Article Archives


From Hardship to Hope and Opportunity

Through Holt’s independent living and educational assistance program, one boy graduates college and returns to work for Holt’s partner organization in the Philippines — serving children and families at risk of separation.

Marlon on his college graduation day.

When police found Marlon wandering the streets, he was only 5 — old enough to tell the police his first name, and to say he’d lost his mother, but not much else.

He was too young, though, to know many of the other things critical to helping a lost child return home — his address or last name, where he lived or even what country he was from. Or where his mother had gone.

Could Marlon remember the last time he saw her?

Was she with anyone else? Did they stop anywhere?

Could she have left him… on purpose?

Continue reading From Hardship to Hope

What I Am

Holt adoptee Olivia Carnaté defines her identity — not by her physical attributes, but by the journey she has taken in life.

Olivia with her son.

If you meet me in person, you will see I am about 5’3”. I have long dark brown hair with curls that don’t need hairspray. I have stick straight eyelashes, full lips and high cheekbones. I have been called “exotic” and “unique-looking,” but what surprises most people about how I look is that when I speak, I do not have an accent. I do not know my native language. I am not great at math and sometimes when asked to describe my ethnicity on paper, I check both Asian and Pacific Islander.

Self-identity is a constant battle as an international adoptee. We straddle a fine line between maintaining a connection to our heritage while embracing the culture we’ve learned to identify as our own. Our appearance says one thing, but then we act another and for some reason, society is surprised by this.

This year, I turned 30 and I will tell you that when I first meet someone, the one question I’ve been asked more times in my life than any other is: “What are you?” I field this question on a regular basis from the curious bystander on the train to the man interested in getting my number to my co-worker when she sees pictures of me with my mom. From my standpoint, it’s a weird question to be asked. Sometimes, I will get asked, “Where are you from?” or “What is your nationality?” But more often than not, it’s about WHAT I AM.

As an international adoptee, answering the “What am I” question is a double-edged sword. It’s never simple and it’s always complex. It starts with “Well… I’m Filipino but I’m adopted and that is why…” The next thing I know, I’m giving an elevator speech – defining my personal history in 30 seconds about where I’m from, blatantly pointing out that my parents are white and no, I’ve never tried Balut. Continue reading What I Am

A Heart for Rini

Earlier this year, at the 2014 Holt Gala and Auction in Portland, Oregon, Holt adoptive mom Andrea Olson stood to speak. She told her story of bringing home her daughter Rini from China — a little girl with severe congenital heart disease — and the struggle to save her life. Here, Andrea again shares the story that captivated an audience of families, adoptees and Holt supporters at the Portland event, as well as her appeal to help save the lives of other children with serious heart disease… children just like Rini.

When Rini came home from China, she was in end-stage heart disease. Today, she is a marvel — smiling, laughing and playing like any other child.

Why are we here tonight?

I am here because as I sat next to my dying child in the cardiac intensive care unit of Seattle Children’s Hospital one year ago, I made a promise to her that she would leave a legacy and I would honor it. Whether she lived or died, there would be meaning to all she had endured.  She is no more or less special in the eyes of God than any other child, no more or less worthy of a family, of hope and a future, but she survived and has a name and face and I hope that her story will inspire everyone in this room to give generously tonight so that other children may live.

Rini is our youngest child of six — five adopted from China through Holt, four with varying degrees of congenital heart disease.  Born with complex single ventricle heart disease, Rini was declining quickly as we raced to complete our adoption.  With Holt’s help and expedites granted at each step, we were ready to travel just over three months after we applied for her adoption — gratefully so, as we learned just two weeks prior to our trip that she had spent much of the prior two months in and out of the ICU of a Chinese hospital, was in severe heart failure, and her eligibility for adoption was being called into question by officials in her homeland.

On the day we were scheduled to adopt her in China, we instead learned through the tearful voice of our Holt guide, Jane Hu, that she had been readmitted to the ICU as we were flying over the Pacific.  We were taken to meet her at the hospital, where the doctor handed us a frail, sickly 22-month-old, barely able to muster the strength to cry.  We were asked if we still wished to adopt her. Of course we did!  That night, however, we learned that her adoption had been blocked.  She had been declared unadoptable. But we saw things differently. Long story very short, thanks to the fortitude and diplomacy exhibited by Jian Chen, Sue Liu, Beth Smith, Catherine Han, Jane Hu, Phoebe Xuan, Anson Su, and the entire China program staff at Holt, we were permitted to adopt Rini a few tumultuous days later. Continue reading A Heart for Rini

An Update on Our Work in Haiti

Despite significant changes in our adoption and sponsorship programs over the past year, we look forward to a year full of possibility for continuing our mission of ensuring stable, loving homes for children in Haiti.

Holt sponsors are now helping to meet this little girl’s needs.

At a small orphanage in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, tree limbs spread across one wall, branching in every direction. Falling from each limb like leaves are exactly 53 hearts. All but one of these hearts represents a child who died when the orphanage nursery collapsed in Haiti’s devastating 2010 earthquake. One heart is dedicated to a nurse who died while caring for these children.

At the time of the earthquake, 156 children lived in this orphanage. Today, about 60 children remain in care. Some of them are in temporary care and will later rejoin their families. Others are eligible to be adopted internationally.

Last month, Holt enrolled every one of these children in our sponsorship program. When the earthquake hit, it severely damaged the infrastructure of the orphanage, which has struggled to rebuild over the past five years. With few resources, the orphanage staff has also struggled to provide adequate care for the children. Through their monthly donation, Holt sponsors will help meet the nutritional and medical needs of the children. They will ease the financial burden on the orphanage so the staff can focus on rebuilding the structure and making it safe for the children. And ultimately, with support from Holt, the orphanage hopes to resume an education program for children in the community that abruptly stopped on January 12, 2010.

For Holt, this new partnership highlights a new direction and new momentum for our work in Haiti.

A little over a year ago, Holt was forced to suspend our sponsorship program for most of the children we serve in Haiti. Although we continued to meet the needs of children in care at Holt Fontana Village, rising costs in Haiti hampered our ability to serve children living with their families in the community. At the same time, the Haitian government ratified the Hague Convention — changing the process for international adoption from Haiti, and creating new guidelines for partnerships between agencies and orphanages. Whereas before, agencies worked directly with orphanage partners to find families for children, Haiti’s central adoption authority has now taken on the role of matching children referred for adoption to pre-approved adoptive families on their waiting list.  Although agencies can still provide non-adoption related support for orphanages, they no longer work together to find adoptive families for children. Continue reading An Update on Our Work in Haiti

Cora's Christmas Wish

* Cora Needs a Family

Born September 18, 2001

December is a month filled with letters — letters to Santa, writing letters to loved ones, and receiving letters from good friends.

At Holt, we receive many Christmas letters and cards from adoptive families and adoptees, and we love reading each and every one of them.

But it’s not often we receive a letter like the one below.  This letter was written by Cora, a 13-year-old girl in a Holt-supported care center in China.  Cora isn’t writing to Santa, or a friend.  She isn’t asking for a bike, a TV, a phone or a watch.  She’s writing to her future family, and asking for a permanent home.

If we can’t find a family for Cora before her 14th birthday, her chances of finding a permanent home in the United States will be lost forever.

Because of the small time frame, Cora needs a family who has started their paperwork or can reuse their dossier and complete the adoption process by September 2015. She also needs a family who has parented past her age.

Please join us in asking God for a family for Cora.  This Christmas, maybe He’ll lead you to ask for more information about her.  Maybe He’ll bring someone to your mind who would embrace Cora and bring her into their loving family.

Read Cora’s touching letter below, and contact Jessica Zeeb at for more information about her.


Dear Daddy and Mommy,

How are you?

Thank you for choosing me and accepting me as your family member. I really want to have a family, have my own parents, like other kids.

When I was born, my biological parents abandoned me. I believe they must have their own difficulties, for that, I don’t hate them. After all, they gave me the life. My fostering grandma took me home, and it was my fostering father who worked and raised me up. Although that family was poor, and I was not able to go to school until 9 years old, they gave me a home! Because I don’t have a resident registration, and they also had no idea about that, what was more, my fostering father was dead because of disease when I was 8 years old, after that, my fostering mother left the family. Then, my grandma took me to my aunt’s family.

However, my aunt’s family also had a lot of difficulties. Therefore, they sent me to the local welfare institute. The caregivers in welfare institute treated me very well, and they helped me get resident registration, and sent me to the school. I really appreciate their works and I was taking the school time as precious things. In my classroom, my scores have always been the number one or two. My teachers and classmates all like me, and they let me be the head of the classroom. From all of this, I know I’m the lucky and safe child, because I have a large family in the welfare institute.

However, I also want a real family, with Daddy and Mommy, and probably grandpa and grandma. I also dream to have my own bedroom. My parents will love me, and I will be a good girl and appreciate their love to me. I will study well, and become a useful woman to the society. I believe I will bring many pleasures to you.

My dear Daddy and Mommy, I wish I could see you soon. I love you.



*Name changed  

Holt China Honored With People's Choice Award

Center, Jian Chen, Holt’s vice president of China programs for Holt International, accepts the “Most Caring Community/Team” award at the Liuzhou Annual Charity Awards in November 2014.

Last month, about 5 million people in the Chinese province of Guangxi  and the local government of Liuzhou honored Holt China with a major award that praises Holt’s work and mission to serve orphaned, abandoned and vulnerable children.

Thousands of citizens voted online for the recipient of the “Most Caring Community/Team” award, which was presented at the inaugural Liuzhou Annual Charity Awards. Holt International’s president of China programs, Jian Chen, was in China to receive the people’s choice award during a televised event.

More than 128 organizations were nominated for the award, but it was Holt China’s dedication to vulnerable children and families that garnered the most support. Holt was also the only organization nominated that provides hands-on services to children.

Altogether, 20 organizations were honored with awards, but Holt China was the only nonprofit to be publicly interviewed. The interviews featured a dance performance by a group of children who receive educational support from Holt China, a statement by Jian, and testimonies from children and families who have been deeply impacted by Holt’s work in the region.

Jian says, “I think about our team members who work day-in and day-out for the sake of the children, who should also be recognized and share this moment with me.  It is a shame that those who work hardest every day couldn’t join me on the stage to receive the award!”

As the recipients of this award are typically local Chinese organizations, this honor truly highlights the impact and significance of Holt’s 20-year history of service to the region. Last year, Holt was one of 40 organizations nominated for the “best project” award by the same organization.

In China, Holt supports more than 20 child welfare programs that provide educational support, foster care services, medical care and family strengthening services to children who are orphaned, abandoned or at serious risk of separating from their families. Holt China also takes a special focus on caring for children with special medical needs. Holt’s work in China began in 1992. Since that time, we’ve helped develop model foster care programs that provide a more family-like alternative to institutional care. We’ve also grown to become the largest international adoption placing agency in the region, and helped the Chinese government develop their own child welfare model. Our services benefit more than 50,000 children each year.

CCCWA Announces Process and Eligibility Changes for Potential Adoptive Parents

The China Center for Children’s Welfare and Adoption (CCCWA) has announced changes to the China adoption process and eligibility requirements for families adopting from China.  These changes relax some of the previous requirements related to age restriction, marital status and health issues, among others.  They will also be updating and making major changes to the CCCWA website.  The eligibility changes will take effect on January 1, 2015.  Holt is excited to implement these changes in our own China program, and look forward to matching even more children in need of loving homes!

Please click here for a full list of changes: FAQs New CCCWA Guidelines

Life With James

The Van Winkle family share their story of bringing home James — a boy with special needs — from Korea. Throughout National Adoption Month, we have advocated for children like James — all boys with special needs who need our extra help to be matched with loving adoptive families.

Adoption is part of our hearts. We started our family six years ago with our daughter, Corinne, who was born in Vietnam. We began our second adoption journey two years ago with the Holt Korea program. We were matched with our son, James, who immediately captured our hearts. He is now 2 years old and has been home with us for three months. He loves to mimic his sister, stack Legos and be outside. It has been wonderful to finally have our family complete.

With James’ adoption, we had been through the adoption process before so we felt confident in starting again. We began following the paper trail, checking off various boxes as we mailed off our documents, and anxiously waited to be matched. We finally got ‘the call’ four months later and saw the most handsome and sweet little boy’s picture. That moment is when the real waiting began. We had seen him, connected to his picture and started sending care packages and photo albums. Little did we know that our short wait of four months would turn into two years.

We knew that his adoption was going to take a much different path than his sister’s. For Corinne, we waited longer to be matched, but travel came soon after. During James’ process, we were matched early on, but the wait to travel was long. Then came the changes to Korea’s adoption laws and the adoption process. This was a glaring reminder that although the paperwork steps are similar in most international adoptions, the process itself can be very different for each family. Our best advice for other families working through the adoption process is that it’s best to have a ‘go with the flow’ mentality and to expect changes or bumps. The adoption process is a rollercoaster of emotions, but the final steps and meeting your child is completely worth every loop on that rollercoaster.

Continue reading Life With James

Jaylenn May Soon Lose His Foster Family... Help Him Find an Adoptive Family!

This National Adoption Month, help Jaylenn find the loving adoptive family he needs! Soon, he will have to transfer from his foster family to a care center. Please share his story so he never has to leave the loving care of a family!

DOB: October 8, 2011, N.E. Asia

Jaylenn in November 2014.

Jaylenn* picks up a toy microphone and tries to figure out what to do with it. He uses the cord to strum its accompanying colorful guitar – making the lights blink. When his foster mom presses the button on the microphone that makes it light up and play music, a huge smile spreads across his face and he starts bouncing and bobbing his head with the song.  His foster mom giggles in the background.

Jaylenn is a darling little boy who just turned 3 in October. He lives with a foster family that loves and adores him. Jaylenn greets his foster family with a bow and opens his arms when they come home. He likes to be carried on their backs, and loves to be held and kissed when he’s in a good mood.

During Jaylenn’s well baby examination last January, it was apparent that he was uncomfortable moving his left hand. An MRI revealed that Jaylenn has Rt. Pachygyria, a congenital malformation of the cerebral hemisphere. Due to this condition, Jaylenn has difficulty keeping his balance when he walks quickly and has a slight gait.  He has weaker strength in his left hand, but it doesn’t keep him from picking up toys and playing.

Jaylenn knows 15-20 words, can walk alone, jump, go down stairs, grasp objects, put blocks in cups, and remove his socks with his right hand.  He waves bye-bye, imitates activities and plays ball. He is currently 37 months old and assessed to be 21-23 months developmentally. Continue reading Jaylenn May Soon Lose His Foster Family… Help Him Find an Adoptive Family!

A Warm and Loving Home for Schyler

Share Schyler’s story to help us find him a family in these last few days of National Adoption Month!

November 26, 2014

DOB: May 26, 2014, N.E. Asia

Today, Schyler has been in this world exactly 6 months. In that time, he has been lovingly held by his birth mother — a young woman still in high school who relinquished him for adoption shortly after giving birth. He then moved from his mother’s arms to the soothing arms of his foster mother, a woman in her later 50′s who has cared for many children waiting to join adoptive families. In his brief glimpse of the world, he has known what it’s like to be in a family — living in an urban apartment with his foster mother and father, as well as an older brother and sister.

Born in May, he has not yet experienced the cold of winter — only the hot brilliance of summer and cool, crisp days of autumn. On warm summer days, his foster mother took him for walks in his stroller, from which he studied his surroundings, and curiously stared at tree branches swaying in the wind.

Schyler has discovered that he likes baths — loves to feel the warm water on his skin. He loves to be held, loves to hear familiar voices and feel the presence of people — especially his foster mom. When he hears her voice and sees her approaching, he gets excited and makes cute sounds. He does not like strangers, however, and cries when he sees them.

Developmentally on target, Schyler can bear weight on legs. He has figured out how to roll himself over and to reach for large objects. He smiles and babbles and laughs. He loves to play.

Shortly after birth, a brain sonogram showed that Schyler has a small cyst around his right cerebral ventricle that needs to be medically observed. He also has a flat occiput, brachycephalic-shaped head. Schyler needs a family that has access to medical resources and will be open to unknowns regarding his special needs.

Schyler’s life has just begun. And so far, all he has known is warmth and love. Our hope is that he will continue to find the world a warm and loving place. Please share his story to help us find Schyler the loving adoptive family he needs and deserves — a family that will show him everything that life has to offer.

For more information about Schyler, contact Kristen Henry at