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Holt-Sunny Ridge Offers Unique Services and Support for Families in Illinois

When Holt International merged with Sunny Ridge Family Center in May of last year, both Holt and Sunny Ridge were excited by the unique history, expertise and services that each agency could bring to our new branch office in Illinois, Holt-Sunny Ridge Children’s Services. By joining with Holt, Sunny Ridge can now place children from many more countries — countries where Holt has long-standing programs, including Korea and Vietnam. For Holt, assuming management of Sunny Ridge has created a new chapter of serving children in the U.S. as we have continued the agency’s long history of providing domestic adoption services in Illinois!

Since May, the Holt-Sunny Ridge staff has also continued the exceptional post-adoption services and adoption-competent therapy that Sunny Ridge provided local families for many years. These include support groups for birth parents and birth grandparents, parenting workshops and adoptee discussion groups as well as private family therapy.

At Holt, we are overjoyed to work alongside the exceptional staff at our branch office in Illinois, helping children grow up in stable, loving homes and supporting families — by birth and by adoption — throughout their lives.

As an insight into the wonderful services available to families in Illinois, we thought we would share with you a story from one woman who participated in a Holt-Sunny Ridge support group for birth grandparents.  To learn more about support groups and other post-adoption services at Holt-Sunny Ridge, visit Continue reading Holt-Sunny Ridge Offers Unique Services for Families in Illinois

Going Above and Beyond: One Sponsor's Gift

After seeing photos of their sponsored child’s home in Cambodia, two Holt sponsors feel moved to act – providing funding above and beyond their monthly sponsorship gift to cover the cost of a new roof and walls for the child and her family.

In October, two Holt sponsors — a couple – opened the latest update from Holt about their sponsored child, Sreytouch, who lives with her parents in Cambodia. In their latest update, Sreytouch stood in front of her house — a single room built on stilts with a thatched roof and walls. Sreytouch’s sponsors, who requested not to be named in this story, felt a tug at their hearts after seeing where their sponsored child lived, and what life must be like during wet and cold winters. The sponsors called Holt’s sponsorship department to ask if they could pay to fix Sreytouch’s roof, and if so, what the cost would be.

In two days, Holt’s director of the Southeast Asia program returned the sponsors’ call with a quote for the cost of the repairs.

The sponsors decided that they would not just pay to fix the roof, but the walls as well!

Here, Sreytouch stands in front of her home before the repairs.

Fifteen-year-old Sreytouch is in the 8th grade, and attends a school near her home with the support of her sponsors in the United States. Her father, Bros, and her mother, Yun Kan, also have two other children — another daughter and a young son. The family works to grow rice on their land and sell any extra produce for profit. However, their plot of land is small and they often don’t yield enough to support the whole family. Continue reading Going Above and Beyond: One Sponsor’s Gift

Tam's TV Debut

Last year, Holt adoptee Tamirat Hines submitted a story he wrote to the producers of a children’s TV show called “Green Screen Adventures.” Tam’s story, entitled “Land Shark,” aired in August 2014! Here, Tam’s mom shares about his interest in writing and the lesson of “Land Shark.”

We first saw our son, Tamirat, in the Holt facility in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, in Oct. 2009. He was just over 2 years old, and he hid behind the nanny who led him by the hand. He was tiny, with shiny curly locks and deep brown eyes, and he was wearing an Elmo T-shirt.

Fast forward to 2015. Tam is 7 now, and he is far from tiny. He is tall for his age, tall enough that mom can wear his shoes and his hoodies. He is kind and outgoing, an avid reader and a prodigy on the basketball court. And he still has the soulful eyes and the charming smile we fell in love with when we met him.

Our family lives in Greensboro, NC. We are older parents, now 44 and 54, and Tam is our only child. Our lives have been blessed in so many ways by his presence. Neither of us had ever traveled outside of the U.S. when we boarded the plane for Addis, but overcoming the fear and the unknowns was well worth all we gained.

Tam has always been a “character.” His intelligent, curious, no-nonsense personality emerged not long after we got him home. We served him chocolate milk and he announced “Tami no drink dirty milk.” He wanted a small battery-powered car to drive himself to Target, which we did not agree to. At age 3, he removed the wheels from dad’s wheelbarrow with a wrench.

Tam has had a lot to overcome. He went through an intense grieving process after he came home. But Tam has persevered and has accomplished so much already.

From learning a new language, to getting used to an enthusiastic Shetland Sheepdog named Mackie MacGus, to adapting to preschool and elementary school, Tam has never let anything stand in his way. If he decides to do something, he does it. Continue reading Tam’s TV Debut

Becoming RJ

After five years in an orphanage in India, Ranjit came home to a family in the U.S. with the help of a grant from Holt’s Special Needs Adoption Fund. With the the unconditional love and support of his family, “RJ”  is now becoming the boy he was always meant to be.

Some days, Angie Hamstra looks at her son and wonders what might have become of him if no one ever adopted him. Missing an eye and limited by other physical challenges, Ranjit stayed behind at the orphanage while other children attended school as his caregivers feared he would be mistreated for his differences. His caregivers did their best to teach him, but he soon fell behind. By the time he came home to the Hamstras — at 8 — he was at a preschool level. Even if Angie’s worst fears never came to pass, he would have eventually left the protection of the orphanage and had to learn to navigate the world on his own. He would have no family, no support system, limited education and visible special needs commonly shunned in his native India.

Looking at him now — a boy so full of joy and life, with an adorable nickname, “RJ,” who loves to play Ninja, make jokes and dance at church — Angie’s heart breaks at the thought.

“I cry to think that the world might have missed out on him just because of a hard beginning,” she wrote two years ago, in a thank you letter to those who had donated to Holt’s Special Needs Adoption Fund (SNAF).

Thankfully, RJ’s story would not end this way. Because of a grant from the SNAF fund — as well as many other blessings along the way — the world would not miss out on RJ.

No Perfect Child

Jack and Angie Hamstra weren’t looking to adopt a “perfect child.” When they started the process to adopt through Holt, they knew they had something special to offer a child who needed a family — a child who had special medical or developmental needs, who had perhaps waited longer than other children. A child who, as Angie puts it, had special needs that people are scared of.

“We weren’t scared,” she says. Continue reading Becoming RJ

For the Love of Your Child

Holt adoptee Qiulan Henderson shares some advice for adoptive parents about how they can build a strong and loving relationship with their child.

My name is Qiulan, which means “autumn orchid” in Chinese.  I was born in China, and I came to America three years ago when I was 10.  When I was first adopted, I was so scared because I didn’t know what it would feel like to live in America and be in a family.  Now I know I am safe and loved, but it is still hard, and even now I feel like I am still learning what it means to be in a family and to trust.

I am learning many things about America, including the way that parents raise their children.  I have tons of ideas for parents that I want to share, so maybe I can help parents understand their newly adopted child and I can help a child who is being adopted.  I know what it feels like to be adopted, and I have a lot of empathy for newly adopted kids.

First, listen to your child’s heart, dreams and wishes, because kids need parents who will encourage and support them and believe in their dreams.  Kids can feel your heart.  Make a strong connection between your child and yourself by being together.  Spend time together and try new things — let the child pick an activity they would like to do even if it’s something you’re not interested in.  Do it for the love of your child.

Be gentle and understanding with kids when they do something wrong — remember it takes time for them to learn things they need to know.  When your child first comes to your family they will be afraid, even if they act like they are not scared.  Help them trust you by showing them love and know that it takes time.  Some day, your kids will feel like you are their true mom and dad.

Respect your child.  Respect their fears and respect their past.  The past is the child’s to share with others.  Do not pressure your child to tell their past.  Trust is very important.

Food is important too.  Kids still deserve to have food they like.  They can try new foods, but let them also have food they like from their birth culture.  I still like to cook Chinese food almost every day.  I love it when I get to go to the Asian market! Continue reading For the Love of Your Child

Samira's Journey to Healing

Susie Doig, Holt’s senior director of adoption services, shares about Samira, a beautiful little girl who needs and deserves to know what real stability and love looks like in a loving family of her own.

Samira, Born May 7, 2009 in Southeast Asia 

Samira needs a family

All children come to adoption through trauma and loss. Some children have missing pieces of information or undocumented trauma, while other children’s losses and trauma are documented in painful detail. Samira’s story is one of hope but also one of great sadness. Samira came into the world experiencing the loving care of her birth mother and then a doting foster family, but this care was interrupted by a brief period of intense abuse. Samira has experienced things no child or adult should ever have to live through. And while this abuse was relatively short, it has left lasting scars both physically and emotionally that will take a lifetime for this little girl to heal. But Samira is resilient, she’s a fighter, and she continues to show her inner strength and potential. She is described as a smart, inquisitive girl who, as an infant and toddler, had advanced language skills and showed a keen curiosity in the world around her.

Samira is also all girl, and her interest in fancy dresses, high-heeled shoes and handbags has never wavered! After experiencing extreme physical abuse at the age of two by a person she should have been able to trust, her confidence has been shaken and it’s taken time and lots of support to help Samira begin to believe that the adults around her can be trusted to meet her needs. Samira, like all children, deserves to feel a sense of permanence and belonging in a family that can love her unconditionally. In order for a family to be able to meet her needs, they also need to be equipped with special skills and training to understand Samira’s behaviors in the context of her abuse history, and be able to access therapy services to help support Samira in the long-term process of understanding and making sense of her life experiences. Patience is also a key quality Samira’s parents will need, as they work to help Samira develop a sense of “felt safety” in a new family and new environment. It takes Samira time to warm up to strangers, and she will likely have a difficult transition into an adoptive family. Samira will fit best in a family where she is the youngest, and can get the focused attention and nurturing that she craves. For a family able and willing to help Samira heal and grow will come the indescribable privilege of joining this girl on her life’s journey and standing by her side as she blossoms to her full potential.

Susie Doig | Senior Director of Adoption Services

For more information about Samira, please contact Jessica Palmer at 


Update: Holt's Efforts to Rebuild in the Philippines

Last year, generous friends of Holt helped raised $50,000 for children and families in the Philippines after Typhoon Haiyan devastated the Tacloban region and surrounding areas. Two Holt-supported care centers were tragically among the devastation. One center was completely destroyed, and the other had extensive roof damage.

A Holt-funded child care facility in the Philippines that was damaged during a the super typhoon.

After aid donations poured in, Holt and our partners went to work, estimating the damage and allocating the funds appropriately. “Some children were temporarily transferred to safer orphanages through sponsorship support,” Thoa Bui, Holt’s senior executive for Southeast Asia programs, said. “And most of the relief fund went to rebuild the damaged orphanages.” Nine social workers and house parents whose homes washed away had funds allotted to their home repair as well. Continue reading Holt’s Efforts to Rebuild in the Philippines (An Update)

A Laundry Heap of Help from Holt Supporters

Children play in clean laundry at the Jeonju Babies’ Home.

Anyone who has ever raised one child knows this simple truth: children create a lot of dirty laundry — literally. Between blankets and outfit changes, feedings and accidents, the dirty clothes hamper is never empty.

Now, picture the operation it takes to provide a steady stream of clean clothing, snugly blankets, cloth diapers, burp rags and cleaning rags for up to 50 babies and toddlers.

Do you have the heaping pile of laundry in your head?

Imagine tackling that workload in a space riddled with obstacles like leaking water, wet floors, broken dryers and no place to store supplies for the dozens of loads of laundry that need to be cleaned each day. Continue reading Jeonju Laundry Remodel

Exciting Update and Upcoming Webinar: China Expands Parent Eligibility!

On January 1, 2015, the China Center for Children’s Welfare and Adoption (CCCWA) implemented changes to the China adoption process and relaxed eligibility requirements for hopeful adoptive parents. This is exciting news for both children in need of loving families and the families and single applicants who are hoping to adopt them!

Who is affected by China’s new eligibility requirements?

  • Single applicants, couples over the age of 50 and couples with more than five children living at home are now eligible to adopt children with more minor special needs (non-special focus).
  • Families previously ineligible due to a medical condition may now be eligible on a case-by-case basis. In many cases, if one parent is completely healthy and the other parent has a health concern, the family will now be eligible to adopt a child with a more minor special need.
  • For families who have difficulty meeting China’s income or net worth requirements, exceptions may now be made if they live in an area with a lower cost of living and they have above-average income for their area.

For a full list of changes, click here: FAQs New CCCWA Guidelines

Holt’s China team is excited to welcome previously ineligible families to the China program, and looks forward to matching even more children in need of loving homes! Please email Kris Bales at if you have questions about any of these changes to eligibility.

To learn more, visit us online or join us on Thursday, January 15, for an informational webinar presented by Beth Smith, Holt’s director of adoption services for China. Click here to register!

If you are unable to attend Thursday’s webinar, a recording will soon become available here.


Top Ten Holt Magazine Stories of 2014

Earlier this week, we shared our top ten stories from the Holt blog in 2014. Here, we share our top ten most-viewed stories from Holt International Magazine. Some of these stories also appeared in the two print issues we produced this year — our spring sponsor issue and summer graduate issue. Others appeared in our two online-only magazines of 2014, which we posted last February and just a few weeks ago in December.

While our online magazine is gaining more readers with every issue, we are still working to build an audience for this new platform. We love to read your comments and see when you like, share, repost and tweet our stories. These also give us a strong indication of the stories you find most inspiring or helpful and most enjoy reading. We are always striving to strengthen the quality of our content and produce a magazine of value to our readers. If you have suggestions for stories or ideas about how we could improve Holt International Magazine, please email Holt’s managing editor, Robin Munro, at

We hope you enjoy re-reading or discovering for the first time these gems from 2014! Not surprisingly, many of our most popular stories from this year were written by adoptees or adoptive parents themselves. We want to thank each and every contributor to our magazine for sharing your heartfelt and often very personal stories. This magazine would not be what it is without you!

Without further ado, here they are… Our top ten magazine stories of 2014!

1. One Family, Two Very Different Adoptions

In this popular post adoption story from our winter 2014 issue, one Holt adoptive mom discusses how she and her husband learned to parent their two children differently, based on their unique needs.

“I felt nervous, excited and confident we could bond with our second child as easily as we did with our first. Our 16-month-old daughter quickly proved me wrong.  My blessed, beautiful daughter is strong willed, extroverted, sometimes anxious and certain she can manage things better than the rest of us.  She’s going to make an awesome leader as she matures, but gosh, what a handful to parent!”

Continue reading Top Ten Holt Magazine Stories of 2014