People: A Cause to Adopt

In 2007, Philly natives Becky and Kipp Fawcett started the nonprofit The five-year journey that led them there, and to their son Jake, has them fighting to change the face of adoption

IN HELPUSADOPT.ORG’S FIRST year, 265 people from across the United States applied for grants, with requests totaling more than $3 million. The Fawcetts only had $103,000 to give away — enough for 14 grants, six of which went to single women. Drumming up funds hasn’t been easy. What started with two launch parties in November of 2007 — one at Neiman’s in King of Prussia, the other at Jimmy Choo in Manhattan — and contacting more than 700 adoption agencies nationwide to spread the word and pique interest, has turned into a 40-hour workweek of planning fund-raisers, writing letters, and chatting up prospective donors over coffee, telling them just $5, just $10, will make a difference. Still, Becky knows it’s not nearly enough — the rejection letters still far outnumber the “yes” pile.
“It’s the hardest thing we do,” she says of the decision-making process, in which she, Kipp, and the grant-selection committee — a team of five trusted friends and colleagues — sift through the personal statements, 2,500-word windows in which couples and singles make their cases, all asking to be picked. As of now, due to their limited funds, the Fawcetts prioritize childless applicants and refuse grants for couples simultaneously funneling money toward infertility treatments. They also weigh factors like the death of a child, or whether applicants are looking to adopt a group of siblings.
The current housing economy has made affording adoption even harder, since taking out a second mortgage is no longer an option for many people. Suddenly faced with an expense they’d never anticipated, applicants write of bake sales and candy-bar drives, church fund-raisers and items sold on eBay, filling their pages with sentiments like It will take us a lifetime to raise this money. “People go to extreme measures to adopt a child,” says Becky. “If the dream of having a child had been ripped out of my hands because I wasn’t so fortunate as to have $40,000 sitting in the bank, what the hell would I have done?”
It’s a thought that compels her to work out of her NYC apartment’s small spare bedroom, using only one part-time assistant, refusing to spend funds that could go to grants instead. She wants to raise $10 million in the next five years, if not sooner.
As for almost all nonprofits, the slowing economy has been a challenge, causing HUA to lose two $15,000 donors in the past few months alone. “We have big dreams for, but we need funding to make them a reality. If we had a strategic partnership with a major airline, a worldwide hotel chain, or a store like Babies ‘R’ Us, we could also take steps in supporting our applicants in other ways,” says Becky, who envisions giving them vouchers to use for travel expenses incurred throughout the adoption process, and everyday necessities like baby equipment, clothing and formula.