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What is Winter Jam?

Winter Jam is a 10-band Christian concert tour that hits nearly 60 cities each year. It’s also one of Holt’s biggest opportunities to find and reach new child sponsors — people with a heart for the children Holt serves, willing to give $30 per month to change a child’s life. Holt partners with Christian band NewSong, the band that started Winter Jam in 1995. They traveled with us to India, China and Haiti — spending their days with orphaned, abandoned and vulnerable children whose lives have been changed by the generosity of Holt’s sponsors, supporters and adoptive families. Then, seeing the great need for Holt to serve more children, they took to the stage, using their talents to advocate for children. Since our partnership with NewSong and Winter Jam began in 2006, Holt has welcomed nearly 62,000 sponsors into our programs — representing thousands of little lives forever changed.

Register to be a Holt Volunteer NOW! Click HERE.

Last year, more than 9,500 volunteers across the country helped Holt find almost 12,000 new child sponsors.

This year, we are setting our sights higher. Our goal is 15,000 new sponsors by spring of 2016. Help us reach it!  Every place where we work, our programs are expanding due to the great need — which means that we have thousands of children waiting for a sponsor.

That’s why we need you, and all your friends, your youth group, church congregation, neighbors, co-workers, family and everyone else who you can bring.

When you volunteer at a Winter Jam concert near you, we give you free admission to the show, and in return, you learn about Holt’s sponsorship program, how to sign up new sponsors, and perhaps how to tell your own story to encourage others to become sponsors. When registering, you may choose to work at a table during the show or in the aisles during intermission — signing up new sponsors.

Winter Jam is a great way for you (and all your friends!) to attend Winter Jam, and feel great knowing that for every sponsor you help sign up, you have a hand in changing a child’s life forever.

To sign up to volunteer, find the concert nearest you and then click HERE.

Volunteering is a 6-8 hour commitment. You must be 16 or older to register to volunteer. You will receive training by email before the concert, and then meet in person for more training at the venue. We will make sure you know everything you need to know to be a great volunteer!

We also encourage Holt adoptees or sponsors to volunteer. We want you to share your story — and your journey with Holt — with those around you.

We request that volunteers stay for the entire duration of the concert, including time before the show for training. You will have breaks. Unfortunately, dinner and beverages are not provided. We recommend you bring cash to purchase food at the venue or somewhere close by.

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Adopt LizaThere is no doubt that every child deserves a family. Every child deserves the love and attention of doting parents, to fall asleep feeling safe and warm, to feel special and celebrated.

And then there is Liza — a bright-eyed, smiley and ambitious 8-year-old little girl — who has been waiting for a family of her own since the day she was born.

Abandoned shortly after birth, Liza hasn’t experienced the consistency of a forever family. She has lived with several caregivers in her short life, through no fault of her own, but she joined a foster family in 2007. Her current foster family is very experienced and Liza has lived with them since 2013. Liza’s foster family says she is doing extremely well with them. Read More

Holt’s social work manager for the China program, Marissa Leuallen, explains how Holt helped to develop China’s “one-to-one” program — unique agency-orphanage partnerships designed to find families for the many older children and children with special needs living in China’s social welfare system.

China PartnershipsOver the past decade, those of us who have worked in international adoption from China— or adopted a child from China — have meandered through an ever-changing environment. A program once known for placing healthy infant girls now places almost as many boys as girls, more toddlers and school-aged children than babies and — perhaps most significantly — nearly every child now joining families through the China program has at least some minor medical or development needs. Adoption professionals have evolved our methods for training, preparing and supporting adoptive families to build confidence and bolster resources so they can best meet the needs of their child. What you may not know is that we do this same work on the other side of the world — with government officials, caregivers and orphanage staff in China.

Holt actually, quite naturally, pioneered the idea of one-to-one partnerships in China.

Holt’s work with Chinese welfare institutions started in the early 1990s and has grown and broadened tremendously throughout the country. Over the past two decades, our presence and reputation in China has paved the way for new programs and services like group homes, foster care, medical and educational support, nutritional and feeding training and support, and adoption partnerships with many child welfare institutions.

These partnerships emerged in response to a need that became apparent during the international adoption surge of the late 1990s and early 2000s. Read More

Holt now offers classes in Trust-Based Relational Intervention (TBRI), a parenting approach for adopted children — particularly those who have experienced early childhood trauma.

Hands3-216x160Many people believe that if they love a child enough, the child will be able to let go of all their past abuse and neglect and settle into being a loving member of the family. Now there is research that documents the alterations in the central nervous system of children who come from “hard places” — alterations that make it impossible for love and nurturing alone to heal them. It would be the equivalent of trying to cure a child of meningitis with hugs, kisses and chicken soup! We are so lucky to now have medical tests that can identify the alterations in a child’s brain and know what medical treatments can help bring their brain chemicals closer to what nature intended.

However, that is not the whole answer.

Parental interactions do have an enormous impact on a child’s healing, but it involves much more than unconditional love. The key is for parents to learn how to create felt safety in their child. This is the only way we know of to stop the “fight, flight or flee” response that has kept a child safe during their life of abuse and neglect. To create felt safety, parents must learn ways to interact with their child that will quiet and soothe this fear response until it is finally extinguished — opening their child to receive the loving care of their adoptive family. Read More

Steve Kalb, Holt’s director of adoptee services, shares what drew him to lead Holt’s camp program — and what’s sustained his enthusiasm over the past 11 years. 

During my freshman year at the University of Iowa in 1995, a friend of mine suggested we become camp counselors at one of the local United Methodist youth camps. “We just take care of kids, lead some activities, and get to live by the lake all summer. It’ll be awesome!” my friend told me. How could I lose? Little did I know, I was about to embark on a summer that would change my life forever. Never having attended camps before, the environment was like nothing I’d ever known. It was a place where time slows down and blurs past you all at once. You’re completely uncomfortable living out of a suitcase and sleeping bag but it all fades into the background as the community and relationships make you feel at home. It’s a place where campers and staff reinvent themselves because they’re unbound from the role they’re expected to play back home. The high school offensive lineman can be the lead singer for his cabin’s doo-wap skit. The introverted Pokémon player confidently directs her team at the challenge course. The unassuming piano player wins the tie-breaking game by capturing the flag. It’s a flexible and forgiving space where awkwardness and vulnerability rise to the surface for everyone to celebrate.

Camp Staff 2015

Steve Kalb (front row, far right) with the 2015 camp counselor staff.

Despite the openness camp fosters, as an Asian Adoptee camp counselor and subsequent camp director in Iowa, I felt little space to be anyone but the farm boy from Oelwein. I wasn’t able to take advantage of camp’s biggest benefit, optimal conditions for self-exploration, because I was always reassuring campers, parents and co-workers that I was as Midwest as they were. I wore seed corn-branded clothing, spoke with a Midwest drawl, and thoroughly enjoyed Jell-o cake and breaded pork tenderloins (some of the Midwest’s finest cuisine). This mindset left me with less room to explore different ways of being or trying different types of roles, for fear that people around me would forget that I was “just like them.”

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