My Name is Andrea, and I was Once Reluctant to Adopt a Boy

After adopting a little girl from China, Holt adoptive parents Eric and Andrea Olson open their hearts to a child they never envisioned themselves raising — a boy. This story originally appeared on Andrea’s blog.

This is going to be a tough post for me to compose. Why? Because the words I am going to write are embarrassing to me. Actually, I feel ashamed when I think back.  Granted, life is a journey and my belief is that as long as I make forward personal progress and strive to correct the traits and lines of thinking that I believe to be inhibiting me from becoming the person I wish to be, I’m on the right path.  So I’ll try not to be too hard on the person I was ten years ago when Eric and I first began our adoption journey.

Let me also state that these are my feelings.  Everyone is on their own path.  Please do not take offense.

Back in early 2005, when we first decided to adopt, we researched the different avenues of adoption and for many reasons we chose to pursue international adoption from China.  If I’m completely honest with myself, one of the reasons is that we were practically assured to be matched with the type of child we had already decided that we wanted: a healthy baby girl, as young as possible. I don’t believe that I recognized that at the time, however.

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A Mom for Breanna

As Mother’s Day approaches, help Breanna find a mom (and a dad)! Share her story!

Born: April 16, 2012, China

Breanna just celebrated her birthday last week, on April 16. She is 2!

This resilient little girl has, in her short life, had many moms — her birth mom, who likely cared for her for her first two months of life; her caregiver “mom” at the orphanage where she lived until she turned 15 months old; and her foster mom, in whose care she is now flourishing.

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Honoring Dr. Joseph Ha

For more than a decade, Dr. Joseph Ha was an important part of Holt — a friend and ambassador, a supporter and advocate. When he died in 2010, after only a year of service on Holt’s board, he left behind a remarkable gift — one that continues his mission to bring education and opportunity to those less fortunate, and defines his personal legacy.

Dr. Joseph Ha with his three granddaughters, who he doted upon and loved dearly. In the last few weeks of his life in the hospital, Dr. Ha asked his eldest granddaughter, 12-year-old Lainey, what she most wanted, and she replied that she wanted a dog. Dr. Ha wasn’t necessarily a dog person, and his daughter Karen even recalls times when Dr. Ha would feel confused how people could lavish dogs in gifts as if they were people.
Yet, every morning, Lainey’s dog Pepper runs into the kitchen dressed in clothes and with braided ear hair. She’s become the inside joke in the house, and also a beloved member of the family.

THE FIRST FEW TIMES Dr. Joseph Ha spent Christmas at Holt’s Ilsan Center — a long-term care facility in Korea — his wife and daughter had no idea what he was doing.

Perhaps they thought he was away on business, which was common in his role as Nike’s vice president of international business and government relations. As a Korean man himself, with an extraordinary talent to make and connect friends, Dr. Ha spent a lot of time overseas, particularly in Japan, China, Korea and Southeast Asia.

However, Dr. Ha wasn’t in Korea for business — he was there for a party, one that he threw every year for more than 10 years.

Ilsan is a very special home, and one of Holt’s most historically significant programs, since it was the first care facility in Korea to offer a loving, permanent environment to orphaned and abandoned children with special medical needs. Dr. Ha‘s passion for Ilsan and Holt International’s work in the region prompted him to come every Christmas bearing gifts — Nike coats and shoes, toys and treats — and anything to make the residents feel special. Susan Cox, Holt’s vice president of policy & advocacy, says that Dr. Ha came to know many of the children, as well as Harry and Bertha Holt’s daughter Molly — who devoted her life to caring for the residents at Ilsan.

“Most years, he would be there to celebrate with the kids, wearing a Santa suit and laughing and having as much fun as the children,” Susan says.

Dr. Ha’s daughter, Karen Chi, says the orphans inspired her father.  This is perhaps rooted in the fact that Dr. Ha was himself an orphan.

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No Fairytale Ending

Courtney Young, an adoptee and member of Holt’s marketing and development team, met her birth mother during her first trip to Korea with Holt. Here, she discusses family, culture and the complexities of adoption.

Courtney Young (center) with her biological aunt (far left), grandfather, mother and another aunt.

My niece’s recent obsession is playing princess. She’s 4, inspired by a recent trip to Disney World and the movie “Frozen,” and she reenacts the climatic fairytale over and over again. We all indulge her and it’s probably the sweetest thing I’ve ever seen.

When I was 4, I would pretend to live in fairytales too. It was more along the lines of “Anastasia” — a little girl relinquished by her birth parents who later discovers that she belonged to a royal family. One day, if I ever reunited with my birth parents, I thought they too would be some kind of royalty or something. Of course, in my head I knew that wasn’t true, but the imagination has to start somewhere, and I had a pretty solid base for my fantasy.

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Vietnam Delegation Visits Holt International

Four government officials from Vietnam visit Holt families and staff in Eugene as part of a final selection process to begin adoptions from Vietnam to the U.S. The two selected agencies will participate in a pilot adoption program for children with special needs.

Sixteen years ago, Hai and Valerie Nguyen traveled to Vietnam to bring home their twin 2-year-old daughters, Mai and Ly. This month, Mai and Ly will turn 18. Both girls love math and science, can solve a Rubik’s Cube in 46 seconds — blindfolded — and have big ambitions to be the first twins in space! They also speak fluent Vietnamese, an amazing feat considering they grew up in Eugene, Oregon and have only traveled to Vietnam twice.

The Nguyen family pose for a picture with the delegates from Vietnam.

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When Sacrifice isn't Sacrifice

A mother in Vietnam fights for the health and wellbeing of her son.

Author and mother Tenneva Jordan once said, “A mother is a person who seeing there are only four pieces of pie for five people, promptly announces she never did care for pie.” Being a mother — being a parent — is often about sacrifice. Joyful sacrifice, but sacrifice nonetheless. Mothers forgo sleep and social lives. They give up weekend getaways and new clothes. They even forgo the small things — taking the always-burnt first waffle and leaving the perfectly cooked, fluffy ones for their kids. The sacrifices mothers make for their children often don’t seem like sacrifice, however, because they do them with a great deal of love, and an eagerness to see their children thrive — even if that means that they miss out on some things. Mothers would do anything to see their children healthy and happy.

For many years, Holt has, with great admiration, witnessed once-struggling mothers in our family strengthening programs achieve amazing successes for the health and well-being of their children — often with great sacrificial love. Before Holt intervention, these mothers worked 12-hour days, earning pennies so that their children could eat and, if they were lucky, attend school. In Thailand last year, a mother, desperate to keep her 14-year-old daughter in school, took a job sewing palm tree leaves together for a mere two dollars a day. In Haiti, Goulette worked two jobs to support her daughters after her husband died in the 2010 earthquake. These mothers gave up precious time with their children as well as their own health and wellbeing. We’ve even seen the spirit of sacrifice in the hearts of Holt foster mothers. When destructive flooding crippled Bangkok in 2011, a Holt foster mother sacrificed her home and belongings for the wellbeing of her foster children. “There was no question that I would continue to provide for their care after the disaster,” she said.

And most recently, in Vietnam, *Sang — a struggling mother in the very poor Cay Chay hamlet of Hanoi — became the sole provider for her family after her husband fell ill. “We’ve seen just how hard mothers are willing to work for their children,” says Danielle Butera, Holt program assistant for southeast Asia, who traveled to Vietnam last year and met Sang and her young son, *Lan. “Sang was an inspiration,” Danielle says. “We were impressed by her determination. She showed a lot of desire to better her family’s situation, which she had to do without her husband’s help.”

With help from Holt, Sang can now afford to pay school fees for her son, Lan, and buy medicine for her sick husband.

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Have you considered adopting from the Philippines?

You know you’ve been called to be an adoptive parent. You know a child is out there waiting for you. Now, you just have to find that child. There are so many choices — which country, which child profile, even which agency.

Maybe you’ve looked at waiting child photolistings and scrolled past the beautiful faces of boys and girls who long for a family to call their own. Maybe a few photos have stood out to you, or maybe you are still waiting for the photo that does.

Roann Kieft, 3, with her brother Zechariah, 8. Roann was born in the Philippines, then placed with a loving, adoptive family. She lives in Illinois.

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Tax Day — A Great Time to Advocate for the Adoption Tax Credit!

From the North American Council on Adoptable Children:

Members of Congress who are working on tax reform indicated that for a provision of the tax code to remain in place it should do one or all of the following three things: (1) grow the economy, (2) make the tax code fairer, and (3) effectively promote an important policy objective. A refundable adoption tax credit does all three things. Today, we’re asking you to contact the tax staff of your members of Congress.

Highlighted FAQ
How does the adoption tax credit benefit meet the stated goals of tax reform?

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What to Expect at Holt Adoptee Camp

Katie Breeden is a Holt adoptee and freshman pre-business and digital arts student at the University of Oregon. This spring, she interned at Holt, helping to organize and promote one of her favorite Holt programs — summer camp!

Katie Breeden has loved Holt camp for more than six years. Here, we see her as a counselor, hanging out with campers at the 2013 camp in Corbett, Oregon.

Holt Adoptee Camp has been a part of my life for six years — I’ve enjoyed roles as both a camper and a counselor.

I started out as a camper, and I wasn’t sure what to think about the whole thing. At first, I had my doubts about this summer camp for adoptees. I was 13, going into 8th grade, and had no idea what to expect. I knew Holt camp wasn’t a heritage or culture camp, so what was it?

On the car ride to Corbett, Oregon that first year, I had about an hour-and-a-half to ponder what Holt Adoptee Camp might be like. My biggest fear was that we would be forced to sit around talking only about adoption for the entire week. The drive was a quiet one. I didn’t know if I would make friends and fit in.

Thankfully, my worries were for nothing.

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An Urgent Plea for Julia and Zack

Time is running out for these older children from China.  Please help Holt find families for them!

Last year, we posted Willow’s story on Facebook, expressing the urgent need to find her a family. In a matter of hours, Willow’s story was shared more than 1,000 times.

“My husband, Joe, noticed Willow’s picture and the urgent plea for her to find a family,” says Christine Darago. “He immediately sent the story to me with a note that said, ‘What do you think?’ When I opened the e-mail I was drawn to Willow right away. We weren’t sure if we even met her country’s criteria, but felt like we needed to pursue her. We couldn’t get her face or story out of our minds.”

Thanks to adoption advocates like you, the Darago family is working towards bringing Willow home!

 Today, we share with you a similar urgent plea – for *Julia and *Zack, both older children waiting for families in China. If we don’t find these two beautiful children families before their 14th birthdays, they will no longer be eligible for international adoption. We can’t let this happen!

 Just as you did for Willow, we ask that you please share Julia and Zack’s stories and photos with your family and friends, on your blog and Facebook page, and at your church! We know that a family or families are out there for both of them, but we are running out of time, and they are running out of time, so please do all you can!

Continue reading An Urgent Plea for Julia and Zack