Categorized | Social Entrepreneur

Supporting the Path to Parenthood through Parenthood for Me

Erica Schlaefer and her husband, AJ found out early in their marriage that they would need medical intervention to conceive a child. After four years of battling infertility treatments, an ectopic pregnancy, and thousands of dollars spent out of pocket, they halted medical intervention. The Schlaefer’s decided that parenthood was the ultimate goal, not pregnancy. They are now proud adoptive parents to a 3 year old boy from S Korea. He has been home for a little over 2 years. During the inexplicably difficult life crisis of infertility Erica saw a huge void in society regarding support and education. At just 26 years old she felt very alone in her struggle to conceive.

Most people take their fertility for granted assuming that when they are ready, pregnancy and parenting will come. But for 7.3 million Americans infertility is a reality- a diagnosable disease. Having children and being parents turns into what seems like an unattainable dream and not a reality. On top of the emotional suffering, infertile couples have to worry about finances. The average cost of in vitro fertilization is $9,000 and most often not covered by insurance. The average cost of adoption of an infant, whether international or domestic is $25,000. The Schlaefer’s spent nearly $50,000 out of pocket to become parents. While they were able to get some help financially many others have no resources available to them other than their salary, savings, or financing the cost of treatments or adoption. The Shlaefer’s felt that this was one of the most difficult aspects of their journey. Parenthood should not come down to the size of one’s bank account.

After adopting their son, Erica and AJ decided they wanted to help make a difference in people’s lives who had a similar experience. They wanted to find a way to help ease some of the burden of infertility and/or the expensive and daunting process of adoption. Erica is a writer and logged their journey through adoption as a way to educate family and friends. When she found out that strangers were reading her blog for support, she decided that telling their story would make people feel less alone and offer much needed support. The idea that emotional guidance could make someone’s infertility experience a little more tolerable led to the discussion about forming an organization that could offer education, coping skills, and financial help.

Erica started the national non-profit, Parenthood for Me, Inc. in November 2008- The mission is to provide financial and emotional support to those building families through adoption or medical intervention. She began a new blog which became the most useful tool in growing the non-profit. During her early research Erica found a large community of men and women blogging and sharing their journey through infertility, adoption, and loss. The help of blogs, website, on-line magazines, Facebook, and Twitter catapulted PFM into a level of early success that no one could have anticipated. The need for a charity of its kind became obvious as word spread throughout the Schlaefer’s community in Rochester, NY and across the U.S. Many people commented that they were thrilled to see a group like Parenthood for Me. The founders were overwhelmed with the support they received for having the time, energy, and heart to dedicate their lives to making a difference. Within 12 months PFM had established a website, been published in 2 nationally syndicated magazines, established a non-profit corporation with a 12 person board of directors, established by-laws, raised $10,000 and reached their 501 c(3) tax exempt status.

Erica attributes much of the success of PFM to her background as a business owner. She has worked for her father’s real estate business for 7 years. He taught her many invaluable lessons about owning your own business and how to survive in a competitive industry. Erica learned many skills in the areas of marketing, public relations, budgeting, and accounting. These are key components to making a non-profit successful. Spreading the word of a charity with no budget takes patience, dedication, and the knowledge of using social media and the press. Erica’s ability to write also provided exposure for Parenthood for Me when she received freelance writing jobs to educate about adoption, infertility, and starting a non-profit.

Parenthood for Me held its first big fundraiser, The Family-Building Dinner and Silent Auction in April 2010 in anticipation of awarding their first grants in June of 2010. As of July the organization announced its first grant recipients. They gave away $12,000 to 4 couples throughout the U.S. The grants are both for those adopting and those using assisted reproductive technology. PFM will award grants again in 2011, but the goal is to raise the amount of money allotted to each recipient. In Erica’s words, “We hope to give away life changing money. We want to write a check that allows someone to pursue adoption or IVF who otherwise could not.“ PFM also has a goal to have more than one grant cycle per year.

The success of any non-profit comes with passion and drive, a clear and concise mission statement, and people willing to volunteer their time. No one can run a non-profit, especially on the national level without a dedicated support system. PFM has received a lot of support from groups and individuals across the country helping to raise money for their endowment. The organization offers help if you would like to hold a fundraiser in your community. If you are interested in learning more about Parenthood for Me and becoming involved in their cause, email [email protected].

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