Katie Zimmerman is the owner of Purl Adoption Advisory, an advisory for adoptive parents she founded two years ago this month; the president of Gift of Adoption Fund’s Arizona Chapter, a chapter also started in 2017; and a board member for Families for Private Adoption.
In the past two years, Scottsdale resident Zimmerman has helped dozens of families on their adoption journeys.
But just four years ago, Zimmerman and her husband Ray experienced a difficult adoption of their own, it ultimately ended happily and pushed her to start her own adoption advisory company.
“It was an agonizing and dark time for us, but we learned through this experience how the adoption process could be better,” Katie said.
In April 2015, Katie and Ray matched with an expectant mother.
“We matched with an expectant mom right away, but it was a really tumultuous situation,” Katie said.
The adoption failed.
“We were devastated,” Katie said. “We were really sad about it, but we just felt like our child was still out there.”
While continuing fertility treatments, Katie and Rafy’s family grew by one – and, very shortly after, by two.
Not only did they adopt a baby girl, Cora, but the same week they took her home, they also learned Katie was pregnant.
Cora’s adoption became official on April 7, 2016 – almost exactly one year from when Katie first placed the call to their consultant.
It could have taken longer had they not hired a consultant to walk them through the process and support them through it.
“We had some hiccups in our adoption I think wouldn’t have happened had we been working with someone different,” Katie said. “A lot of times, the adoptive parents don’t get the attention they need.”
Katie left her job as a corporate lawyer and set off to be an advocate for hopeful adoptive families at Purl Adoption Advisory.
“Unfortunately, adoption begins from loss and brokenness,” Zimmerman said. “A child is separated from the birth family often due to crisis or chaos within the family, which can lead to issues with identity, belonging, and abandonment in the adoptee later in life.
“Many hopeful adoptive families have also experienced their own loss, struggling with infertility and pregnancy loss before choosing to grow their families through adoption. But adoption can also be beautiful — uniting two families with overwhelming love for a child.”
With a traditional model, adoptive families sign up with one agency, and the adoption process can take about two years. However, working with an adoption advisor can shorten it to less than one year.
“Basically, you’re signing up with a lot of different adoption professionals. So, you’re waiting on a lot of different lists rather than just one,” Katie explained.
At Purl, Katie works with prospective parents.
The all-inclusive $3,750 package includes a guidebook, a referral to adoption attorneys and agencies for matching, counseling sessions with an experienced caseworker, video and email support for 18 months or until the adoption of the family’s first child, a 20-page family profile and various other materials.
With four other packages and four different design services available in addition to the all-inclusive package, Purl Adoption Advisory is the only one of its kind in Arizona.
“By working with someone like me who’s really networked in the adoption community, you just have exposure to a lot more situations. I have good relationships with the adoption professionals in Arizona, and I work with professionals all across the country, particularly attorneys part of the Academy of Adoption & Assisted Reproduction Attorneys,” she said.
Katie regularly works with 35 professionals; in the two years since she founded the advisory, 25 babies have been born to 23 families. Currently, she has about five more families matched and waiting for their babies to be born.
“I started this business as a way to have more time with [my kids] and also help people grow their family this way. It’s turned into more than I expected, taking calls at random times in the middle of the night when someone’s having a crisis. But I love it. It’s still more flexible and gives me more time with my family,” Katie said.
Katie founded Purl Adoption Advisory during National Adoption Awareness Month in 2017.
National Adoption Awareness Month is intended to raise awareness about the urgent need for adoptive families for children and youth in foster care.
According to the Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System, the number of youths adopted from foster care rose in 2017 from over 57,000 in 2016 to over 59,000 in 2017 – the highest number of adoptions from foster care ever.
But while adoptions are increasing, cost remains the biggest obstacles in the adoption process. Adoption costs can get as high as $50,000, with the average being around $37,000.
To raise funds for Arizona families adopting vulnerable children in need of forever families, the Living Room at DC Ranch in Scottsdale donated 25 percent of proceeds raised on Nov. 9 at the restaurant to nonprofit Gift of Adoption Arizona.
Katie is the president of Gift of Adoption Fund’s Arizona Chapter, which was formed in 2017 and since has awarded $108,000 in adoption assistance grants to local Arizona families giving children a permanent home.
“Already, we have seen a steady increase in families applying for adoption assistance year over year,” Katie said.
Since Gift of Adoption Fund’s inception in 1996, the nonprofit has awarded $8.9 million in grants nationally.
“Sometimes the families adopting through me are adopting totally healthy babies. The families we’re helping in Arizona through Gift of Adoption are the ones we really need to be helping. All the money Gift of Adoption raises goes straight back to Arizona families,” Katie explained.
“We’re trying to make sure these families have the resources they need to be able to take these kids home,” Katie said.
Next year on Nov. 7, Gift of Adoption Arizona will launch a stair climb at CityScape as the nonprofit’s signature event moving forward.
“Families can all come out and do this stair climb, signifying the last few steps of an adoption,” Katie said.
Katie started on the board while she was on maternity leave after adopting Cora before Gift of Adoption was an official chapter in Arizona.
“I felt the need to give back to the community I had just become a part of,” Katie said. “Adoption is so expensive, and so this is a way to make a little more affordable for those families.”