Books that have been super helpful to me (in no particular order) :

1) Hold On To Your Kids:  Why parents Need to Matter More Than Peers by Gordon Neufeld and Gabor Mate
2) Rest Play Grow:  Making Sense of Preschoolers (or anyone who acts like one) by Deborah Macnamara
3) Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids:  How to Stop Yelling and Start Connecting by Dr. Laura Markham.  This really was a game changer for Munni and me!
4)  Parenting the Hurt Child :  Helping Adoptive Families Heal and Grow by Gregory Keck and Regina Kupecky
5)  The Connected Child - By Dr. Karen Purvis
6)  The Bible 
7)  The Body Keeps the Score:  Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma by Bessel wander Kolk.  If you have a adopted a child with any type of trauma, this book should be a permanent fixture on your nightstand.  This is has been extremely helpful for me in understanding the complexities of Munni's trauma.
8)  Switch on Your Brain - by Caroline Leaf
9)  Healing Developmental Trauma by Laurence Heller and Aline LaPierre.  I love this book.  I love the NARM approach to healing and restoration.

This is a bitter bone of contention for me.  You see, I am a believer in Jesus Christ.  And I am also a single woman.  99.99% of the granting organizations believe that only MARRIED Christian couples are deemed worthy to become parents to adopted children.  I guess I missed the footnotes or something because I don't remember my bible saying in James 1: 27, "Hey MARRIED PEOPLE, pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distresses and refusing to let the world corrupt you."  I could really get started on a rant but that would take away from this being a resource page.  It is slim pickins out there for us single people but I did manage to find some very generous and very kind organizations.

1.  Help Us Adopt.  Becky Fawcett is one amazing lady.  She called me on the day I officially withdrew from the Nepal program to tell me that I won the grant for the Congo.  It was a day of mixed emotions but she talked on the phone with me while I cried for an hour.  She told me very clearly, "Kristen, your daughter is not in Nepal."  And you know what?  It was a week later that I found Munni on a waiting children's list.  The grant Becky had awarded me for Congo ended up being the grant I was able to use in order to start Munni's adoption after I lost all my money in the Nepal closure.  It truly was a miracle and Becky is a rock star!

2.  Gift of Adoption - They came through for me BIG TIME.  I mean, HUGE.  They funded my entire first trip to Hyderabad which happened to be at the most expensive time to travel to India, at Christmas. Their application process is fairly easy but they do require a small application fee.

3.  A Child Waits - This organization grants for travel expenses.  I received $4,000 towards travel and it was a major blessing!

4.  Bonfire Funds t-shirts- God blew the roof off of this one!!  I was able to raise almost $6,000 through the t-shirt sales.  Bonfire Funds will help you design if you don't already have a design, they are super friendly, very easy to work with, set it all up with wepay, and professional from start to finish.  I can't recommend them enough.  My Spread More Love shirts were something I will cherish forever and they played a huge part in helping to bring Baby R home :)  Here's what my fund looked like and you can navigate from there

5.  Booster t-shirts -  I was able to raise $1,400 through this site.  This is a little different from Bonfire in that the more you sell, the more you make.

6.  Your trade/skill - I LOOOOOVE photography.  So I used this to bless families with precious photos to document their lives while they blessed me financially.  Whatever skill, talent, hobby you have, use it to raise funds!  People will cherish what you do for them and also it's a double blessing that they get to help you with your adoption.

7. Puzzle - Find a large puzzle of something meaningful to your adoption and then ask people to donate X amount of dollars to have their name written on the back of a puzzle piece.

8.  Tag the Bag -  I was able to raise a tremendous amount of money through this campaign!  It's easy and in my opinion, the one with lasting meaning.  I bought a suitcase for Roopa and Mohini.  For any amount, someone can donate to have their name written on your child's bag.  Once your child is home, that bag becomes their keepsake holder.  Roopa LOVES to look at all of the names and countries on her bag.  I can't wait for the day that Mohini will understand the significance behind all of the names on her bag.  An added bonus is that it is a great conversation starter.  I had so many people ask about her bag in the airport!  Here is Roopa's tag her bag  and here is the link to Mohini's

9.  Part-time Job - During Munni's adoption, I worked 30 hours a week serving pizza in addition to my teaching job.

Fundraising is humbling and hard but I wouldn't trade it for anything!  It will touch your heart in a way like nothing else- to know that friends, family, and strangers are vested in your child!  I think the most important part of fundraising is to be as open and transparent as possible with your journey.  Your vulnerability is what helps people connect with your child's story.

I am intentionally refraining from recommending/not recommending specific agencies.  During my adoption journey, I've used 8 different agencies.  Based on my experiences and those that others have shared with me, I am here to tell you THERE IS NO PERFECT AGENCY.

One family may have a fantastic experience with an agency and another family could have a horrible experience with that very same agency.  Adoption is complex.  It's packed full of every kind of emotion and no one will fight for your child the way you will.  People make mistakes and staff members don't have the same emotional sense of urgency that the parent has.

That being said, I have certain criteria that I think is important to discuss with an agency BEFORE you sign on the dotted line.  I can't emphasize enough the amount of weight that accompanies your signature.  Maybe because I loved my business law classes for my undergrad degree that contract law is something I take seriously.  I also have been part of two country program closures and I know first hand that the things adoptive parents do ABSOLUTELY can shut a program down; that breaks my heart because the children left in institutions are the ones who suffer from those actions.

Critical questions to ask:

1)  How long has their program been established in said country?

2)  How many children have they placed from said country each year?

3)  Are they Hague licensed?  If not, how long before they are?  Recent changes from the State Department are requiring all international adoption agencies to become Hague licensed.  This is an expensive undertaking and long, arduous process.  Exercise caution if the agency you are courting does not have this completed.

4)  What is their in-country staff and support situation?  How often do they communicate with the in-country staff?  What are the expectations and roles of that staff in your adoption process?

5)  Discuss communication expectations.  This is huge.  In the beginning, you don't understand how important it may be to get in touch with your family counselor after official business hours.
Discussing communication expectations and standards from both sides, up front, is imperative.  Be sure you know when you will receive updates and in what manner.  Also along these lines, discuss grievance issues.  What is their policy?  What recourse will you have should you find yourself at odds with the agency/family counselor?

6)  Ask for a copy of their contract and READ EVERY SINGLE LINE before you commit to that agency.  When you sign a contract, you are agreeing to what is in that contract.  IF down the road, you decide you don't like something and want to take things "into your own hands," the agency has every single legal right to terminate your adoption for breach of contract.  I witnessed two families, from two different agencies, who lost their children due to this; one happened at court and one happened right before they traveled for court.  The aftermath was nothing short of horrendous heartbreak.

7) What is their matching process?  Some agencies are conservative in this regard and others are not. Make sure you are thoroughly familiar with their process before your sign.

8)  What is their post placement schedule?  Are there fees associated with the post placement reports that haven't already been discussed?  Often times, the agencies must send the physical reports to the country of origin.  This can get quite costly, quickly.  Make sure you know up front what you will be expected to pay for once you are home.

9)  Ask for a copy of their fee schedule and make sure you understand each fee - what it covers and what it does not.

10)  Ask if they have veteran families who are willing to speak to potential families.  Then, make sure you speak to more than one family!  Be candid and ask all the questions - families who have been through it aren't afraid to share the good, the bad, or the ugly.

11)  What type of post-adoption support do they provide?  It's one thing to be in process and it's an entirely different thing to be home with your child, dealing with trauma, behaviors, special needs, unexpected medical issues, new family dynamics etc.   When you are in the thick of it, you need to know who you can count on and where to get support.  Make sure you know what your agency provides and how they will support you.

Bottom line:  International adoption is international.  Seems obvious but I can't tell you how many people I watch who expect the country of origin to act/think/process/care in the same way as their country (in my case, the USA)  It just doesn't happen and this is probably the biggest source of frustration and heartbreak for a potential adoptive parent.  Add to the mix the different orphanages and level of care and it's enough to blow your mind.  I've walked into horrible orphanages and I've walked into loving orphanages.

The adoption process is not easy by any means.  There will be highs, lows, tears, anger, sadness, grief, desperation, joy, basically every emotion imaginable.  However, everything we go through in the process as parents is nothing - nothing - compared to what our children experienced that landed them in an orphanage in the first place.

Do your due diligence in the beginning - your sanity will thank you for it when you are in the trenches.

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