Four and a half years ago, Christena and Cory Estby received an unexpected gift.
Having spent three years unsuccessfully trying to adopt a child, the Estby family had almost given up hope of finding a match. The couple remained busy, working and caring for their two biological children, when, out of the blue, they received life-changing news.
A six week-old baby boy with Duchenne muscular dystrophy, born in Peoria, was in urgent need of a family.
“We had just seven days to process our legal paperwork,” Cory recalled. “We contacted Gift of Adoption. They provided us with a grant to help bring our son Samuel home.”
Founded in 1996 and headquartered in Northbrook, the nonprofit Gift of Adoption provides adoption assistance grants to families, like the Estbys, who have started the process of adoption but may lack the financial resources to navigate the costly legal and logistical hurdles necessary to make it happen—particularly on short notice.
“We are the largest adoption grant organization that does not discriminate,” Gift of Adoption COO Brian Murphy said. “We don’t consider a recipient’s marital status, sexual orientation, age, race or nationality. Our requirement is only that a person is financially, physically and emotionally fit to adopt a child.”
For more than 22 years, Gift of Adoption has distributed more than $7.4 million in adoption assistance grants, uniting 2,542 children with adoptive families from varied walks of life.
Approximately 140 million children worldwide are orphaned, under the age of 18, and in desperate need of a family. An estimated 80 million American families, meanwhile, have considered adoption, but just 1 percent of those hopeful parents will ever complete the process, largely due to cost. According to Adoptive Families Magazine, international adoptions cost an average of $44,000, while U.S. newborn adoptions cost an average of $40,000.
Gift of Adoption bridges the gap between vulnerable child and hopeful family, distributing grants that range from $1,000 up to $15,000, with an average grant of $3,600.
“We’re responding to need, but we don’t have the resources to help every family,” Murphy said. “We’re in a constant state of fundraising.”
Unlike other adoption grant organizations, Gift of Adoption prioritizes families willing to adopt kids at risk, including children with critical medical conditions and those close to aging out of foster care. Gift of Adoption is also committed to helping adoptive families keep biological siblings together, similar to when the Estby’s got a second call in September of 2017, informing them that Samuel’s brother, Josiah, had also been born with Duchenne muscular dystrophy and needed a loving family.
“We spent a total of about two minutes thinking it over before we said yes,” Cory recounted. “Then we had another blitzkrieg to organize everything, including the financial paperwork and well water testing. We completed adoption procedures that normally take six months in just five weeks, thanks to a grant from Gift of Adoption.”
The volunteer-driven charity has opened chapters in 24 states and regions throughout the United States since the late 1990s. Each Gift of Adoption chapter raises its own grant money through local fundraising efforts.
Gift of Adoption’s Illinois chapter is consistently one of the organization’s strongest, in part through the efforts of active volunteers like Wilmette resident Monica Thompson, who sits on the chapter’s board of directors. Thompson held an informal fundraiser at her house last January, raising more than $15,000— enough to fund four adoption assistance grants.
Thompson is well aware of the complexities of adoption; there are 26 adopted children in Thompson’s immediate and extended family, including her 14-year old daughter, adopted at age one from China.
“We were lucky enough to have the means to adopt,” Thompson said. “But it was so hard leaving the orphanage and seeing older children, still waiting to be adopted.”
Many Gift of Adoptions donors, like Thompson, have been touched by adoption in some way, either as adoptive parents or adopted children. Other donors simply want to help would-be adoptive families shoulder the high legal and administrative costs of welcoming a vulnerable child into their home.
“You don’t have to adopt to give a child a family,” Thompson said.
Please visit giftofadoption.org for more information.