Christmas Blessings & Thanks

We hope and pray that this Christmas brings you a deep sense of God’s enduring peace and love, and that you feel blessed and truly appreciated.

On behalf of all of us at Holt International, and on behalf of the children we serve together, thank you.

Happy Holidays! Adoption Tax Credit Extended through 2012!

Happy holidays, Holt families!  On Friday, December 17th, President Obama signed the 2010 Tax Relief Act, a package of income tax, estate tax and unemployment provisions – including one huge benefit for adoptive families.  This act extends the adoption tax credit through 2012!

The adoption credit would have sunset in 2011, but now families filing through 2012 may take this credit for adoption-related expenses – reducing their tax bill up to $13,170 in 2011 and $12,170 in 2012.

For families filing in 2011, the tax credit includes one additional benefit: it’s refundable.  This enhancement is not a feature of the Tax Relief Act, but rather the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act – the massive health care reform legislation enacted earlier this year.

Although the credit will vary for adoptive families, the ultimate outcome is the same.  It eases the financial burden of adopting internationally – enabling more orphaned, abandoned and vulnerable children to have permanent, loving families.  And for that, we celebrate.

To learn more about these benefits, visit the North American Council on Adoptable Children.

It’s a Win-Win for Adoptive Families as Obama Signs Two Important Acts!

Great news!  President Obama has approved two important pieces of legislation affecting adoptive families — the Help HAITI Act, signed into law December 9th, and the Adoption Simplification Act, signed November 30th.

The Adoption Simplification Act does more than simplify the process for families.  It helps ensure the safety of adopted children.  Previously, the U.S. required all children adopted from Hague Convention countries – including China, Thailand, the Philippines and India – to receive all their vaccinations before entering the U.S.  Delivered all at once, these immunizations can be unsafe to young children.  “It’s good public health,” Susan Cox, Holt director of public policy and external affairs, says of ensuring everyone receives routine vaccinations against infectious diseases.  “But not for babies.”

With the passage of this act, all children 10 or younger – adopted from any country – may wait to get their shots until after they enter the U.S.  Delaying immunizations has one additional effect on the adoption process – an effect important to every parent and every child eager to be united as a family.  “It means the children won’t have to wait so long (to enter the U.S.),” says Cox.

The Adoption Simplification Act includes one additional provision.  Families who’ve adopted from Hague signatories may now adopt their child’s siblings, up to 18-years-old.  Previously, the cut-off age was 16.  For the siblings who will now be able to reunite in an adoptive family, this news is monumental – as well as a major step forward in protecting the rights of orphaned, abandoned and vulnerable children.

Another breakthrough for adoptive families – and 21 Holt families in particular – occurred December 9th.  Nearly one month shy of the one-year anniversary of Haiti’s massive earthquake, Obama signed into law the Help HAITI Act, ensuring citizenship for every child brought to the U.S. from Haiti on humanitarian parole visas.

Following the earthquake, the U.S. issued these visas to approximately 1,000 children already matched with adoptive families – including 21 children living at the Holt Fontana Village, the care center Holt supports in Haiti.  Unlike children adopted through the usual process – who are automatically naturalized – these children faced years of waiting for the legal protections entitled to U.S. citizens.  Among the children to become citizens are Nephtalie, pictured above with her sisters, Mazie Grace Jean, who joined the Polzin family in Wisconsin, and Sthainder, who lives with his family in Oregon.  Click here to read more about how the 21 Holt Fontana Village children joined their families after the earthquake.

Holt adoptee Interviewed by New England Cable News Channel

A letter from Holt adoptive mom Nancydee MacFarland about her son, Noah:

December 14th, 2010.

Dear Holt Family,

Six years ago this weekend, Noah walked into our hotel room in China with an un-repaired cleft palate. At 7:45 this morning, The New England Cable News Channel interviewed Noah and the executive of Boy Scouting in Greater Boston about the 100th anniversary of Scouting, and the dinner to be held at the Boston Harbor hotel tonight.

This evening, Noah is looking forward to speaking to a ballroom of CEOs and the leading businessmen of Boston. Our newly elected Republican Senator Scott Brown will be honored at the banquet.

God is so good. I wish the moment could be shared with Noah’s Chinese parents, his foster parents, his surgeons and his speech therapists. Noah has an amazing confidence and ability to handle whatever life puts in front of him. Neinei, Noah’s foster mom/grandmom in the Lanzhou, Gansu foster care project, wrote in 2004: “Someday Qian Hong will be a leader.” It seemed a funny thing to say about a “failure to thrive” baby with a cleft lip/palate and gums. Perhaps there was truth in her early prediction. Blessings do have power. God certainly has plans for this young man. To God be the glory.

Click here to view Noah’s interview….

Many children with manageable, treatable medical conditions are waiting for permanent families in China right now.  Click here to Learn more about Holt’s China Child of Promise program.

The Gift of Time

Holt adoptive parents volunteer at Winter Jam

by Lisa Sharpless

We are the extremely busy parents of five children. Our days are filled to the brim with activities, practices, home-educating our three younger children, and basically just keeping the house from imploding. It’s difficult to fit much else in, and we tend to give an emphatic “No!” to any requests for our time. But last year, when we heard that Holt needed volunteers to help out with Winter Jam, we knew we just had to jump in.

We were assigned to the floor of the arena and during the concert we were invited backstage to meet and chat with Eddie Carswell, a member of NewSong. But the highlight of the night was manning the tables covered with countless pictures of children waiting to be sponsored. We’d answer people’s questions and take their information as they’d try to choose the right child. And with thankful hearts, we told them that our daughter used to be one of those pictures.

Four years ago, we got the call from Holt telling us about a precious, little 5-year-old in China who needed a family. Much to our delight, she also happened to be in the Holt sponsorship program. Though we don’t know who her sponsors were, we can guess that they hung her picture on their refrigerators, pored over the updates sent by Holt and prayed for her to find a forever family. Because of them, Suzanna had everything she needed, including a loving foster family to keep her happy and healthy until we could bring her home.

In 2010, over 10,000 Winter Jam concertgoers said “YES” to sponsoring a child! This year, we’ve set our sights higher…Help us reach 15,000 sponsors – 300 at each concert! It’s easy and fun! Check to see if Winter Jam is coming to your town and sign up online. Email for more information. Rock the House with Holt and NewSong at Winter Jam 2011 – Raise Your Voice for Children!

Surrounded by Love

Two foster mothers in Korea reunite with their foster children in Eugene, Oregon

By Ashli Keyser, managing editor

Hyun Soo entered the arms of Mrs. Cho, Suk-hee as an infant in 2001. The foster mother, her husband and their two children welcomed the young boy into their home, their hearts and unconditionally accepted him as part of their family. Mrs. Cho cared for him like any doting mother caring for a precious son. She fed him, kissed his tears, bathed him, hugged him and loved him. And then after 11 months of devoted care, Mrs. Cho completed one final act of love for her beloved foster son. Tears filling her eyes, Mrs. Cho embraced him one last time, kissed his soft cheek and said goodbye.

Emmett (Hyun Soo) and his foster mother, Mrs. Cho.

To raise and love a child as your own and then to give that child up is the ultimate in sacrificial love, says Paul Kim, Holt director of services for Korea. “Foster mothers in Korea have their hearts broken time and time again,” he says. “But time and time again they continue to offer their love to children. It takes a special person to be able to do that.”

To honor the tremendous commitment of Holt’s foster mothers in Korea, each year Holt hosts a reception, inviting two foster mothers to visit the headquarters in Eugene, Oregon and reunite with their dearly loved foster children. This year, Mrs. Cho and Mrs. Kim, Kyung-ae were the honored guests.

Three families – the Mankowskis from Colorado, the Latimers from the Portland area and the Tablers from Oregon City– traveled to see Mrs. Kim, and the Redferns from Corbett, Oregon traveled with their son, Hyun Soo — now called Emmett — to see Mrs. Cho.

Entering the greeting area, Mrs. Cho walks right up to Hyun Soo without hesitation. “I knew it was you,” she says. “I could tell by your face.”

The fact that Mrs. Cho remembers Emmett after nine years means so much to Emmett’s mother, Jenne. It means even more to Emmett. “I’m so happy to know that I was loved,” says Emmett.

During the emotional reception, Mrs. Cho and Mrs. Kim receive awards in honor of their decades of service to Holt Korea, having welcomed 49 and 63 children into their homes, respectively, and also saying goodbye to them. Continue reading “Surrounded by Love”

It’s Not Too Late……

Alana and her grandmother need a fresh start this holiday season…through Holt’s Gifts of Hope catalog, you can help!

Six-year-old Alana should be well into her first year of school right now, but instead, she remains in a small, one-room house in a tiny village of southern Ethiopia. Having lost both of her parents to disease, Alana now lives with her grandmother, who struggles to provide Alana with her next meal, let alone an education.

Through Holt’s family preservation program in Ethiopia, there is hope for this family. For the past three years, families have entered into the program only to transition out a year later, stronger, healthier and happier.

In July, Holt reported on one such success story. Brought back to life through Holt support and generous donations, Ejamo’s family used start-up supplies and a micro finance loan to help them go from poor and helpless, to strong and stable. Sponsorship support brought warm clothes, medical treatment and education materials to Ejamo’s five children.   A start-up supply of seeds allowed Ejamo to grow and sell vegetables and, after awhile, the family saved enough money to purchase a cow, and wood for building a new and stronger house.

The transformation Ejamo made in a year’s time is simply extraordinary — a perfect representation of how a family’s life can be transformed with a little help and a lot of courage….Read Ejamo’s story here.

Holt does what we can to help, but our support would mean nothing without the family’s willingness to take the next step. It takes the drive and determination of families like Ejamo’s to make this program a success. Keeping their family together is what motivates them, and Holt — with your help — is happy to meet them half way.

“The initiative these families are taking is amazing,” says Larry Cahill, Holt board member, who visited Holt’s Ethiopia programs in April. “Their willpower is even more amazing.”

A few months ago, Ejamo’s family transitioned out of the program, making room for another family needing assistance. “So many families in Ethiopia need help,” says Tesfaye Betachew, Holt’s head social worker in Ethiopia.

Accepted into the program in August, Alana and her grandmother still struggle to survive. Stability, however, doesn’t happen overnight. Alana’s grandmother needs time and ongoing support to be successful.

“For this family, and all of the families entering our program, we work on making the appropriate means of intervention to render a holistic support,” says Tesfaye.

This time next year, Holt would love to write a story about Alana and her grandmother, sharing photos of Alana on her way to school, with nutritious food in her stomach and a smile on her face.

With your help, we did it for Ejamo and his family.  Now let’s do it for Alana and her grandmother.

Providing livestock to a struggling family is just one way you can help children and families in Holt’s care this holiday season…click here to see our list of life-changing gifts in our Gifts of Hope catalog…

Holt’s Waiting Child of the Week: Let’s Find Genet a Family this Christmas

Genet was born on Christmas day.  This Christmas, let’s make her birthday special.  Let’s find her a family!

Born in Africa, DOB: December 25th, 2007


by Ashli Keyser, managing editor

From the moment our group enters the room full of children at the Durame intake center, *Genet has our attention. She has a delightful way about her, a light and a spark that brightens up the whole room. Her ever-present smile, sweet demeanor and spirited personality captivates us all. We can see that her caretakers adore her just as much as we do.

Our group arrives seconds before playtime. Shoes and children are flying about the room, the eager boys and girls more interested in the merry-go-round waiting outside than the six strangers standing by the door. While just as enthusiastic as the rest of her friends, Genet takes a little more time putting on her shoes.   Her poor eyesight makes tasks like this difficult.

Genet came into care, malnourished, after her father passed away from tuberculosis. Her mother, unable to care for her due to her eyesight problems and developmental delays, often kept Genet from other people, making it even more difficult for Genet to learn and thrive.

Described by her caretakers as determined and willful, Genet doesn’t give up easily and finally manages to fit her little foot into the last shoe.  Then, with a little help from Sister Abebech, she makes her way out the door.

After the children make it a few times around on the merry-go-round, a beach ball is introduced into playtime.  Genet wastes no time  joining the rough-and-tumble boys in their quest to catch the flying object.  Once the ball lands, Genet stands on the grass for a bit, giggling at the silly boys — who, of course, have all piled on top of it at once — and then attempting to shimmy her way into the pile. Alas, after a valiant effort, Genet comes up empty handed.  She has fun trying though, all the while managing to charm her observers even more.

“This is one special girl,” says Sister Abebech, head nurse at the intake center, watching Genet play.

Since entering Holt’s care, Genet has learned to walk, use her utensils and has even learned a few words. The caretakers work consistently with her on speech and coordination, and give her the attention she lacked in her first two years of life.“She’s come so far,” says Sister Abebech. “She just brightens everyone’s day.”

On that day, she certainly brightened ours.

Genet is waiting for a permanent, loving family. If you are interested in learning more about this beautiful, spirited little girl, please contact Erin Mower at

Help Genet, the Waiting Child of the Week, go viral! Forward this to friends and family. Share every week at church or a community group. And repost to your own blog, Facebook page and company site. With the simple press of a button, you can change Genet’s life forever!

This little girl is in need of a special family who is open to some unknowns and who are able to provide her with any medical care or therapies she may need.

To adopt Genet, couples must be between the ages of 25-44, married for at least two years, and can have up to five children in the home.

*Name has been changed

Surviving, Learning, Laughing: An Adoptee’s View

As children grow into late adolescence and early adulthood, I think all parents are probably curious about how their children have felt about their own childhood.  Often children don’t think about it or don’t have a way to express their experiences.

To my complete surprise, our daughter Stacee wrote about herself and our family in her college essay (she is now a junior at UC, Santa Cruz).

Please enjoy her essay and also enjoy getting to know Stacee a little bit better.  When she’s done with her finals this quarter, I’m going to ask her to start blogging with me. –Jane Ballback, guest blogger


Introducing Jane’s daughter, Stacee

by Stacee Ballback

Looking at my family portrait, you might notice a lack of consistency. My brothers, Jaik and Brandon, are Korean like myself.  My Aunt Bea Bea is Mexican.  My other aunt Pranita is Indian.  And the rest of my family is Caucasian. This generates a lot of questions and a lot of stares from people. Sure, we’re all very different, but one thing we all share is a strong bond of love, mutual respect and support for each other.

I was born named Mec Sun Kim. Five months later, I was adopted and my name changed to Stacee Ballback. I can’t tell you much about the experience because I can’t remember it, but I know 1 started out a sad baby. I think being taken from my mother at birth instead of being held by her and feeling her love created an emptiness in my heart that remained until I became a Ballback. At five months old, I was given a new home and a new life. My mom and dad, along with my brothers, quickly filled the emptiness in my heart with the family I had been missing and needing.

After I settled into my new life, I became much happier because I knew I had a loving family behind me no matter what. The most influential people in my life are my mom and dad. My mom is the strongest, most independent woman I know. She presides over our family and we refer to her as “Alpha Dog” because she makes every final decision. My dad is much more passive than my mom and has a childlike tendency about him that makes him spacey and forgetful. My mom is organized. When we have dinner, she often ends up pulling out a typed paper with topics and lists of things she wants to discuss concerning vacations, holidays, household chores, etc. Needless to say, you can often walk out of one of her dinners feeling like you just got out of an extremely productive business meeting. However, all neurotic tendencies aside, my mom has taught me valuable lessons as I’ve grown older. She taught me to be independent and never to be a follower, but a leader. Continue reading “Surviving, Learning, Laughing: An Adoptee’s View”

On This Special Day

Through the sharing of photos and memories, Randa Hazzard remembers the day she met her sister, Kait. The Hazzards began their own adoption journey to Ethiopia earlier this year….

by Randa Hazzard

Randa at the Des Moines Airport, holding Kait for the first time.

Today is an important day for my family. On this day, 23 years ago, we picked up my sister, Kait, at the airport in Des Moines.  I remember being so filled with excitement waiting for someone to step off the plane with Kait in their arms. We had given Kait a special blanket to be wrapped in, so we would know which baby she was. Up until that point, all we had was a photo taken shortly after her birth. I had kept a photo of her in my room and looked at it often, wondering what she would be like. Little did I know, we would grow up to be so close, so alike, and such good friends.

On December 8th, we always celebrate her coming into our family, and she always tells me how much it means to her.

Once our little guy joins the family, we will most definitely celebrate his special day every year, as well. Thinking about this brings tears to my eyes. I am so thankful for Kait. I can’t even begin to imagine us not having each other.

As I have said before, adoption is amazing!  I Love you Kaitlin Kim! I Love everything about you.

Randa, Kait and Kyle with Grandma Holt.

You are the best sister I could ever have!

Follow the Hazzard family on the journey to their son, here.

Want to learn more about the wonderful journey of adoption?  Click here to learn more.