Northbrook's Gift of Adoption Fund helps 5,000th child into a forever home

Editor's note: The Gift of Adoption Fund was founded in 1996.

Northbrook-based Gift of Adoption recently helped unite its 5,000th child with a family since it was founded in 1996.

A Wisconsin couple's adoption of three children simultaneously launched the nonprofit toward its next 5,000 unions.

The Gift of Adoption Fund, 1200 Shermer Road, began in Wisconsin as a private family foundation by Gene and Lucy Wyka, who built their own family through adoption.

In 2001, Gift of Adoption became a public charity and has since opened 27 chapters nationwide. Gene Wyka has died, but Lucy Wyka remains an avid supporter.

It is not an adoption agency. Through contributions from thousands of donors it provides grants of up to $15,000 to help bridge the cost of adoptions that may reach $50,000 due to agency fees, legal and travel costs, and home-study expenses.

"That's our single focus ... removing financial barriers to adoption," said CEO Pam Devereux, a 1980 Prospect High School graduate, who raised her own family in Northbrook.

Since its founding, the fund has provided more than $15 million to adoption agencies on behalf of qualified families. Its average grant is $4,350.

The organization helps complete adoptions of children in vulnerable circumstances, including children older than 9, particularly those with medical conditions or who are at risk of either entering foster care or aging out of it, around 18 to 21 years old.

"We're really focusing on children who have one shot or maybe their last chance at adoption," Devereux said.

The Gift of Adoption Fund stresses adoptions where siblings are placed together, which was the case with the Gonzalez family of Franksville, Wisconsin.

David Gonzalez takes a selfie of his family in Franksville, Wisconsin, with, from left, his wife, Nicole, and children Darwin, Josue and Abraham. Courtesy of the Gonzalez family

After a three-year process, Nicole and David Gonzalez in March brought home brothers Josue, 11, Darwin, 9, and Abraham, 6, who had been living more than five years in an orphanage in Ecuador.

Josue - pronounced "ho-sway" - was the 5,000th child Gift of Adoption helped link with a family. Darwin and Abraham were Nos. 5,001 and 5,002.

"We are very happy to be part of an organization that helps bring so many children home, and 5,000 is a huge milestone," Nicole Gonzalez said. "It's awesome that we've also launched them into the future, to bring 5,000 more home, so we're really proud to be part of that."

It was a great fit for the Gonzalezes, who were unable to conceive on their own.

David Gonzalez naturally speaks the boys' language, a first-generation American whose mother was born in Columbia and father in Mexico. Both he and his wife have siblings and value that relationship. They sought to adopt children up to 12 years old.

"I'm kind of the belief that this is where it led to," Nicole Gonzalez said. "We're not baby people. It was kind of like the means to an end."

Separation was a real concern for Josue, who had seen it happen to siblings in his Ecuadorian orphanage.

"The most important thing is these boys get to stay together," Devereux said. "It's imperative that we're able to help in this way."

A social worker conducting a home study at the Gonzalezes' Wisconsin home recommended they apply to Gift of Adoption for a grant. The grant money came through just before the hopeful parents left for Quito, Ecuador, in early February 2023.

"It was perfect," Nicole Gonzalez said.

Starting with an ice-breaking game of Jenga, they spent seven weeks bonding with the boys, exploring a country the brothers had not truly experienced.

Set with their decision, a March 8 court date made the adoption official, and after waiting for documentation and visas, the new family returned to Franksville on March 23.

"I think the most important thing for people adopting to know is you've got to be patient, especially now in these times of COVID. We're over the hump, I think, for the most part," said Nicole Gonzalez.

"Just be patient and things will fall into place eventually. We are more than happy to have these boys home, and it was definitely worth the wait - and I don't think we'd be here without Gift of Adoption."

From their first plane flight it's been one "first" after another for the brothers, who attend a dual-language school in Wisconsin.

All are grateful to be with their new parents. Nicole Gonzalez said Abraham's favorite socks are striped red, white and blue, and another pair featuring the American flag.

"He wears those whenever they're clean. We might have to get more pairs of those," she said.

Matching more pairs of siblings with a "forever family" is the ongoing pursuit of Gift of Adoption. With 153 million orphans worldwide, the group's work certainly is not done.

"There are 5,000 more who wait," Devereux said.

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