West Michigan adoption fund helping families taken by surprise

Photo provided by the St. Joseph United Way.

Adding a new family member can be a heartwarming and joyful experience. For many families trying to adopt, it's the end they want after a long, tough adoption process. To make this easier for some families, an adoption fund has been set up through the United Way.

Carl Thornton, who owns Five Star Pizza, sponsors the adoption fund. One of his sisters was adopted when she was three days old. He hopes the fund will help encourage adoption and help families who are trying.

"It feels good. I do want to keep pushing. I think we can do more," Thornton said. "We've done 11 adoptions and guardianship's and we're on our 12th."

Thornton partnered with the United Way in St. Joseph County to get the adoption fund going. They started the program in 2013. Now, they're expanding to Branch County, but the program will be run from the St. Joseph United Way. So far, one successful adoption has happened in Branch County.

Due to privacy concerns, Newschannel 3 did not speak with any of the beneficiaries of the program. We did speak with Deborah Davis, an attorney who's worked on many of the adoptions. She says the filing fee alone for an adoption is $175 plus a certified copy fee, and a typical adoption will cost families thousands of dollars.

"Often times when people come to me it's because they're in crisis," Davis said. "It isn't a plan where they've known for years they want to adopt and they've been saving for it and they're financially secure."

Davis said many families don't prepare to adopt. Instead, they find themselves diving into the process to help a family member who's being removed from a bad situation.

"It is financially devastating for a family that wasn't planning on it," Davis said. "Having this adoption fund is such a crucial thing for our county."

Davis said a family can receive thousands of dollars from the fund. Through fundraisers like Color Runs and Trivia Nights, they raise money to give to families. Five Star Pizza also donates $1000 annually from each pizzeria.

"I'd like to see a hundred in a couple years," Thornton said about the adoptions. "We'll see what happens."

For more information on the adoption fund, contact the United Way in St. Joseph County. Click here for that information.

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