Surviving, Learning, Laughing: Is This Lady Crazy?…She’s Adopting Twins and She’s Nearly 40 Years Old

Through candid (and often funny!) observations and heartwarming personal stories, a Holt adoptive mother shares the challenges and joys of parenting adopted children. Read more of Jane’s post adoption blogs by clicking here.

by Jane Ballback

My friends were too polite to say that to me, but I am often asked why I adopted twins? There are several good reasons for that. The idea first came from the social worker who knew I wanted more than one child. She probably got the idea because I am a twin myself. I was, and remain very grateful for this suggestion.

When I first began to think about adoption, I only thought about adopting one child. I figured I could handle that. As I was beginning the adoption process my own mother died. As usual my twin sister and I comforted each other a great deal as we went through the process of loss and grieving. That’s when I began to think about how incredibly alone this one adopted child would be — especially since our family was small, older, and mostly childless.

I never regretted the decision to adopt twins. The first night my husband and I brought the boys home we were greatly overwhelmed and not sure if we were up to the task. It was my “twin experience” that helped us through that first night.

By the time we got the boys home after picking them up at the Los Angeles International Airport, it was 10 p.m. and they were of course tired, bewildered, and anxious. They had been relinquished by their birth mother, spent time with their foster mothers, and then put on a plane with two new strangers for a very long flight. When we got them home, we did everything we knew how to do…we fed them, changed them and tried to rock them to sleep. Nothing was working, they cried and cried. My husband and I looked at each other at midnight and said, “Do you think we will ever sleep again?”   Continue reading “Surviving, Learning, Laughing: Is This Lady Crazy?…She’s Adopting Twins and She’s Nearly 40 Years Old”

You Never Adopt Just Once – A Family’s Story

Three and a half years ago, Michele and Ladell Kellenberger felt heart-tugged to adopt a child.  They chose Holt, then China, then the special needs program — the China Child of Promise.  With each decision, they came closer to the little girl from a rural village in northern Shaanxi province who would become their daughter.  Mia.  Shortly thereafter, the felt another a tug in their hearts.  This time, for Zoe.

“I had felt God laying it on my heart for quite awhile. It was something I wanted to do,” Michele recently told a New Century Press reporter of her initial decision to adopt.  When told in China, “You never do it once,” they didn’t understand.  Now they do.

Click here to read the Kellenbergers’ story, including a detailed account of the China adoption process through Holt.

To learn more about the three ways to adopt from China, click here.

Auction Events in Eugene and Omaha to Celebrate Holt International’s 55th Anniversary

The upcoming Eugene and Omaha auction events will commemorate Holt International’s 55th anniversary of serving homeless children – a legacy of love that began at the Ilsan Center in Korea. Since Holt’s beginning, many children with special needs at Ilsan have gone home to wonderful, permanent families. This year, all proceeds from the auctions in Eugene and Omaha will be designated to update the Ilsan Center and provide ongoing, quality care for the children and other residents. Molly Holt, Ilsan director and daughter of Harry and Bertha Holt, will be the honored guest at this year’s Omaha auction on March 19th.

The Eugene auction and dinner on February 5th will feature the following auction items:

*Hawaiian Bed & Breakfast for a Week

*Use of an LTD Bus for Three Hours

*Schooner Landing Resort for a Week

*Sweet Cheeks Winery Party

*Chinese Calligraphy by David Kim

*Korean Dinner for Six

*Chinese Scroll presented to Grandma Holt on her 95th Birthday by the Chinese government

*Pick Your Paradise from Bali, Italy or South Africa

*Opportunity to attend the 2011 Masters Excursion

*Beautiful artwork and jewelry, Restaurants, ethnic items, wine, and so much more!

Click here for more information and to RSVP or contact Sandi Mehl at sandim@holtinternational.org.

With Cholera Threat Still Imminent, Holt Empowers Haitian Families to Protect Themselves

Families in the coastal town of Montrouis learn to treat cholera symptoms using Oral Rehydration Solution.

In the year following the 7.0 magnitude earthquake that rocked the island nation of Haiti, killing over 230,000 and leaving one million homeless, little has changed.  Only five percent of debris and rubble has been cleared from the streets, and over 800,000 people continue to live in temporary camps – half of which are children.

In fact, circumstances have grown increasingly dire.

First, cholera – a disease not seen for over 60 years – spread throughout Haiti’s cramped and unsanitary tent camps, killing over 3,600 people.  Hurricane Tomas quickly followed, intensifying the outbreak.  Then in December, after election results suggested fraud, political rioting erupted in the streets of Port-au-Prince.

With each new crisis, Holt has coordinated efforts with staff on the ground to protect the children and families in our care.  As cholera spread through a nearby region, the staff at the Holt Fontana Village were able to successfully isolate the children from the disease.  For the 234 families in our family preservation program, Holt stepped up prevention efforts – offering weekly wellness trainings to discuss health and hygiene.

“In every session, we talk about prevention, prevention, prevention,” explains Mansour Masse, Holt’s country director in Haiti.

Of the 665 children in the program, only four fell ill from cholera.  And because Holt staff educated families on when to seek assistance, these children received timely and appropriate medical care for this deadly disease.

All four children have since recovered.

But the worst isn’t over yet.  The Pan American Health Organization estimates another 400,000 Haitians may get cholera over the next year.

With the threat of cholera still imminent, Holt went a step further in November and December, teaching families how to make Oral Rehydration Solution as children become symptomatic.  “Cholera causes severe dehydration due to diarrhea and vomiting,” explains Sarah Halfman, Holt’s program director for Haiti.  “That is what is most dangerous about the disease and is the primary cause of death in nearly all cases.”  The rehydration salts do just that – they rehydrate the body from all the fluids lost, effectively protecting cholera sufferers before the disease grows deadly.

As every one of the 234 families participated in these sessions, every family is now equipped with both the knowledge and resources to directly treat the symptoms of cholera.

Holt is taking every action in our power to prevent more children from falling ill.

But we need to do more.

We need to build anew.

“More than 50 families are without appropriate facilities,” says Halfman of the families enrolled in family preservation.  “With cholera having a foothold in every department in Haiti, it is critical that we assist the families to build latrines.”

In the coming year, Holt also hopes to build a well baby clinic to provide care critical to the optimal growth and development of the children we support, as well as a day care center to ease the burden on families struggling to rebuild their lives.

To help support our efforts in Haiti, click here.

To learn more about our ongoing work in this region, click here.

Surviving, Learning, Laughing: The “Real” Story

Through candid (and often funny!) observations and heartwarming personal stories, a Holt adoptive mother shares the challenges and joys of parenting adopted children Read more of Jane’s post adoption blogs by clicking here.


All young children have some trouble expressing their true emotions. I think this is particularly true of adopted children who feel the need to hide more of what they are feeling in an effort to fit in and not rock anybody’s boat. Sometimes they will act out their emotions and sometimes if they are willing to talk, they tell you something that really isn’t the issue.

Stacee came home from school very sad and crying one day when she was seven. I had a special place in my bedroom — a chair — where I often invited the children to sit and talk to me when I sensed that they needed to tell me about something or express some emotion. When we were sitting in my chair I asked Stacee what was wrong. She said in a tearful voice that she was sad because she was the only girl in her class who did not have blonde hair.

I knew this wasn’t true because I had visited her class many times and her best friend was Japanese. I listened for a couple of minutes, let her cry, and then I said “Sweetheart, I think that’s not actually what’s going on. There are certainly a lot of blonde girls in your class, but there are girls with brown hair like yours and even some girls with black hair like your best friend. So why don’t you tell me what this crying is really all about.” She started crying harder while we sat there for a few minutes longer, and then she said in the saddest, softest little voice, “I have a hole in my heart.” I said, “You do? Why do you have a hole in your heart?” She said, “I have a hole in my heart where my birth mom belongs.”

I sat there for a moment and let her cry and thought very hard and quickly about how I might respond to her. I hadn’t told Stacee very much about my own birth mother who died the same year I adopted my twin boys. I hadn’t told her very much because there wasn’t a great deal of “positive” to tell. But Stacee was so intuitive at her young age, I thought I could now say something about the situation without giving a lot of details. I said to Stacee very softly, “Well Stacee, you know Mama had a birth mother too. You know you haven’t met her because she died before you were born. But I need to tell you something Stacee…despite the fact that I had a birth mother, I have a hole in my heart too. My birth mother was very difficult to live with and very hard to get along with. I think maybe one of the reasons you and I are together is because we fill each other’s hearts.” Continue reading “Surviving, Learning, Laughing: The “Real” Story”

Haiti a Year Ago Today: Prayer for the Children and Families in Haiti

The Holt International magazine featured Haiti in our Fall 2010 issue. Read more about our ongoing work with children and families in Haiti.

January 12th marks the one-year anniversary of the 7.0 magnitude earthquake that devastated Haiti and killed an estimated 230,000 people. On this day, we remember those who lost their lives, the thousands of children now orphaned and the millions of people left homeless and still struggling to survive.

“But the needy will not always be forgotten, nor the hope of the afflicted ever perish.“–Psalm 9:18

Please, join us in prayer for the people of Haiti, today. Pray that God’s healing hand will be on the sick, hungry and helpless children and families, and that He would continue to bring the people of this devastated country peace, courage and strength in a time of continual suffering.

Read more on our website.

Need a Good Laugh? Meet Shen Ying, Class Clown and This Week’s Waiting Child

by Robin Munro, Senior Writer

Date of Birth: 8/1/01

From China

Within the first few minutes of meeting Shen Ying*, I can tell: this is the funniest kid in school.  A boy most adored by classmates and teachers.  A class clown or class president.  Maybe both.  But definitely, well known by everyone.

Last July, I traveled to China with several Holt staff members.  Our goal – to meet the children living in orphanages and foster care so that, upon return to the states, we could better advocate for their adoption.  Toward the end of our trip, we journeyed to the far northern province of Jilin.  Here, we met Shen Ying.

We enter a room to find four boys in motion, bouncing on giant balls or rolling around in soft tubing, teasing each other and making faces.  Two of the boys, dressed in matching striped polos and shorts, look like twins.  They are foster brothers, though not related, 8 and 9-years-old – happy, hyper, outgoing boys with telltale scars on their lips from cleft lip surgery.  Shen Ying is the older of the two.

To Shen Ying, comedy hour has commenced.  Aware of the language barrier, he chooses the comic medium of miming instead.  He makes exaggerated movements with his lanky body and silly expressions with his face.  His props – a humongous stuffed bear, a scarf, a tube.  He poses for the camera.  He dances around the room with the bear, also using it to playfully knock down another boy’s foam tube.  Yes, he seems to possess the destructive tendencies of a typical 9-year-old boy.  He also exudes intelligence, charm and charisma.  I imagine him working in some creative field.  But as a boy without a family name, his educational and employment opportunities in China are limited.  I worry about the obstacles – the social stigmas – he will encounter if he grows to adulthood here.

“He’s very confident,” his foster mother tells us.  She says Shen Ying is his teacher’s favorite in his 3rd grade class, and very popular with other children.

“Does he know anyone who’s been adopted?” asks Jessica, Holt’s Waiting Child program manager.

Through translation, he tells us he loves his foster mother very much, but knows he may be adopted someday.

Shen Ying is funny.  He’s smart.  But he’s also warm and kind, generously throwing his arms around his foster mother, around Sue Liu – the beloved Holt China office manager who often visits from Beijing – and even around Jessica and I as we leave.  This boy so deserves a loving family.  And I envy the family that gets to adopt him.

Help Shen Ying, 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 Shen Ying’s life forever!

Contact Holt’s Waiting Child program for more information about Shen Ying.

* Name has been changed

Surviving, Learning, Laughing: Having Brown Eyes in a Blue-eyed world

Through candid (and often funny!) observations and heartwarming personal stories, a Holt adoptive mother shares the challenges and joys of parenting adopted childrenRead more of Jane’s post adoption blogs by clicking here.

by Jane Ballback

Since my children are Korean and look different from my husband and myself, I’m often asked whether or not there were any huge issues with that as they were growing up.

The short answer is that we are so fortunate to live in Southern California, a melting pot of every conceivable ethnic and racial identity. People were, for the most part, endlessly curious, but kind.

As the children got older and were in high school, we actually experienced some of what I call “reverse discrimination.” All three of my children struggled some with math in high school. I hired tutors for all three of them because I wasn’t able to do the work, and my husband was too tired to do it at night. While they mastered all the concepts they needed to master, it was difficult for all of them. Each of them came to me at different times and asked me to write a note to their teacher saying they really were trying, and despite the fact that they were Asian, they simply were not math geniuses! By the time that it had happened with my third child, Stacee, I just couldn’t stop laughing!

Jaik did struggle with looking different than other people around him. Despite the fact that we live in a very ethnically diverse environment, we live on the small island where, for the most part, the population is Caucasian — a lot of them are blonde and blue eyed. So, until Jaik got to high school he did look different than most of his friends and classmates. Jaik’s reaction was to change his name when he was nine.

I know a lot of adoptive parents choose to keep their adopted children’s names. My husband and I also made a decision to keep the children’s Korean names as their middle names instead of their first names. My decision was born out of trying to limit the things my children were going to have to explain in their lives about why they were different or why they looked different from me and my husband.

• Jaik is named Jaik Joon Hwan,

• Brandon is Brandon In Hwan, and

• Stacee is Stacee Mee Sun.

We used their first and middle names together many times so that they got used to hearing that we were very comfortable with using both their American and their Korean names. I also decided to give Jaik’s name a different spelling. I had read in a book that in India the name Jay is spell “Jai’ — so I spelled his name as “Jai” and put a “k” on the end for “Jaik.” Continue reading “Surviving, Learning, Laughing: Having Brown Eyes in a Blue-eyed world”

Holt Family Featured – Meski Becomes A Citizen!

In 2009, Tom Chandler and Nancy Swift adopted their daughter Meskerem — “Meski” — from Ethiopia.  Last week, Meski officially became a U.S. citizen!

“Tom held Meski’s right hand in the air, and they talked about what each of the children would become in our society,” Nancy told a reporter of the “moving” ceremony held in their state capitol, Sacramento.

“There are kids all over the world who deserve and need love,” Nancy is quoted of saying about their decision to adopt internationally. “We literally traveled more than halfway around the world to get her, and we’re glad she found us. She’s brought us so much joy… I can’t imagine a life without Meski.”

Click here to read the family’s story on the Mt Shasta News site.

To learn more about adopting from Ethiopia, visit Holt’s website by clicking here.

Coming Home with Kate — Start Your China Adoption Journey Today…

Our journey began three years ago when we decided to adopt from China. We had put off having children until were were in a position to provide a good home. Lisa’s sister , who had already started her China adoption process, shared her experience with us, and we felt like this was a good way for us to begin.

After six months of beginning to assemble a dossier for China, we became discouraged by the wait times and decided that adopting a child from Mongolia may be a better option. After much time and expense, our agency sent our completed dossier to Mongolia. Many months passed without much information. Then, one night, we were told that our agency would no longer be handling adoptions in Mongolia.

It was hard to describe how we felt at the time–stunned, depressed.

Three months later we realized that we still wanted to have a little girl, and our hearts were set on a toddler. We considered domestic adoption, investigated it with our social worker and came to the realization that we could adopt an infant, but there would be many unknowns.

After considering this for a time, we decided that we wanted to adopt a young girl with minor special needs from China. We were told that the wait times for these children are much shorter. After all of this time we had come full circle! Deciding on the needs that we were willing to accept for our family was not easy. After much deliberation and investigation, we informed Holt that a child with bilateral or unilateral cleft lip and palate would be a good fit for our family.

Our referral came through in record time! When we finally arrived in China, our guide took us to the Social Welfare office to meet Kate and have the “hand off”. Of course we had seen many heart warming hand offs on the Internet, but ours was a little different. Lisa and I were all tears of joy to meet “Chun-Chun” (pronounced Chew-in-Chew-in). She, however, wanted nothing to do with us. She wailed each time someone pointed to us and said “Ba-Ba, Ma-Ma”. Finally, I took her in my lap and tried to console her. She just went limp and wailed at the ceiling.

The next two weeks really put Lisa and me to the test. There were many tears, and we felt really inadequate…but I’d do it all again in a heartbeat.

Today Kate is a vivacious little girl. She gives us hugs and kisses, whispers very important things in our ears, swims like a fish, and surprises us with entire sentences in English. She has to watch “Cinderella” every day and tells me: “No, that’s not a monkey in the mirror. That’s Kate!”

–Gary and Lisa Falkenberg

Follow Kate’s blog here….

Start your China Adoption Journey in 2011!  Click here to learn more about your options…

Interested in Adoption from another country?….click here