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Former islander returns to raise awareness of AdoptTogether

Erika Saeger, a 2007 graduate of Bainbridge High School, has taken over as the director of advancement for AdoptTogether and is organizing an event on Saturday, Dec. 1 in Poulsbo where people can learn more about how the nonprofit helps families cover the high cost of adoption.  - Brian Kelly / Bainbridge Island Review
Erika Saeger, a 2007 graduate of Bainbridge High School, has taken over as the director of advancement for AdoptTogether and is organizing an event on Saturday, Dec. 1 in Poulsbo where people can learn more about how the nonprofit helps families cover the high cost of adoption.
— image credit: Brian Kelly / Bainbridge Island Review

The numbers are staggering, sobering and downright depressing.

Erika Saeger looks at the numbers, though, and can imagine a better world.

Saeger, a 2007 graduate of Bainbridge High School, is the director of advancement for AdoptTogether, a nonprofit that is helping families afford the high cost of adoption.

And that’s where the numbers come in. Worldwide, there are 143 million orphans.

And last year, Saeger noted, there were only 9,319 adoptions in the United States.

That figure, however, is sadly less than half of the number of adoptions in the U.S. that were completed in 2004, when 22,991 families adopted children.

“It’s tragic,” Saeger said.

“A lot of it has to do with the economy,” she added. “On average, it costs about $35,000 to adopt a child.”

And that’s where AdoptTogether hopes to help.

AdoptTogether has a vision of a world where every child has a home, and the nonprofit works to help families cover high adoption expenses by using a crowd-funded online platform where families can link and find support from a wider community. Families create their own online profiles and give updates of their progress toward adoption through blog posts and email blasts.

“AdoptTogether is working to offset those adoption expenses by giving these families a platform to utilize their own network, a community of family, friends, church. It’s almost like sharing their adoption journey with their own community,” Saeger explained, “so that when you’re donating to an adoption, you have stock in the life of that kid. You’re invested. And it’s really beautiful.”

AdoptTogether grew out of HopingHearts.org, another nonprofit started by an Ohio couple in 2008.

Chuck and Anne Fortener, the parents of three, opened their doors and became foster parents to more than 30 children over the span of a decade. Knowing first-hand the high costs of adoption — agency fees, legal fees, home study fees, travel fees — they teamed up with their oldest son, Hank, to create an organization that was built on the crowd-sourcing funding model.

The AdoptTogether website went live about 10 months ago, and roughly 100 families have created online profiles. The nonprofit estimates that more than $265,000 in donations has been collected for families to use toward adoption expenses.

Saeger is now organizing a local event to spread the word about the organization, which will be the start of a nationwide tour of visits.

“We’re really just trying to bring AdoptTogether to the Kitsap community and raise awareness,” she said.

The fundraising event is 2 to 4 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 1 at the Kiana Lodge in Poulsbo.

Olympic medalist Reese Hoffa will be a guest speaker, along with Hank Fortener, founder of AdoptTogether.

Saeger, a graduate of Loyola Marymount University, joined AdoptTogether in its first year. Previously, she had been working with a film and television production company in California.

Her new position, though, was a true calling.

“I felt like it was exactly what I was supposed to be doing, and I was sort of meant for it,” she said.

She recalled working in high school at Camp Korey on Seattle’s Eastside, a no-cost recreational facility that serves children with serious and life-altering medical conditions and their families.

“From a very young age, I just connected with kids,” she explained. “I just love being with kids and with families.”

AdoptTogether is at a turning point, she said.

“It’s moving from a resource for families to a bigger vision of solving the problem of there being 19 million children in the world that need a family — and half a million children in foster care that need to be adopted,” she said.

“It’s a really exciting time. AdoptTogether is pushing into the next phase, where now we’re looking at this as a global issue that we’re helping to solve. And we want people to be a part of that,” Saeger said.

 

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