Sparking a National Conversation About Adoption

Children without a family find a home as more families engage with the adoption process. 


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There are 112 million orphans in the world. That’s 14 New York Cities. Adoption offers a clear path towards helping these children, however many families never consider it. Those who do consider are confronted with a long and difficult process. 


How can we nudge people to consider adoption and guide them through the process?

FiveStone leveraged their connections to host a meeting of like-minded, well-respected, agencies and advocates in the adoption space. The purpose of this meeting was to discuss how multiple agencies might work together to understand how families considering adoption, but not actually adopting, process their decision. Our hope was that this information could better equip the agencies and advocates to serve those families and the children.

After that meeting we found there was interest across all agencies and advocates to partner together. However, capacity constraints made it almost impossible to gain any traction in doing so. One agency stepped forward and offered to lead the charge.


Bethany Christian Services

Since 1944 Bethany Christian Services has helped children find loving homes. Today, they are the nation’s largest adoption agency with offices in 36 states and several countries. 

After the meeting, Bethany leadership discussed the opportunity and realized it was a great way to use their position within the space to help the greater cause of adoption. In doing so, they spearheaded the entire initiative, offering not only financial resources, but a deep understanding of the entire adoption landscape, connections to other agencies, and advocates.


Talking to Families

As the project kicked-off FiveStone’s first objective was to better understand families. Specifically, we wanted to know what caused some to exit the adoption process, while others continued through. 

We did this through a qualitative, ethnographic research approach visiting families in their homes. We wanted to find out what drove someone through the decision making process of:  

Awareness → Consideration  → Decision  → Action →  Advocate

From our time in the field, we developed a set of insights that led us to develop a push/pull strategy for engaging, equipping, and encouraging families.

On the push side, we hypothesized we could push content to pastors, church leaders, and potential adopters who would shift their belief systems from “adoption is something I do if I am infertile” to “adoption is about helping a child and it’s a calling.”

Based on what we heard during our research, we believed this shift in perspective would give families energy to make it over the hurdles and stay in the long process. Our plan was then to push content to pastors, church leaders, and potential adopters containing this perspective and preparing them for the realities of the adoption process.  

On the pull side, we hypothesised we could draw families into considering adoption by decreasing the distance – physically and virtually – from adoptions happening in their national social circle, community, and church. This pull strategy came from the core insight that the decision to adopt is highly relational and local. This means that the decision process happens within relationships and local communities of support.

“FiveStone cared about our organization and our campaign, but more importantly, they cared about our cause. It was clear from the passion they brought to the project that we were not just ‘another client.’”


Vice President, Marketing (former)
Bethany Christian Adoption Services


Prototyping Ideas and Building Tools

With a strategy in place, we developed a handful of low-fidelity concepts to return to the field for testing. These concepts worked to support the strategy at each point of the journey from awareness to advocate. Based on feedback from the field, we iterated on the ideas and refined them for a final launch. Additionally, we formed a set of design principles that helped not only strengthen the existing ideas but helped shape future ideas that we would eventually add to the campaign.

In addition to the field study, we conducted a survey with pastors throughout the country. We wanted to know how they viewed adoption, if they talked about it at all, and how we could support them in talking about it. The results from the survey led to additional resources specific to pastors and their needs.

Launching the Campaign

With our research complete, FiveStone produced, directed, designed, and managed a two-year national campaign called Adoption Journey.

Church Leader Conferences:
Created on-stage experiences at national leadership conferences.

Financial Planner:
Designed the first (and only, at the time) financial planner that factors in expenses, grants, tax credits, and loans in order to calculate adoption expenses.

Talk to a Family:
Hosted online conversations between families considering adoption, an adoption specialist, and a family who has adopted in order to break down common myths.

Step-by-Step Instructions: 
Reconstructed the adoption process in a simplified format explaining the steps required in each type of adoption.

Fundraising Platform:
Created a fundraising platform for families to raise money for their adoption.

Celebrated Adoption:
Created an online home for families to share their adoption stories.

Super Bowl Campaign:
Filmed a PSA style video with Super Bowl winning coach, Tony Dungy and his wife advocating for adoption. We asked adoptive families to play the video during halftime at their Super Bowl party.

Google Hangout:
Produced the first-ever live Google Hangout concert for adoption awareness.

Pastoral Kit:
For pastors, we created a “kit” with over 40 resources to help them plan, host, and follow-up on an entire Sunday service dedicated to adoption. These tools gave churches a turn-key way to start a larger conversation within their church.


Super Bowl Campaign

A PSA style video with Super Bowl winning coach, Tony Dungy and his wife advocating for adoption.



By all metrics, The Adoption Journey campaign was successful. However, the largest impact has been the ripple effect of the conversations the campaign started.

Even though the campaign ended years ago, we continue to see the conversation around adoption going strong.


TV, Radio, Web

Adoption Journey experienced positive reception that included coverage in over 5,000 television, radio, and web outlets.

White House Invitation

Representatives from the campaign participated in a White House meeting on adoption.

The campaign team was presented the national Orange Leaders Award for “making a significant difference in the lives of families.” 

10,000 Leads

We had a goal of generating ~1,700 contact leads at conferences. We generated ~10,000.

Loving Homes

And, most importantly, hundreds of children have found safe, loving, permanent homes.


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