|By Mike Briotta|
GREATER SPRINGFIELD - When Patricia Gootzit of Westfield adopted an eight-month-old baby from China nearly 14 years ago, there were few local resources to defray the high cost of adoption, which can be in excess of $30,000. Luckily, she and her husband Gary were able to afford the process, and have been blessed with their daughter Shaina ever since.
For those who are able to afford the day-to-day expenses of raising a child but may be daunted by the high cost of the adoption process, there is help today. Gootzit is on the board of directors of an area nonprofit called The Good Morning Adoption Fund Inc. (GMAF). The group is currently offering $2,500 and $5,000 grants, depending on need, to qualifying parents who want to adopt but could use financial assistance. Checks in the awarded amounts are made payable to the adoption agency.
Gootzit said the group has worked closely with Springfield's Jewish Family Services (formerly known as AdoptionLink) in the past, but has since opened up its grants to all licensed adoption agencies in Connecticut and Massachusetts.
"There's dozens of them," Gootzit said about the agencies. "And a lot of people want to do this, people who can't have children of their own, but they are making a tough choice between paying the mortgage and coming up with an additional $30,000 for adoption."
The agency awarded two grants last fall, both at that time to applicants from Eastern Massachusetts. "One was a single mom-to-be, and one was a married couple," she said. "We don't discriminate on marital status or sexual orientation."
Its mission is to help promote adoption as well as provide financial assistance to those people who can otherwise afford to raise a child but need help with the adoption costs.
In the four years since the nonprofit has been up-and-running, the Good Morning Fund has helped seven families adopt a total of 10 children. One family recently adopted three siblings from Poland with their help. The group typically gives out approximately $15,000 in total. All of the money comes from grassroots fundraising efforts.
Mike Charland and his wife Andrea started the fund after the passing in 2004 of Mike's father, Dr. Peter Charland, who had dedicated his life to assisting children and families as a counselor, father and adoptive parent. Dr. Charland was known for his positive and engaging personality, which was characterized by the fact that he greeted everyone with a hearty "Good morning," no matter what time of day it was.
"Originally, the whole concept occurred to me after he passed away," Mike Charland recalled. "He was a child advocate and marriage counselor. At the wake, I was surprised and touched by the number of people who came up to me and said he had saved their kids or their marriage. I wanted to continue his legacy."
Mike Charland grew up as part of a large group of siblings composed of five biological children and four adopted children. His widowed mother Betty continues to raise some of the youngest members of the group, who are now teenagers.
The Good Morning Adoption Fund Inc. is a nonprofit organization 501(c)3 in the truest sense of the word. It is solely volunteer-based. There are no salaried employees or board members, and overhead is kept to a minimum.
"We're relatively new, so not a lot of people have heard about us," Gootzit said. She added of the families, "We get to see what really motivates them. These are families that have the funds to raise children, but need a little help."
Financial prerequisites to qualify for help from the nonprofit are as follows: Adoptive families or individuals must make less than $70,000 per year and have no more than $250,000 in total assets (excluding equity in primary residence and federal income tax qualified retirement accounts).
Applicants must be U.S. citizens whose primary residences are in Massachusetts or Connecticut and exhibit financial need. Applicants must be working with a licensed adoption agency, which has an office located in at least one of those two states.
To begin the application process, applicants must also have a complete certified home study that has been approved by a qualified agency. No applications will be considered without this.
For further terms of the grant or for applications, visit www.goodmorningadoption fund.com.
Qualified families or individuals seeking adoption can start applying for the next round of funding, which will take place in August.
"What happens is that people will file this idea in the backs of their minds," Gootzit explained. "People in this income group will often consider taking out a loan [to pay for adoption costs]. We want to say to them: 'You can do this.' There are children out there who really need you. There are so many children who need families."
Individuals and families may also be able to take a federal tax credit for qualifying expenses paid to adopt an eligible child, including a child with special needs. The adoption credit is an amount subtracted from their tax liability. For 2009, the maximum adoption credit increased to $12,150.
Gootzit has enjoyed being a parent so much that she opted for early retirement from her career at MassMutual in order to spend more time with her daughter.
"She's the greatest gift of my life. She has brought so much joy to my life," Gootzit said. "We can give other people a boost. We have this money, and we know people are out there who can use it."
The Good Morning Adoption Fund can be reached at 310 South Longyard Rd., Southwick, MA, 01077; at 519-7248; or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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