FORT SMITH, Ark. (KNWA/FOX24) — November is National Adoption Awareness month, and with hundreds of kids in Northwest Arkansas and the River Valley looking for homes, it’s the perfect time to highlight the need for adoptive families, and shed light on the support you can get for adopting a child.
“We are forever grateful for these birth moms and their families,” said Ashlee Schwartz.
Ashlee and her husband David are raising two happy and rambunctious boys: Leyton who is two and Aiden who is one. They had to take a different path in order to grow their family.
“In 2015, David was sick for months with fevers and flu like symptoms, and we weren’t sure why,” she said. “They ended up doing a bone marrow biopsy and just incidentally found a rare genetic abnormality that causes infertility.”
“We’ve always known we wanted kids arrive and so we obviously changed plans a little bit getting that getting that diagnosis,” said David. “It wasn’t like that an end of a world the world feeling and I knew there were other like paths to take.”
So the Schwartz’s turned to the power of social media to start this new journey. They took some professional photos and created a post on Facebook explaining their situation and asking to connect with someone looking to put their child up for adoption.
“Within 13 to 14 hours of us posting on Facebook, our oldest son, Leyton’s biological birth mom contacted us and the rest is history,” said David.
Ashlee calls her Mama M. She let Ashlee and David be present for Leyton’s birth and even let Ashlee be the first person to hold him after he was born. The Schwartz’s still keep in regular contact with Mama M, and want her to be as involved in Leyton’s life as she wants to be.
After posting on Facebook a second time looking for another child, a coworker of David’s connected them when Aiden’s grandparents, who took custody of him at birth and were looking for an adoptive family. Aiden still gets to spend time with his biological grandparents and sisters.
“It’s just so heartwarming, you know, this woman doesn’t even know you and she just totally intrusts you to raise her child,” said Ashlee.
Emily Treadaway is the County Coordinator for The CALL in Crawford and Sebastian Counties. It’s a non-profit that works with families who are interested in fostering. She is also friends with the Schwartz family and said their advocacy and outspokenness about adoption is crucial.
“In Crawford and Sebastian counties alone has over 615 children, just in foster care, and statewide there’s over 300 children waiting to be adopted,” she said. “A lot of those kids have been waiting for over two years to be adopted, so it’s a big issue here.”
“A majority of these moms, there is just absolutely no support,” said Ashlee. “So, if you’re someone that’s considering adoption, there’s just so much support out there.”
Elizabeth Nelke is the Certified Public Accountant for the Schwartz family. She said there is a non-refundable tax credit worth $14,440 per child adopted that families can take advantage of.
“It will cover all necessary and ordinary adoption fees. It’ll cover court costs, it’ll cover home studies, it’ll cover travel, if you need to go lodging meals, it’ll cover all of that,” she said. “So you need to keep up with your receipts and keep an itemized listing to be eligible for it.”
The Schwartz’s hope they can inspire other families to open their homes and their hearts to kids who need adopting.
“There’s no love, like the love of having a child,” said Ashlee. “It brings so much joy in your life.”
Ashlee and David are looking to bring a third child into their home. Click here to connect with them on Facebook.
Ashlee is a Mercy Hospital ICU Nurse who is also helping a new father who lost his wife to COVID-19 in September. Eric Robison now has to raise newborn baby Carmen on his own. Click here to read more about their story.