Katie Kindelan, ABC News
(DAVENPORT, Iowa) -- An Iowa mom who was able to adopt her daughter thanks to the generosity of a family member has opened a clothing store where 100% of the proceeds go to help families pay for the costs of adoption.
Brittany Berrie, a mom of three in Davenport, Iowa, opened The Adopted Closet, a consignment store, in September, less than three months after she adopted her 11-year-old daughter, Gracie.
Berrie has been the primary caregiver since birth for Gracie, who was born to one of Berrie's relatives.
Berrie said she and her partner, Branden Johnson, who share two biological children, had talked frequently about adopting Gracie but did not think they could afford it, anticipating legal fees in the thousands of dollars.
That changed last November, when Berrie said a cousin of hers offered to cover the costs.
"My cousin was asking about Gracie and was wondering why the adoption wasn't finalized and I told her it was very expensive," Berrie told "Good Morning America." "She said, 'When you get home, call an attorney and I'm paying for it.'"
That started a legal process that ended in July, when Berrie and Johnson's adoption of Gracie was finalized.
Berrie said that throughout the adoption process, she struggled with how to appropriately thank her cousin. In the end, she decided to thank her by paying it forward and paying for another family's adoption.
"My mom and I were doing a garage sale at my house and we had the idea to try to help pay for someone else's adoption," she said, noting that once she told people where the proceeds would go, donations of clothes and items for the sale poured in.
"We did the first sale and I thought, 'We are making this a store,'" said Berrie. "One adoption isn't going to be good enough. We need to keep helping families."
Berrie, a stay-at-home mom, converted her home's garage into The Adopted Closet. She and other family members, including Gracie, organize donations and keep the store running three days per week.
The proceeds from the store and the initial garage sale have already covered the adoption fees of one local family, Adam and Cassandra Holdorf, who finalized the adoption of their two sons, ages 5 and 7, on Nov. 6.
Berrie and Cassandra Holdorf met at church more than a decade ago and have remained friends on Facebook, where Berrie saw her post about the adoption process.
"Brittany messaged me and said she had saw I posted about adoption day coming up and she told me about her store and said they'd like to cover the legal cost for our adoption," said Holdorf. "I definitely was not expecting that."
"We were trying to figure out how we were going to pay for everything, so it was a really huge relief to know that we had someone who was willing to help with that," she added.
Because Holdorf and her husband were foster parents to their sons before adopting them, they received a $1,000 reimbursement from the state to cover legal fees. Berrie worked directly with the couple's lawyer to pay the rest of their legal fees, according to Holdorf.
"I think what Brittany is doing is absolutely incredible," she said. "It's definitely a need and I think the reason why more people don't adopt is because the costs can be pretty high."
Berrie's donation to Holdorf and her family came during National Adoption Awareness Month, which is recognized annually in November. Around 122,000 children in the U.S. foster care system are eligible for adoption and they will wait four years, on average, for an adoptive family, according to data shared by the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute, a nonprofit organization.
More than 60,000 children were adopted in the U.S. in 2019, according to the most recent data available from the Department of Health and Human Services.
Berrie said she plans to keep The Adopted Closet running to meet the need that exists, and hopes to expand to a storefront so she can keep it open year-round. She said she thinks often about how the generosity from her cousin ended up changing her families' lives, and now others' too.
"One person can change the script of everybody's lives," said Berrie. "Her offering to pay for our adoption is now affecting and blessing another family and being pushed on, and that is the goal. That is how I'm thanking her."
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