beautiful daughter with special needs. May God bless you and your amazing family.

  • Cheryl says:

    Great post! We adopted our nearly 11-yr-old daughter from Russia 3 yrs ago. When we told people we were adopting, the first comment was always – “I wish we could but it costs too much money”.

    Adoption can be affordable than you think – you can get money from state grants, subsidies from employers, adoption loans, fundraising, savings, and a huge federal tax credit that is now refundable. I understand foster children can be adopted virtually free with continued aid even after the adoption is completed.

    Reputable adoption agencies often advocate for children and reduce or eliminate their fees for certain children. We were able to adopt our most-wonderful-child-ever because an anonymous donor generously covered the adoption agency fees for 12 families adopting older children from Russia thru that agency (a whopping $22,500). We are forever grateful to that amazing person.

    We just had to pay everything else – still $24,000. But the opportunity for my daughter to have a chance at life, and watch her thrive and grow, is worth far more than the $24K we are still paying off.

    • yes! we were originally going for a special needs child in Eastern Europe (long story very short it did not work out – one of the reasons why our final adoption cost was $30,000 is simply b/c we did paperwork twice =/ ) – – we were going thru Reece’s Rainbow – which is AMAZING – it does much of your paperwork FREE as a ministry. When that didn’t work out and we were matched with our daughter here the fees were also dramatically discounted b/c she was so hard to place – both adoptions could have EASILY been more than that each! It really is a case by case and worth checking into. And yes – the money it costs to travel to them & make it happen legally is worth everything in the world – I know a lot of people who spend quite a bit more on cars (that they will want to trade in in a matter of years – LOL!) – best thing in the world!

      • Cheryl says:

        Your family is beautiful. Congrats and God bless you for continuing to educate and advocate for adoption.

        btw everyone! – November is National Adoption Month and tomorrow is Orphan Care Sunday. So if anyone needs any more reason to look into adoption or the needs of orphans, the time is now!

  • Naomi says:

    This is so encouraging! My husband and I know that we want to adopt some day and we are just starting the journey to becoming debt-free. My husband (who was adopted) didn’t think that it would be possible to adopt without going into debt. It may be several years down the road but knowing that it is possible makes it something that we will work even harder for!

  • Crystal says:

    So inspiring! Thank you for sharing your story.

  • Veronica says:

    I am in the process of trying to adopt through the county. The cost is very little out of pocket. Unfornatelty you start out as a “foster parent” until the parental rights have been terminated. My sister adopted two children this way. Very happy ending. My court date is November 16th.

    It’s hard bringing a child into your home and heart with the possibility that they might go back to their parents. But I knew going into this that it was all in Gods hands. If He put her in my life for a lifetime or for a few months it was on in His plan and I would do the best for her in the amount of time I had her.

    Just on option to consider if you can’t afford a private adoption.

  • Brandy says:

    I love this! Inspiring!

  • Anna says:

    This has got to be my favorite “We Paid Cash” story so far! Just want to point out that there is virtually no cost to adopt children from Foster Care. You receive a monthly stipend to cover living expenses while the children are still in care and in many cases the children qualify for a subsidy package once they are adopted. We felt called to build our family this way and had no idea how abundantly God would bless us – we’ve adopted 5 children in 4 years!

    • Debbie says:

      I totally agree! My husband and I are foster parents right now and the need is HUGE to adopt children HERE that have no family, no future, and no help. If $$ is an issue, adopting domestically is practically free.!

    • ah thanks! *blushes* – yes! Fost Adopt is AMAZING and there are over 100,000 legally FREE children available – we have friends that have adopted three children from foster care – all were legally free when they entered their home – one was 4, one was an infant (he was considered ‘special needs’ b/c he was a preemie – but he has caught up beautifully!), and another at about 1 year old. We personally decided to embark on the challenge of an international process to fundraise – but kids EVERYWHERE need families – and right here it is often free!

    • Stacy says:

      Foster/adopt can be wonderful but it doesn’t always have a happy ending. Keep in mind that children who come into foster homes and subsequent adoption have been removed from their bio. homes for a variety of reasons, none of them good. Before you consider this option find some blogs or families IRL that talk about the realities of foster/adopt- attachment issues, working with CPS, dealing with previous abuse, neglect, fetal alcohol syndrome, etc. I work in early intervention and have worked with many children who are in the CPS system- I know many stories with happy endings and several with difficult endings for all involved.

      I would love to adopt, but the $30K price tag is most of what we make income-wise in an entire year, even with doing some things to increase our income.

      • all children who are available for adoption enter with some kind of issues (even newborns) – all of these things may make things harder, but we believe every child deserves a family – even if it means we have to work with them or that they may have disabilities.

        our son was adopted from an institution in a 3rd world country and our daughter was born drug addicted, a severe heart condition (open heart surgery this month), and a cleft lip – we feel they are worth the trouble.

        i also know difficult ending stories with families that have only biological children – but for some reason adopted children get a bad rap.

        we bring home a little more than $30,000 a year – but live in one of the most expensive places in the nation. our adoption ended up costing $30,000 b/c we actually had to redo paperwork – we started in an Easter European country that closed mid process – had we known and only pursued our daughter it would have been under $20,000 (there is a $13,000 adoption tax credit too)

        adoption is possible for anyone who truly wants to and who is willing to be flexible w the process and transition for the sake of letting a child know they are worth the effort.

        • Stacy says:

          Trust me, I’m not saying don’t adopt, or that adoption isn’t worth the effort. I just want people to go into it with eyes open. Talk with families who have adopted internationally, from foster care, whatever you are considering. Discuss the good, the bad, the ugly and the beautiful.

    • rachael says:

      as a professional who works with Foster kids and Bio parents I’d like to caution against becoming a foster parent with the intent to adopt. Many times children will be (and should be) going back to their bio parents.
      Understand that Foster parents are asked to help with parenting in a time when the Bio parent is working on their own issues….then the kids go home. Sometimes Foster parents are asked to adopt kids; in the state I live DHS is required by law to look for any relative willing to adopt first. This can create a long, difficult process for the foster parents and kids.
      There are however several Foster kids available to adopt AFTER their parents rights have been terminated. Meaning that you are not becoming a Foster parent, rather an adoptive parent.
      Sorry to rant….this topic is very touchy for me.

      • i am not sure about every state – but in CA you can request a ‘legally free’ child – meaning they only enter your home if all parental rights are terminated and all other opportunities to place the child with a biological relative have been exhausted and adoption is allowed. we have friends that have fostered and were open minded and realistic that they may go back (several did) – but we have friends that requested a legally free child – it actually did not take much longer – one family adopted three in five years – a 4 year old, newborn, and a 1 year old – all healthy (babies were preemies – but totally healthy). It is worth looking into

        • Toby Long says:

          Does anyone have experience or information on adopting when living overseas (though a U.S. citizen)? I’d love to do the Foster-to-Adopt, but it seems that we’d need a baby as my youngest is not yet two. Thus the big price tag comes into play for international adoption. Any info. or tips?

          • Hi Toby – we adopted our son internationally (Russia) about 4 years ago. Keep in mind that MOST babies are over a year when they come home internationally – so still little, but not newborns. We have a biological daughter who was 20 months old when our son came home – he was 14 months – it was SO fun for them to have little playmates close in age (they aer still the best of friends & people ask if they are twins all the time) – one of the reasons our adoption was so expensive is bc we were actually in route to Eastern Europe and long story short it did not pan out & then we switched to domestic (our latest adoption SHOULD have been much less expensive – which is why it was such a blessing that it ended up without any debt!) but please feel free to contact me – I know several adoption grant organizations you could check out (although keep in mind these can be VERY hard to get – we never qualified – just too mnay people want them) but there are lots of ways to save on an international process too!

  • Stephanie says:

    What a beautiful family! We adopted a girl from Russia in 2009, our first and only. It is a rough process and expensive, but she is the most precious gift. Adoption rocks!

    • adoption TOTALLY rocks – yes – exhausting! we went to Russia too! Vladimir Region – it is a ROUGH road – but I think it grew us into the people we are today, it opens your eyes & heart to things that are just very unique – love it!

  • You are an inspiration to many Kate! This story shows that when you REALLY want something you can live with sacrifices and being frugal isn’t just about scoring a great deal and doing a happy dance… but about your FAMILY. Truly remarkable that your family has chosen to adopt more than once and even gone the extra step to adopt a little one with special needs… amazing!

  • Love, Love, LOVE this! We, too, adopted debt free. We fundraised and fundraised and fundraised and God provided every.single.penny.!! Money should never, every be an issue when opening our hearts and our homes to the orphan. We had small fundraisers and large fundraisers. Small donations and large donations. We are a SHOW HOPE family as well.

    There is now a 4 yr old Ethiopian Princess (home for 7 months now) who knows what family is, adores her siblings and truly believes her Daddy hung the moon. When he is out of town on business she will skype with him and say, “But Daddy…I miss you…”

    This is a good series, Crystal, and I’m sure it helps some people to hear how someone paid cash for their vacation. But this…eternal significance that turns to her PreK classmates and says, “That’s MY mommy”

  • Chelsea says:

    Beautiful story, thanks for sharing and for answering your calling!

  • Dana says:

    Awesome story! Loved this. I read their open letter to their daughter and it is so sweet.

    May God bless your family.

  • Great post. It’s wonderful to know there are people out there like you to adopt kids with special needs. What a great heart your family has!

  • I love all the “We Paid Cash” stories but this one has to be my favorite!! Such a sweet story!

  • lise says:

    Beautiful! Beautiful family and story!! Very encouraging!

  • Stacey says:

    Thank you so much for sharing your story, I love that you were specifically looking for a child with special needs. I think that is truly remarkable. What an amazing, beautiful family you have. Congratulations !

  • Anna says:

    I have to agree with many of the previous posters that this is probably the best “We Paid Cash” story I’ve read. Thank you for sharing your story. I hope one day to adopt as well, Lord willing.

  • I love hearing others adoption stories! I think most people assume you need tons of money and a huge house to adopt….which is just not true! We live in a tiny doublewide, the hubby is a carpenter, and we have 3 bio kids. We adopted twins domestically last year (now we are up to 5!) and are hoping to start the process again soon. Children need families, not fancy houses or huge incomes….and that is what the state and most agencies are looking for!

  • Ginger says:

    How awesome! We also adopted debt-free. We adopted a sibling group of three and paid for it mostly with adoption grants – over $25,000 total. Our fundraisers covered the remainder.

  • Jenny says:

    Love it!! We adopted too and have been so blessed to be able to cash flow the majority of the process! We were also granted a large amount of money by an organization called Sacred Selections. Adoption ROCKS!

  • I loved reading your adoption story. So beautiful, just like your family.

  • Ac says:

    What a wonderful story and beautiful family you have! Thank you for sharing and encouraging all whose hearts are desiring adoption but pocketbooks are discouraging. I also love the homemade and handpicked nomenclature. 🙂 The concept of adoption is particularly beautiful as a Christian because we’ve all been ADOPTED into His family – what an amazing truth!

  • Holly says:

    This is truly inspirational. I am so happy to know your story. It helps me feel like a better friend (even though we only see each other occasionally), and I have a feeling some time in the future I will be referring people to your story to show them that it is possible!


  • Toby Long says:

    Does anyone have experience or information on adopting when living overseas (though a U.S. citizen)? I’d love to do the Foster-to-Adopt, but it seems that we’d need a baby as my youngest is not yet two. Thus the big price tag comes into play. Any info. or tips?

  • Lisa Miller says:

    That is fantastic! Isn’t there also an Adoption Tax Credit? When we attempted our adoption (ended up not working out as God had a different plan and we got pregnant) we received a tax credit of $10,000 toward adoption expenses. Just hoping you all know about that. 🙂

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