Adopt Without Debt

Dave welcomes author Julie Gumm to the show to discuss her new book, Adopt Without Debt: Creative Ways to Cover the Cost of Adoption.

Dave welcomes author Julie Gumm to the show to discuss her new book, Adopt Without Debt: Creative Ways to Cover the Cost of Adoption.

One of the questions that comes up a lot on this show over the years, because it’s almost like people try to find something so they can stump me, and the one that they think they can get me with is the calling to adopt a child. Of course, because it’s so important and because it’s a child, I’m supposed to say it’s okay to go into debt because stupid while being noble works. It doesn’t work. I’ve sat and told people over and over there are lots of ways to adopt. There are lots of different things you can do in the adoption process to not get yourself neck-deep in debt.

Then we ran into one of our listeners named Julie Gumm. Julie is on the line with us here out of Phoenix, Arizona. She’s got a book out called Adopt Without Debt. She speaks all over the nation—around the world, for that matter—on adoption, global orphan care, and financial freedom. She and her husband have adopted children, and they did this shockingly without going $50,000 in debt to do it. I thought it’d be good to get a lady who’s not only actually done it but an expert who speaks on this subject to come on for a few minutes and talk about this.

Dave: Hey, Julie! How are you?

Julie: I’m doing great, Dave. Thanks so much for having me on the show.

Dave: I’m honored to have you. What did you guys do to start your whole debt-free thing, and how does that lead into this adoption discussion?

Julie: My husband started listening to your radio show, but it was really when we attended one of your Live Events back in 2000 that kind of got us started on our debt-free journey. We paid off about $30,000 in consumer debt, which took us about nine months. We ended up bringing FPU to our church and leading it for several years. We started working the Baby Steps. It was about November 2007 when we paid off our mortgage. That was kind of our last big debt hurdle. Really, that’s kind of the short story of our debt-free story.

Dave: Cool. And so where in this process did the adoption thing come up?

Julie: I kind of teased that this is kind of where it all started because when we paid off debt and suddenly had some of that money freed up to do other things with, my husband and I realized we’d gotten used to doing without and giving up things. When we had the money to do them, they weren’t really that important anymore. We just started looking at ways that we could give generously. That opened our eyes to the needs around us in our local community and internationally. That ended up in our adoption story.

My husband was reading Scripture one day and came across James 1:27 that says, “Religion that is pure in fault, care for the widow and orphan in their distress.” We had to really decide what does that look like for us? What does caring for the orphan look like for us? It doesn’t mean adoption for everybody. We really felt God leading us to adoption and then looked at the different ways that we could do that. God told us specifically that there were these two amazing children in Ethiopia that were eight and six at the time. They were meant for our family. So that’s kind of how we delved into international adoption specifically.

Dave: The title of the book is Adopt Without Debt: Creative Ways to Cover the Cost of Adoption. Do you have to have your mortgage paid off to be able to do this?

Julie: No. We were fortunate that we did.

Dave: How do you adopt without going $50,000 in debt?

Julie: There are basically three ways that I talk about in the book. One of them is finding money you already have, which hopefully your listeners are starting to do a budget, cut costs, trim expenses that you already have.

The second is grants. There are 27 different grant organizations that I found that are trying to give money away to adoptive families. You can apply for those.

The third one is really some creative fundraising ideas. There are all kinds of stories that adoptive families gave me. There are 25 families I featured in the book with different creative ideas that they’ve done to raise funds for their adoption.

Dave: So what’s your household income?

Julie: Right now, it’s about $48,000. My husband and I both work in full-time ministry now.

Dave: What was it when you were adopting without debt?

Julie: When we started, it was about $80,000, but about two months into our adoption process, my husband ended up leaving his job, so our income was cut by about 70%. It was more like $34,000 when we started the process.

Dave: So you’re not somebody making $300,000 a year with a paid-for everything, and just out of the goodness of your rich little heart wrote yourself a check to adopt babies. You guys really did the stuff in this book. And you’ve adopted how many kids?

Julie: Two kids. And we have two birth children as well.

Dave: Four children from two continents, you like to say, right?

Julie: Yes.

Dave: Very cool. So what are some of the coolest fundraising ideas you’ve heard people do?

Julie: One I absolutely love is kind of a combination grant and fundraising. It’s called the Both Hands Foundation, and it actually uses the adoptive family and a team of their family and friends doing a work project at a widow’s home and raising funds from family and friends as they do that to help with adoption costs. I just think it’s a really cool pairing of that Scripture, and the average family who does one of these Both Hands projects raises $10,000 for their adoption expenses, which is unbelievable.

Dave: What should an adoption cost?

Julie: First of all, somebody really looking to adopt without debt needs to look at the U.S. foster care system. There are 115,000 children in the U.S. waiting to be adopted, and it costs little to nothing to adopt out of foster care—literally maybe $100. Some have done it for free.

Dave: I was talking to somebody the other day who was telling me they had adopted siblings out of the foster care system, and the tax credit was enormous.

Julie: Yeah, and it varies from state to state, too. There’s a federal tax credit of I think $12,000 right now that you can get back. We ended up paying about $28,000 for our adoption, and that included our travel expenses for getting us there and getting the kids back. We got $23,000 of that back in the federal adoption tax credit that a lot of people don’t know about. But that doesn’t help you on the front end. We didn’t want to take out a loan and then count on that to pay it back. It doesn’t necessarily help you on the front end.

There are all kinds of tax credits and incentives to adopt, especially out of the state. Some states give away free college tuition to kids adopted out of the foster care system or have their medical care paid for.

International adoption and domestic adoption vary in price from $12,000 to $50,000 or $60,000, which I think is outrageous. That’s a whole other topic.

Dave: So this can be pulled off for $10,000 or $15,000?

Julie: Yes.

Dave: In this case, you adopted two children internationally for $28,000.

Julie: Yes. About $6,000 to $8,000 of that were just the travel expenses, so the actual adoption cost us about $20,000 or $22,000.

Dave: Again, I hear people call me all the time and they’ll say stuff like, “Well, it’s $35,000, Dave. Everybody knows that.” I’m like, no, darling, everybody doesn’t know that. There is a vast spectrum of money being spent here, isn’t there?

Julie: Yes, and it varies greatly between countries if you’re adopting internationally. Ethiopia is one of the less expensive ones. It varies greatly between agencies, and that was part of what we looked at. It’s a hard dilemma because when you’re talking about international adoption or domestic adoption, cheaper isn’t always better. Cheaper sometimes means unethical. That’s a danger that you’ve got to look out for. But it does vary greatly between adoption agencies, and that’s something you can look at.

There are people who are pursuing private international adoptions. You can’t do that in all countries, but you can in some. That’s one way to save money. It’s a little scarier. You’ve got to do a lot more research on your own and a lot more investigation, but that’s one option for people to pursue.

Dave: Folks, this is Julie Gumm. Her website is You can buy her book there on her website. It’s called Adopt Without Debt: Creative Ways to Cover the Cost of Adoption. This can be done.

Julie, it’s been great having you on the show. Thanks for visiting with us.

Julie: Thanks so much, Dave.

Dave: God bless.

Julie: God bless.