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The Adoption Story


I’m going to give the short and sweet adoption story to give you some background because it has had HUGE financial implications for us.

I’ve wanted to work with at risk youth since I can remember.  Right after getting my bachelors degree in the mid-90s I moved to Chicago to save the world. Shortly thereafter, I realized that I could not support myself and save the world, so I changed careers, got a masters degree and began the process of becoming a foster parent.  Fast forward a few more years and I had gotten married, had two children and my marriage fell apart….once again, I became a foster parent.  That was 2010.

We’d had several foster kids in and out of our home before we got the call about an emergency placement for twin, teenage boys. That’s literally all the information I was given. We live in a three bedroom home…I have a room, my daughter had a room and my son had a room. Knowing nothing about the twins except that they were significantly older than my two, my son, then 5, moved into the room with me.  We thought it would be temporary, a short term placement of maybe months while their parents got their lives back on track and took the boys back.

This picture was taken the night they arrived.

This picture was taken the night they arrived.

Fast forward 1 year. All the signs indicated that the twins would not go home, and there was no other family able to take them. We were not an adoptive placement, my now 6 year old had been living in my room for a year, I did not have the means to add on to our house.  I went into panic mode.

What would happen to the twins? How could I keep them and never have any privacy? How could I afford them…driving, college, eating…teens are really expensive and I had planned on having at least a decade more to prepare for it? What about my youngest son, he didn’t have a room, anywhere to have friends spend the night, places for toys? I was stressed, imagining every scenario, every upcoming expense. And to counter that, I had grown to love these guys, they were sons of my heart.  Great big brothers, great sons, great grandsons. I was torn…

I met with advisers – lawyers, CASA workers, social workers, friends, etc. I prayed about it and I stressed to no end.

In the end, my heart won out.  The adoption was finalized last October, almost 2 years to the day after they first came to us. Note: Adopting special needs (generally any child older than 6, sibling group, a racial minority or children with any delays) kids through foster care is fully funded in our state and in most states I believe.

The financial stress is palpable if I let it be…they will be old enough to drive in just months, college is a few years away and boy, can teenage boys eat! Oh, and have you ever tried to find size 15 shoes?! There is no doubt that there have been very serious financial implications in adopting the twins, BUT the intrinsic value of loving them, getting to experience life with them, teaching and guiding them and loving them is SO worth it!

The financial pressure continues to be palpable.  Relieving it some is a continued monthly stipend that is available on an as needed basis when you adopt special needs kids from the US foster care system.  Would I have preferred to adopt without the stipend, of course, but do I think I have made the best decision for all of us – absolutely.

I will pay off this debt. I will cut everything we need to cut to do it quickly.  And the chopping began this past week.  Stay tuned this afternoon to see what changes I have already made.

Just a quick note on the room situation: Even over the financial implications, I was concerned about the room situation.  We were so blessed this winter when a friend volunteered to help us close in our dining room (used as my office) making a fourth bedroom.  I did lose my office space, but we now all have a private space to call our own when needed.  

The wall went up in January.

The wall went up in January.


  • Reply Kiki |

    Hope, you are amazing! What a beautiful family you have, and I find myself rooting for you! I just feel that you will have success and blessings because of your spirit of love and generosity. It was good to read that you were able to work in a fourth bedroom in your home. I hear you about teens and eating. We had four at one time and high school exchange students who lived with us also. They can inhale food, even the girls!

    • Reply Hope |

      Hi Kiki,

      You are so right. We’ve finally gotten a grocery budget we can all work with and have implemented some “rules” to help….
      1. When it’s gone, it’s gone, so remember how long it has to last.
      2. Currently, the older two are not allowed to open the fridge (mostly due to them leaving stuff out to spoil.) And it helps with their grazing habits…I keep fruit and granola out all the time for easy snacks.
      3. Each child takes turns managing the grocery budget so that a) they each get a week that they get to pick the menu and b) they each learn to budget money as far as balancing groceries and eating out. They are given $150 at the beginning of the week and get to choose how it’s spent as far as our food goes. They LOVE having their week.

      • Reply Jim |

        This is really a grand idea. I love it! But as I shop for the groceries according to what is on sale, I tend to think I wouldn’t be able to implement this. Can I ask, what happens if there is left over money? Knowing kids, there probably isn’t any, but on the off chance that this, what happens to it?

        • Reply Hope |

          Feeding a family of five (two being teenage boys bigger then me) there is rarely money left, but one week there was when my daughter had saved $15 to eat at Sams (we can each get a huge slice of pizza and a soda for $2.83.) But her had offered to buy, so that money went back to me and I actually carried it over a few weeks with change and we got to eat out at Chipotle which we all LOVE!

      • Reply Lily |

        This is awesome, but how do you not end up with chicken nuggets or marshmallows for dinner every night? Do you set guidelines?

  • Reply debtor |

    Wow, Good for you. I was curious about all the kids you said you had living in your house but didn’t want to ask because I didn’t think it would be appropriate so I’m glad you decided to share.

    Are they old enough to have jobs now? Do you have them contribute to the house? I think that’s a great way of helping teach young people the value of money and budgeting.

    • Reply Hope |

      Hi Debtor:

      The twins are now 15, but it is awfully hard to find work at that age. I think 16 will open up a realm of possibilities. In the meantime, they are working around the neighborhood and any odd jobs that are offered: babysitting, weeding, dog walking and now any spring lawn care stuff that requires muscle and no equipment.

      They don’t contribute to the house per se, but are responsible for their own clothes, personal hygiene and entertainment money.

  • Reply Mary |

    I’ve always thought about being a foster mother. So glad to hear it’s worked out. And yes, I’ve heard from many ladies about how much teenage boys eat! A few of my friends had said they had no clue how they afforded groceries when their boys were growing. Their boys are full grown now but they all say the same thing!

    • Reply Hope |

      Hi Mary,

      Luckily, I come from a large family (there’s 5 of us,) and as the oldest I clearly remember my mom’s laments about my brothers eating. I was aware of the cost when they joined the household, but it is something we all have to monitor to stay on budget. And going out to eat at anything but a buffet never fills them up!

  • Reply Lynn |

    Sweet story. But you know they don’t automatically have to drive at 16. I think earning enough money to pay for the increase in insurance costs in order to earn a shot at driving the family car is a realistic and admirable goal for teenagers.

    • Reply Hope |

      Totally agree. In our state, you can’t actually drive til you are 16 1/2. They are very aware that jobs will be needed if they want to drive. Although, I am anxious for it as it will take a load off me with carpools etc. They will be able to get their learner’s permits at the end of this month and will be able to help with summer travel driving (assuming they are ready) – I am so excited for that help!

    • Reply first step |

      I agree that it’s admirable for the kids to earn the privilege of driving; however, I think it’s reasonable that the twins can earn it by helping Hope. She’s a single parent, and having them available to drive could possibly free up her time to earn more money and definitely decrease stress.

      My older daughter has been driving for a little over a year, and it’s been the least stressful year I’ve had since my children were born. Since I didn’t have to take time off work and drive double miles to take her & my younger daughter to activities, I’ve been able to increase my income and productivity. My income has increased more than enough to pay the extra cost of insuring her, and additionally, one of my neighbors pays her $20 a week to drive her daughter to school. The $20/week helps to offset the costs we’d be paying for just our girls. Both of my girls are in many after school activities, and if my daughters rode the bus to school, they would need a ride home anyway. None of us (husband, neighbor or I) work near their school.

      Good luck with the decision on how to handle driving with your boys!

  • Reply Stephannie |

    Two things-
    1. I think you’re awesome to take on such a challenge.
    2. You, your youngest, and your oldest are lucky to have found each other!
    3. Ok, I lied about 2 things but I think the grocery plan is genius!

  • Reply Joan |

    Hope, I am very impressed by your story. I am a foster parent and have had a baby with us for two years. I grapple daily if I could raise her as a single mom since she will soon be up for adoption and your story is very inspiring to me. I am incredibly impressed that you took in two teenage boys without knowing their background and gave them so much love and a home. All your children are lucky to have you as a mom.

  • Reply Deby |

    I just wanted to say how impressed I am with your story. I love that you give each of the kids a week to plan/budget the meals and have them responsible for their personal expenses. It sounds like you are really trying to teach them sound budgeting skills, which I think is so important to do while they are living at home and have you to guide them should they mess up. This is what we did with our kids, and now as young adults they understand how important it is to manage their money properly and avoid debt. I think talking about money with your kids is one of the most important things parents should do with their children. After all, our job is to help them become responsible, productive adults and members of society, and if they don’t have this life skill they are handicapped from the start.

So, what do you think ?