Adoptionly Yours Talks with Gift of Adoption
With much of the world on hold, and adoption waits growing longer and harder, Adoptionly Yours sat down (virtually) with Sharon Komlofske from Gift of Adoption Fund to talk about what's happening and how to help waiting families.
AY: Your mission is to make sure money never stands between a vulnerable child who needs a family and a family desperately working to get that child home. Who are these children?
SK: The core of our mission is that every child deserves a family. Our funding priorities are children with special medical needs, children at risk of entering the foster care system with nowhere else to go, children who are older and might age out of care with no safety net, children who are part of a sibling group, or siblings who could be united and grow up together.
AY: Who are these desperately working families? What are they dealing with now?
SHARON: It’s hard to understand why people would even step forward to adopt when it’s going to cost half or more of their annual take home pay, but it’s a lot of teachers, small business owners, clergy, military. Some already have a child with a similar special need and know they can give this child a home. They work overtime, take a second job, take out home equity loans. Right now, it’s tough. People are getting laid off, contract workers are not getting the hours they need, small business owners are having their businesses shuttered.
"...we are hearing everything is on hold... But the children are still there. Children are still being born. That’s not on hold."
AY: With all the shutdowns worldwide, international families cannot travel, domestic families are faced with hospital restrictions. What are your families experiencing?
SHARON: Yeah, while it’s only been a few weeks, we are hearing: Everything is on hold. We don’t know when we can travel. We need to update our home study, but we can’t because my husband was laid off. And, I’m sure families who were considering starting the process are deciding to wait. But the children are still there. Children are still being born. That’s not on hold.
AY: Waiting to adopt and adopting can be hard under ordinary circumstances. In what ways is it even harder for your families in this unprecedented time?
SHARON: There’s a woman adopting a child from Columbia who has Down syndrome and bronchial issues and she’s concerned about exposure. An uncle is trying to adopt his 17-year-old and 2-year-old nephews from India before the older child ages out. Believe it or not, a family adopting their second child from Uganda, which requires them to live in country for six months, sold their home and belongings, were ready to get on a plane, and now they can’t travel. Another family has taken custody of four siblings in Brazil and cannot get back home.
Even families who are able to travel in the US have concerns about delays and staying in hotels, risking exposure to themselves and their vulnerable children. One dad is out there every day as a firefighter and is concerned about bringing the virus home to his daughter born prematurely with her lungs not fully developed. A family adopting twin girls from New Jersey, an area hard hit by the virus, ran into some restrictive hospital rules. Just when both parents were going to be able to visit with their daughters in the NICU, the hospital changed its rules to only one parent for only three hours a day. The couple had had such a hard journey and wanted nothing more than to be there for their girls together. (A happy ending to this story: The hospital made an exception and mom and dad were able to hold their girls. And, the girls are home now, which is awesome!)
"The minute you step forward to do this...you've opened your heart to a child. So we don't see a lot of giving up... I doubt that will happen now."
AY: After all that hoping and planning how are families coping with the delays?
SHARON: Our families know no matter what happens, or how long it takes, we are going to stand by them. The minute you step forward to do this it’s like all of a sudden you’ve opened your heart to a child. So we don’t see a lot of giving up. Ever. I doubt that will happen now.
"The need is great."
AY: Are you having to turn any people away?
SHARON: Oh yeah. The need is great. Some of our funding streams have been cut off. In April we funded about half of what we normally do, which even then is only half of the qualified applicants. We’re still helping as many families as we can, but the need is great.
AY: Gift of Adoption has so many ways for people to volunteer, hold fundraisers or make donations to fund grants. Can you tell us about your Welcome Home Club?
SHARON: Yes, it’s a monthly giving program and once you’ve funded a grant, you are matched with a family to create a welcome home basket for them. A group of high school students do an annual stair climb fundraiser at a tall building in Chicago and create baskets customized for about 30 kids around the country each year. It’s a real way they are helping kids come home.
AY: Why do you think people give to Gift of Adoption?
SHARON: A lot of our donors and volunteers have a personal connection to adoption, but many just care about children. Adoption has touched so many people, it is such in the fabric of American lives. When people hear they can help a child get adopted, they want to play a part.
"I feel like we should send a card... and say 'Hang in there. We're here. We're with you on this journey to get your child home.'"
AY: What other ways can people help support families right now?
SHARON: Right now I feel like we should send a card to every family that’s impacted by this virus and say, 'Hang in there. We’re here. We’re with you on this journey to get your child home.'
AY: Thanks, Sharon. At Adoptionly Yours, we love the heart of adoption, one so big you’d sell your house. You and Gift of Adoption have that same heart. Keep up the love.
Gift of Adoption Fund is one of the nation’s largest and most highly rated charities providing assistance grants to help complete the adoptions of the most vulnerable children and bring children home to loving families: giftofadoption.org.