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If We Are Brave

In honor of National Adoption Month, Holt adoptive mom Mandie Hickenbottom-Conner shares about her journey to Korea and back to adopt her son, Desmond. A boy with special needs, Desmond is like many of the children who wait too long to find the loving adoptive families they need and deserve.

I never imagined my road to motherhood would be so riddled with loss…

Babies and children are surrounded with ideals of hope and joy. So, when I was dating my husband and we got engaged, we never talked about dreams deferred, fertility difficulties or death. And yet, before parenthood could be realized in our life together, all of these things would come to pass.

Mandie changes her hair color to raise awareness about different kinds of cancer. “It’s been a strangely effective way to get people’s attention,” she says. “When they ask about my hair, I tell them about warning signs and statistics.”

Our decision to adopt felt more like a long, arduous, emotional preparation than the beautiful “calling” so many of our friends seemed to experience. And although we always felt we wanted to adopt “one day” to “complete our family,” it soon became obvious that if we wanted to have a family, we would have to embrace adoption.

I know it may sound as though I think of adoption as a consolation prize.  Please know, this couldn’t be farther from the truth…

On a cold but unseasonably sunny winter day in February of 1960, a young, Irish immigrant gave birth to a premature baby girl in the rural Iowa bedroom of her older sister and guardian — herself an immigrant-bride during the Second World War.

Mom and baby were very ill. And because mom was caught pregnant with no husband to claim her or her infant daughter, she was also facing deportation. Her only option was relinquishment.  So when the ambulance arrived, the baby was immediately handed over to the medics with the instruction that mom did not want to hold or see the baby and that her infant daughter was to be placed in the care of a representative from the nearby children’s home.

Although she never touched her newborn child’s soft skin, mom took the time to gift her with a name. Following Irish tradition, it included her own mother’s name in the middle position.  A name…  the second and last gift she would ever give her daughter this side of Heaven.  The first being life itself, no matter how harsh the circumstances may have been.

In the far reaches of time and space, close as a breath yet expansive as the universe, God was watching this very mother and child. And He knew He already had a plan in place for the life of this small, sick baby girl — one part of which was to become an adopted daughter in a family of her own.  Another was to become my mother.

Fast forward to October 18, 2011. My now 51-year-old mother was on the phone in her living room while I was on the phone in her basement.  She, with an oncologist.  Myself with our adoption agency, Holt International.  It was our third wedding anniversary, but the atmosphere was far from joyful.  My mom was being told she had cancer for the second time; and my husband, Sean, and I were being told we must change country programs – from Thailand to South Korea.  Thailand’s adoption program was in upheaval due to the recent monsoons, and many foster families and orphanages had been displaced. In the wake of the natural disaster, timelines in Thailand had stretched into the unforeseen future and all new families without a current referral were advised to switch to a more stable program.

I got off the phone and wept. Wept for my mother, and wept for this unsure future facing my husband and me.  Holt was our second agency and South Korea our fourth country program.  Our previous agency had lead us through dead-ends in China and Ethiopia; so, hearing the news about Thailand that day, coupled with my mother’s returned cancer, was a blow my heart was not prepared to handle.

As my husband and I became caregivers to my mother while she began the extensive and physically exhausting road to stem cell transplant, we hoped and prayed daily for news of a child referral to restore our joy. We were called once in the summer of 2012 with a possible referral of a boy with some very specific special needs — the most daunting (in our eyes) being frequent seizure activity. Everything in my being wanted desperately to grab hold of the thought of having this child in our lives and press it tightly to my heart. But after much prayer, we both knew that we were not emotionally ready to give this sweet boy the kind of care he deserved. Continue reading If We Are Brave

There's More to Devin…

Devin Needs a Family!

Born:  September 9, 2006

For over 5 years, I have kept a watchful eye on Holt’s waiting child photolisting, observing as new children have been added, and watching, in joy, as the words “I Have a Family” have appeared across many of the children’s pictures.

It brings Holt staff great joy to watch as children move from our photolisting into the arms of loving families.

Some children, however, are added to the photolisting only to wait…and wait. A few children have sadly been on the photolisting for years. Waiting. We do what we can to advocate for these children, but sometimes it’s just not enough.

The children who wait the longest often have disorders or special needs that seem particularly scary or involve many unknowns, and the hesitation many prospective families face regarding these children is quite understandable. Reading words like “unknowns,” “Cerebral Palsy” or the rare “osteogenesis imperfecta (or brittle bones syndrome)” in 8-year-old Devin’s case, can be scary. Even the words “older child” can seem rather intimidating.

Many times, though, to lessen the fear or hesitation that these words conjure up, these children on our photolisting often just require a closer look, a look beyond what’s written in their 200-word bio on our website.

Here’s what’s written about Devin:

Devin has osteogensis imperfecta, or brittle bones. He uses a wheelchair and sometimes has pain if he moves his leg too much. Devin is described as a thinker. He enjoys puzzles, blocks and Legos. He is especially good at math, and he is also a talented artist and singer.  Right now, Devin is unable to attend classes in China because of his medical condition. “He desperately wants to go to school with normal children since he is lonely at the orphanage,” one of his caretakers says. He has good social skills and gets along well with other children. “It is impossible to describe how cute, funny and intelligent this special boy is.” she continues.

While this bio gives you glimpse into Devin’s personality and tells you a little about his special need, there is so much more to Devin.  He deserves a closer look.  To find out more about Devin, please contact Jessica Zeeb at jessicaz@holtinternational.org

 

Honoring Foster Mothers During National Adoption Month

A Holt adoptee and adoptive mom shares a touching tribute to foster families and how she and her daughter honor the foster mother in their lives.

by Kim Hanson

November is National Adoption Month. The foster families that take care of our kiddos prior to adoption are some amazing angels. I’ve witnessed foster mothers reunite with their kids years later and the love they have for them at that moment was just as strong as when they were with them. The tears are plentiful as these foster mothers never dreamed they would ever see their kids again. I’ve been blessed to thank my daughter’s foster mother in person. The three of us have matching bracelets. We also have one for her birth mother for when that day comes.

 

What National Adoption Month Could Mean for Baye

Baye Needs a Family!

Birthdate:  4/2/2006, China

As 8-year-old Baye goes about his day in China, he is most likely unaware that here in the United States we are celebrating National Adoption Month. He probably hasn’t heard that November is dedicated to adoption, and finding families for children just like him, and he doesn’t know that in the last few years, thanks to the advocacy of Holt’s Facebook friends during National Adoption Month, numerous orphaned and abandoned children now have loving, permanent families.

Maybe this November, we can help show Baye the true meaning of National Adoption Month by joining together and helping him find a family!

Baye was found abandoned at a hospital in 2006 when he was just a few days old. Doctors performed an initial exam on him and found him to have some vision issues, and minor hydrocephalus. Upon further examination it was determined that Baye is blind in his right eye and his other eye is affected by inner transposition — a surgically correctable condition that makes his eyelid appear a bit droopy. He is developmentally a little behind, but is working hard to catch up.

In June of 2006, soon after being brought into care, Baye was taken to a foster home, where he still lives today. Baye is well loved and taken care of by his foster family and has made a lot of progress developmentally. It is reported that although he has not received any surgical attention for his hydrocephalus, the cerebral effusion has gone down.

Due to his vision problems, Baye always sits in the front row at school, and works very hard. His teachers say that he is always willing to do extra work and finishes his homework every day without being reminded. When asked why he likes to go to school, Baye says, “because I can learn a lot of knowledge only in school.” He is adored by his teachers, and gets along very well with his foster brothers and sisters, although he is a little shy around the other children at school and strangers.

Baye will need a loving family who is ready to embrace him and give him a lot of attention.

National Adoption Month is nearing its end.  Wouldn’t it be nice to think that during this special month, you helped a little boy in China find his family?   Share his story on Facebook today!

For more information on adopting Baye, please contact Jessica Zeeb at jessicaz@holtinternational.org.

 

 

 

 

We'll Let God Decide

The Buettner Family.

Four years ago, Rita Buettner shared about her family’s decision to adopt a boy from China. “How did we ever adopt a boy who has wiggled his way so surely into our hearts and lives? Only God knows,” Rita wrote. “And we thank Him every day that when we were asked, ‘Which gender?’ we shrugged our shoulders and said we’ll let God decide. We could never have picked for ourselves so perfectly.” Today, they share about their second journey to China, to adopt their son, Michael.

 

Five years ago, I was standing in the lobby of the U.S. Consulate in Guangzhou, China. My husband and I had just adopted our son, Louis, days earlier, and I was waiting to pick up his visa. I had a sudden thought.

“I wonder,” I said to a few adoptive parents standing nearby, “whether our second child might already be alive here in China.”

Our new friends stared at me. They may even have laughed. We were new parents. We were exhausted. Yet here I was talking about our next adoption. I was as surprised as they were.

Still, as it turned out, Louis slipped so beautifully into our family that months later we called Holt to start talking about bringing another child home.

Navigating the adoption process was easier the second time. We had a better idea of what to expect, I was more organized with the paperwork, we had a better network of adoptive families, and we had fewer questions.

Again this time, John and I didn’t want to request a particular gender. We had given no preference the first time, and we had been matched with Louis. We suspected we would be matched with a boy because we knew that many boys in China wait for families. That was just fine with us. We were having so much fun with our little boy.

Prior to adopting Louis, we had met with a doctor friend who helped us understand the special needs on the checklist Holt gave us. We submitted that same list for our second adoption. We had to trust we would be able to handle our child’s needs. Life is full of leaps of faith, and this was just another.

On March 22, 2011, Louis and I were spending the day with my brother and his sons when my cell phone rang. It was our social worker. She had a file for us to review. It was a boy! He was 15 months old. He lived in Guangdong Province. She told me his Chinese name and some of his medical history.

But what struck me right away was his birthdate. He had been born while we were in China adopting Louis. While I was wondering aloud whether our second child could be alive in China, he was—and he was living about an hour’s drive from that very building.

Minutes after the call when we opened our referral, John and I saw an adorable round face with peach fuzz hair. In one photo he was laughing so hard you could practically hear his belly laugh. He had had surgery, but his file indicated that he was healthy. And there were those brown eyes looking straight into our hearts. He was ours, and we were his.

Five months later to the day, John and I stood in a government office in Guangzhou as an orphanage staff member placed Michael in our arms. He was quiet and snuggly and absolutely precious. We were in love. On our first night together this little 20-month-old guy started calling me “Mama” and John “Baba.” And he hasn’t stopped talking since.

When we returned home, Michael and Louis became brothers forever. Any adjustment is challenging for a child, and it was a transition for all of us. From the beginning, however, our boys, who have such different personalities, have thoroughly enjoyed each other. 

Brothers Michael and Louis

Now 7, Louis has a great sense of humor and a deep curiosity. He likes Pokemon, Legos, puzzles, and folding paper into spaceships. Michael is always looking for a way to make others, including his brother, laugh. He likes nature, baby animals, vehicles, World War II, and God. He is energetic, determined, and has a sweet and compassionate heart. At almost 5, he says hi to everyone he sees and tells us he loves us several times a day.

Although we checked off quite a few special needs on those lists, we have two healthy, energetic children. One of them goes to an extra doctor’s appointment every few years—not particularly special. Every single day John and I look at each other and marvel that we are the parents to these two boys, these brothers, born in different parts of China, and yet so perfectly matched. We are so richly blessed.

Maybe you are thinking about adopting. Maybe the process seems daunting or overwhelming. Maybe that list of possible special needs is intimidating. Maybe you want to adopt, but you aren’t sure you want to parent a daughter or a son.

Here’s a thought. Research those special needs and think about what you can handle. Ask yourself whether you would be open to raising a son. And know that all those questions, all those concerns, and even that term “special needs” will vanish the instant you meet your child.

Because, in the end, maybe the one with the special need is not the little boy who sneaks up behind you to give you “back hugs” in the kitchen. It might just be you. And maybe the best way to address that gap in your heart and home is by making a sweet little boy your son.

by Rita Buettner 

Rita Buettner blogs at Open Window

 

The Price of Hope

Can you put a price tag on Hope? Can you calculate the worth of something so abstract?

The worth of something is, after all, relative — it changes from place to place, person to person, currency to currency. Hope is relative too, and looks different for everyone.

By definition, hope is a feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen.

The expectation that something is about to change.

Something is about to get better.

Hope is also a feeling — a very powerful one — that drives us to continue to push through hard situations, eager to find the light in the darkness.

Continue reading Gifts of Hope

TBRI® - The latest and greatest tool for adoptive parents!

Holt’s social work manager for the China program shares what she learned from a week-long training on Trust-Based Relational Intervention, a new tool to help adoptive parents correct their children’s behavior without compromising their emotional connection.

Did you know that it takes 400 repetitions to learn something new… but only 12 if you learn it while engaging in play? This is true because of how our brain synapses work.  It’s no wonder we treasure throughout our lives those fun family vacations and epic sports wins over countless other memories. Recently, I learned how researchers, psychologists and specialists in child development have adapted the staying power of these positive interactions into useful parenting tools. In September, I attended a week-long training with Dr. Karyn Purvis for professionals who plan to use the latest and greatest tool for adoptive parents, Trust-Based Relational Intervention® (TBRI®).

Developed by Dr. Karyn Purvis and Dr. David Cross at Texas Christian University’s Institute of Child Development, TBRI is a parenting approach for all children.  It combines nurturing and structure in a way that teaches respect and compliance while also being loving and playful. TBRI uses immediate response approaches tailored to the level of misbehavior and the developmental level of your child. Since the delivery is positive and often playful, it allows the household to move on from conflicts quickly when they arise. No hard feelings.

As a social worker for Holt’s China Program, I am excited to share my praises about the TBRI program and, hopefully, spark some interest in those of you exploring adoption. Holt is thrilled to be providing families who are in process of adopting with the TBRI curriculum.

What is TBRI? Continue reading TBRI® – The latest and greatest tool for adoptive parents!

These Children are Thriving

With the support of Holt child sponsors, nearly 1,500 children at seven daycare centers in Vietnam now have a safe place to learn and play during the day.  At one preschool and daycare center in southern Dong Nai province, free milk and nourishing school lunches have helped to drop malnutrition rates from 7.5 percent to less than 1 percent. When Holt staff members visited the school in early June of this year, many of the children were busy coloring pictures for their sponsors — a new feature of Holt’s sponsorship program designed to strengthen communication between sponsors and the children they help support.

Twenty miles outside of Ho Chi Minh City in southern Vietnam, tucked between marshy fields of growing rice, stands a small preschool and daycare center. When we visit in early June, only about a third of the number of students who attend during the school year are present. Still, the sound of children playing is deafening as we drive up — with giggles and high voices joyfully resounding off the cement walls and through the open air doors of this four-room school. The air is hot and steamy from overnight rains, and children run barefoot on the cool cream-and-yellow tiles of the school — their shoes in a pile in the hallway. They are between the ages of 2 and 5, and the little ones are watching a Tom and Jerry cartoon in one classroom when we arrive. They are engrossed in the show and barely acknowledge us when we peek inside. The older ones are busy coloring pictures in the room next door, and they look up with bright eyes and toothy grins when we join their class.

Two years ago, the atmosphere at this school was quite different. When the Long Hung School opened in 2005 to serve the children of this rural farming community, many families failed to see the purpose or benefit of sending their children to preschool or their littler ones to daycare. In their community, the elders of the family traditionally care for children at home while their parents farm the land during the day. The school itself was run down and had no water supply for cooking or drinking, and the cost of tuition — $3/month, $23/month with lunch — seemed an unnecessary burden to many of the families in this low-income area. Only 41 children enrolled that first year.

Then, in 2012, the local authority referred Holt Vietnam to upgrade equipment as well as the quality of care and programs for the children — and, ultimately, to attract more children to the school.

“When Holt came, only 41 families had signed up their children to enroll,” the principle shared during our visit. “Two months later, it came up to 78. By the end of the semester, the number increased to 102. The next year, we were able to enroll 141.” Continue reading These Children are Thriving

Special in All the Right Ways

When Sunita Schroader came home from India at 3 years old, it quickly became apparent that she was learning challenged. Through hard work and perseverance, however, Sunita successfully overcame the challenges she faced — graduating high school as a member of the Class of 2014. Last year, she was also featured on stage at a Winter Jam concert as a once-Holt sponsored child, now a thriving young woman poised for success.

Sunita as a little girl in Bombay.

She cried the first time she saw us. That day, as a 3-year-old at Bharatiya Samaj Seva Kendra (BSSK), Holt’s partner organization in Pune, India, she understood enough to know her life was about to change. It was my birthday, and my husband had told someone. So they prepared a card for her to give to me.  She was coaxed into handing it to this strange woman with blonde hair, and so began a new life for each of us. We brought her home to join our family — with two bio sons — and a life of love in a modest home in western Kentucky. Continue reading Special In All The Right Ways

Korea Adoption: All the information you need in one infographic!

Many children in Korea are waiting, right now, to be matched with adoptive families. During National Adoption Month, please help spread the word. Share this infographic with your family, friends and community to help raise awareness and educate others about adopting from Korea.

For many children in Korea, international adoption is the only route to a permanent family. Children in need of homes are mostly boys, 6-12 months at time of match with a family, and approximately 2 years old when they come home. Most children who need families from Korea have some special medical needs. But their conditions are often so minor or resolved that children are considered healthy in the U.S. Common conditions include prematurity and related conditions, minor alcohol/tobacco exposure, or a minor heart murmur.

The care children receive in Korea is second to none. While waiting to join an adoptive family, almost all children stay in the loving care of a foster family – providing nurturing, individual attention to help children reach critical developmental milestones, and form healthy emotional attachments. Korea’s exceptional medical care system also keeps children healthy and strong while waiting to come home.

So please, share this infographic on your Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest page, and help Holt find the loving families so many children are waiting for!

Ready to get started? Click here to request an adoption information packet and application. To speak to one of our Korea adoption counselors, call 503-709-5679 or email kathies@holtinternational.org.