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Adoptive mom helps 'give birth' to 43 families

By Allie Torgan, CNN
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Aiding adoptive parents
STORY HIGHLIGHTS

New York (CNN) -- Becky Fawcett considers her infertility a blessing. But it wasn't always that way.

Desperate to be a mother, Fawcett endured five rounds of in vitro fertilization and three miscarriages before she and her husband Kipp adopted their first child in 2005.

Now the proud mother of 5-year-old Jake and 18-month old Brooke says that no matter how one becomes a mother, "it's a miracle."

But the costs for adopting in the United States can be steep. While foster care adoptions are often under $2,500, licensed private agency adoptions or independent adoptions can total more than $40,000.

After Fawcett and her husband experienced those high costs firsthand, they dedicated themselves to alleviating some of the expenses for other adoptive parents.

In 2005, the couple was sitting in their lawyer's office going over the paperwork for Jake's adoption, which cost about $40,000. It struck Fawcett that many loving and fit parents couldn't adopt a child if they didn't have a lump sum of cash at their disposal.

"I sat there and thought if ... I was told that I was not going to be a mother because I couldn't afford adoption, I don't even know what I would have done," said Fawcett, 40. "I don't know who I would have turned to for help. It just hit me. I knew how lucky we were."

With their own savings and support from family and friends, Fawcett and her husband created Helpusadopt.org. Since 2007, the group has awarded more than $300,000 in financial assistance toward adoption expenses.

Web extra: CNN Hero Becky Fawcett
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Couples and individuals who submit applications to Helpusadopt.org come from all walks of life and are already in the process of adopting a child.

For Fawcett, it was important that her organization help all families regardless of race, religion, sexual orientation or marital status.

"Our applicants ... are amazing. They are hardworking, educated Americans who just don't have $30,000, $40,000, $50,000 sitting in the bank at the time they go to have children," Fawcett said. "Some have graduate degrees. They have great jobs. They are in some cases fighting to protect our country. They are public school teachers. They are doing whatever it takes to pay for this adoption on their own, but they're coming up short. And that's where Helpusadopt.org comes in."

Grants range from $500 up to $15,000 and help with costs related to domestic, international, foster care and special needs adoption. Those can include fees for a lawyer, social worker visits, travel, or legal and medical expenses for the birth mother. And in the cases of international adoptions, there can be orphanage and country fees involved.

"We wanted to give sizeable grants that would be life-changing," Fawcett said. "Building families -- that's what we do."

The Fawcetts, along with a grant-selection committee comprised of five trusted friends and colleagues, sift through the applications to decide who will receive grants. They review applicants' financials and the amount that they're requesting, as well as applicants' personal statements highlighting special considerations, adoption experiences and what inspired them to adopt.

Grants are awarded two times per year. Fawcett and her group write the checks directly to the service providers, such as the lawyer or agency facilitating the adoption. Checks are never written directly to adoptive families.

"We have a fiscal responsibility to our donors that this money be used to help complete an adoption so that a child is brought home," said Fawcett. "We get itemized bills from the service providers telling us exactly where the grant ... is being used."

Heather & Alan (CNN agreed not to use their last name) are one of the 43 families who have benefitted from Fawcett's organization.

In 2008, the couple from Nebraska, both working professionals with full time jobs, had saved up money for their first adoption. Then they learned that their adoption agency was raising its fees by roughly $7,000.

"We had no idea where we were going to come up with the extra money," Heather said.

After learning about Helpusadopt.org online, the couple applied for a grant in April 2008. Five weeks later, Heather received a call from Fawcett -- she and Alan had been chosen as one of the group's first grant recipients. They were awarded a $7,500 grant to help cover their agency fees.

In November 2008, Heather and Alan welcomed their daughter Delaney home. They credit Helpusadopt.org with making their family possible.

"I'm a mommy because of Becky," said Heather. "My prayers and dreams have been answered because Becky cared enough to start Helpusadopt.org and raise money for someone like me who wanted to become a parent and yet finances were standing in the way."

Fawcett runs the organization fulltime out of her New York City apartment. While she and her husband are the largest private donors, the group's funding also comes from other donations, special events, and online bracelet sales.

"I think about people becoming mothers every living, waking moment of my life. And no matter how you're doing it, I'm always hoping for other people's successes," said Fawcett. "To those seeking adoption ... there is a happy moment at the end of your story. It takes us all a long time to get there, but it's worth the wait."

Want to get involved? Check out Helpusadopt.org's website at www.helpusadopt.org and see how to help.

 
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