Hey, New Jerseyans!….Got any plans for September 24th?

Join Holt in Princeton, New Jersey for a night of food, friendship, fun and, most of all, helping children in Holt’s care!

Holt has a long history of commitment to children with special needs.  We strive to ensure that expenses are not a barrier between a child with special needs and a loving adoptive family.

This year’s Gala Dinner and Auction will raise money to support Holt’s Children with Special Needs Adoption program — helping to bring children with special needs home to their families.

A message from Jackie Miller, Gala Chair:

On Saturday September 25, 2010 the idea for an annual New Jersey Holt Gala Dinner became a reality. New Jersey Holt families had enjoyed an annual dinner in the past, but this time we were challenged with making a fun evening into a gala event. Despite a small but wonderful dinner committee, I wasn’t sure we could pull it off.

The evening was a mix of a silent auction, make a difference and live auctions. Parents, adult adoptees, community members as well as many of the Holt staff came together to make the New Jersey dinner a very  special event. We enjoyed the food, the camaraderie, and the knowledge that each of us was helping New Jersey families who had adopted a child with a special need.

Late into the evening, a committee member whispered into my ear that the evening’s proceeds were at $20,000. I was so overwhelmed by everyone’s support and generosity that it was difficult to announce it to the group.

Currently, we are in the process of planning the 2011 New Jersey Holt Gala Dinner for September 24, 2011. It will be held at the Princeton Westin. We are currently seeking dinner sponsors and donated auction items.

I would love to see everyone at the dinner in the fall!

For more information about the Holt Gala and Dinner Auction in New Jersey and to RSVP, Click here

Embracing the Future of International Adoption

An older child with special needs? So be it, said the Romano family when matched with their son, Tommy, 4, from Ethiopia.

The Romano family represents a new generation of adoptive families – families saying, “yes” to adopting children with special needs.

“The majority of children now being released for intercountry adoption have some degree of special need,” says Sally Dougherty, Holt’s director

Chris Romano with son, Tommy. The Enquirer/Leigh Taylor

of family relations. “It could be a birthmark or a missing or an extra digit that puts a child’s file on a special needs track. It could be cleft lip and palate or a vision or hearing impairment….As prospective adoptive parents learn that children with “special needs” wait longer for families, interest in special needs adoption grows every day.”

Tommy was diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy. The Romanos, upon sharing their adoption news with friends and family, were met with some concerns. “We know this will be hard,” wrote Chris Romano on his blog. “Just think of the lessons he can teach us; about struggling and hardship; compassion and humility; love and commitment; walking a mile in another’s shoes.”

The Romano family brought Tommy home in April.  Major improvements in Tommy’s speech and mobility have even surprised his family.  “We were just floored,” says Chris Romano.

Click here to read the Romano family’s story…..

Interested in learning more about adopting children with special needs?  Click here

Forever Left Behind

John, this week’s featured waiting child, has watched two close friends leave the orphanage to join adoptive families in the U.S.  Left behind, and wondering when it will be his turn, John has less than four months to find a family.  Or he will stay left behind, forever.

by Jessica Palmer, Waiting Child Program Manager

Last summer, Holt’s senior writer, Robin Munro, and I visited southeastern China for the Journey of Hope – a gathering of children with special needs, all hoping to find adoptive families in the U.S. Over the last year, we have shared many of their stories in Waiting Child blogs and featured their photos on the Holt photolisting.

Several of the children we met now have forever families, and a couple of them have already come home!

One little guy I blogged about, Xing Men, really stole my heart – and I am glad to say he is one of the several children who now have families.

When I remember that trip to China, though, another boy always pops into my head.  Now 13 years old, this boy doesn’t have much longer to find his forever family.  When he turns 14, on November 12th, he will no longer be eligible for international adoption.

John* first grabbed my attention during the Journey of Hope camp performance.  Although calm and collected, he seemed a bit shy – introducing himself with his head lowered, his posture stiff.  Once the music started, though, he began dancing, moving and jumping to the beat with excellent coordination, eventually flashing a smile.  Continue reading “Forever Left Behind”

From Oregon to India to Vietnam

coordinated efforts to serve children and families span around the globe

In the spring issue of Holt magazine, Minalee Saks, executive director of Birth to Three, described a workshop she led last February – in India. Birth to Three is a non-profit organization in Eugene, Oregon that provides parenting education and support for families of young children. Organized by Holt, the workshop drew 19 social workers from six countries for a four-day training in Birth to Three’s “Make Parenting a Pleasure” curriculum.

At the end of the workshop, the participants returned home to put Minalee’s practices to work – making the act of parenting both more enjoyable, and more effective, for families from Ethiopia and Uganda to the Philippines and Vietnam.

In Vietnam, the two social workers that participated are making quick progress.

With the lessons still fresh in her mind, Holt social worker Nguyen Thu Ngan led a one-day training session for fellow social workers and staff in Vietnam. In turn, the Holt-Vietnam staff will soon begin training families we serve throughout the country – beginning with 50 struggling families we support in the north, near Hanoi. The children of these families are all in preschool, and all at risk of neglect or separation from their parents. Through basic support services, we are helping these families give their children a safe, stable home. And now, thanks to Minalee Saks and Birth to Three, we can help them become better parents for their children as well.

Read about Minalee’s time in India….

Highlights from the Portland Area Holt Picnic

by Sally Dougherty, Family Relations Director

When I awoke to the pitter-patter of rain on Saturday, my heart sunk. “No one will come to the Holt picnic with weather like this,” I thought.  Scheduled for Saturday, July 16th — when, presumably, it should be perfectly safe to plan outdoor events in Oregon — the Portland Area Holt Picnic was set to begin at 11am at Camp Angelos in Corbett.  The following day, Holt’s Oregon adoptee camp would also kick off at Camp Angelos.

“Thank goodness there’s a lodge with indoor dining,” I said to myself as I grabbed my hooded Holt sweatshirt.

In spite of the rainy morning, 150 people showed up for the picnic! By 12:30, the rain had stopped and the sun had come out to stay – just in time for the campground tour and planned children’s activities.

Every summer, Holt picnics across the country bring adoptees and adoptive families together for a fun afternoon outdoors. We’d like to think our fabulous activities draw the crowds every year, rain or shine. But we know what truly makes Holt picnics special: the chance for fellow adoptive families and adoptees to meet or reconnect as one big Holt family.

This is true of every Holt picnic.

But one feature of the Portland-area picnic makes it truly unique. Every summer, a spirited and diverse group of adult adoptees volunteer five weeks out of their lives to serve as counselors at Holt’s six adoptee camps.  After a week of training at Holt’s headquarters in Eugene, they begin camp season in Oregon.  With the picnic held at the same site as the Oregon camp, that means that for the second year in a row, the Holt adoptee camp counselors led the day’s festivities at the Portland-area picnic!

They served as picnic greeters, shared info about camp and, of course, provided entertainment…

Continue reading “Highlights from the Portland Area Holt Picnic”

Seven Summers at Holt Camp

Recently, Holt’s senior writer, Robin Munro, sat down for an interview with Josiah Bell, a Holt adoptee born in Korea and raised in Alabama.  This summer will be Josiah’s seventh season working at Holt’s adoptee camps – a six-week commitment for leadership staff, five weeks for counselors.  When not at camp, Josiah works as a freelance artist specializing in portrait work for adoptive families.  He currently lives in Birmingham, but plans to move to Brooklyn, NY at the end of the summer.  View a couple of Josiah’s adoptee portraits below.

So this will be your seventh summer working at Holt camp?

This is my sixth summer on the leadership staff. The first year, I was a counselor.

What are your responsibilities as a leadership staff member?

We prepare the camp curriculum and schedule, and manage the counselors and camp staff.

How do you prepare the curriculum every year?

We have a foundation of subject matter that we talk about, such as race and identity.  Every year, we tweak it.  We brainstorm ideas of new and fun ways to relate those ideas to campers.

What’s an example of a fun way you relate issues to campers?

We always talk about identity on the first day. That helps us ease into being able to discuss other subjects, such as race and adoption, in a group setting.

When we talk about identity with the youngest group, we ask them to name TV characters that have multiple identities.  They usually come up with super heroes and Hannah Montana.  We talk about how Hannah Montana is sometimes Miley Cyrus, but she’s also a daughter, a sister and a student.

We always close that day with having the campers write down as many of their identities as they can come up with.

What do you hope the campers will get out of that exercise?

We want them to understand that we have multiple identities and they’re always changing – and that’s a good thing.

We definitely make the point that being adopted is an identity.  That helps the campers acknowledge that about themselves, and empowers them to take on that identity with confidence.

Did you go to Holt camp growing up? Continue reading “Seven Summers at Holt Camp”

Connections That Last a Lifetime

by Kourtni Rader, Adult Adoptee Director

I remember my first trip to Korea as an adult as if it were yesterday – sitting on a plane filled with Korean people, experiencing my first Korean meal as an adult (granted it was airplane food), pondering for a second what line to step into at immigration and, of course, the many experiences I had in Korea during my two-week visit.

My first journey to Korea was as a participant on a Holt heritage tour, for families and children of all ages. In 2009, I became Holt’s adult adoptee director – and began hosting a tour specifically for adult adoptees, age 21 or older. At the time, I did not realize how quickly people connect based on being an international adoptee. I’ve now hosted two Holt-Bethany Korea Adult Adoptee tours.  On both, I’ve witnessed the strong connections that develop between adoptees – strangers – visiting Korea for the first time.  Connecting to one’s culture and history is important, I’ve realized, but for many of us, not as important as the connection we feel with other adoptees. In a short time, family-like relationships develop, and when the tour is over, it is difficult to say goodbye. Our hearts ache not only to leave Korea, but for the people we’ve grown so close to and with whom we’ve shared some of the most personal experiences. We’ve laughed, cried, relied heavily on each other for support—and have even expressed frustration and anger.

When I look at photos from my first trip to Korea, I wonder what the other people on our trip are doing now. Continue reading “Connections That Last a Lifetime”

Jesus Loves Jamie….And Somewhere a Family is Waiting to Love her Too.

Jamie Needs a family

Birthdate: October, 2002, Africa

by Ashli Keyser, Managing Editor

I just read through Jamie’s bio on Holt’s Waiting Child photolisting. She’s 8 years old and lives in Africa. I’m often drawn to the cute, endearing qualities in the children’s bios — the qualities that make each child unique and special.

Jamie loves to sing. Most children do. But Jamie likes to sing gospel music, in particular. I smile at this little detail and think of gospel songs Jamie might know. This thought takes me back to my Sunday school days…..

I’m 4 years old, standing on the edge of a church stage and wearing a pretty blue, flowered dress. My hair is curled and in a ponytail. I’m short. The height of the stage only adds to my nervousness. Fifteen other children stand with me, waiting to sing. Having practiced this song many times, I shouldn’t be nervous. But I am. I hear the piano start. Unsure of myself, I slowly scan the audience and find two familiar faces – my mom and dad. We lock eyes. They smile at me, and I smile back. The nerves quickly dissipate as I start to sing…..

“Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so. Little ones to Him belong, they are weak, but He is strong.”

With my parent’s love, their smiles and encouragement, I confidently make it through the song.

I think back to Jamie’s love of gospel music and wonder if she’s ever been taught this popular and universal Sunday school song. Maybe she sings it in Luganda, her native language…. ay yah gah lahn zeh, ay yah gah lahn zeh, ay yah gah lahn zeh, Yayogera bw’atyo.” Maybe she doesn’t know it yet, and needs a family to teach it to her.

Today, Jamie sings to her friends and caretakers. She sings to these special people in her life because, at nine months old, Jamie was abandoned by her parents and brought to a Holt care center. Her parents weren’t around to teach her the songs she has grown to love. They weren’t around to listen to Jamie sing for them. Continue reading “Jesus Loves Jamie….And Somewhere a Family is Waiting to Love her Too.”

Holt Picnics in Oregon: July 16th in Corbett, August 6th in Eugene

Hey there, Holt families in the Portland area – it’s time to get together again for Holt’s annual picnic!

I hope you, your family and friends can join us Saturday, July 16th, from 11-3 at Camp Angelos in Corbett, OR. Camp Angelos is also the site of Holt’s Oregon adoptee camp, which will begin the following day. (Day Camp, for parents and children ages 5-18, will be held July 20th.)

Holt’s camp counselors will be leading children’s activities at the Portland-area picnic.  They look forward to meeting you and your children!

Please bring a picnic lunch for everyone in your party. And don’t forget comfy shoes, as you may want to hike Multnomah Falls trails before or after the picnic.

Also, don’t forget about the Eugene picnic on Saturday, August 6th, at Camp Harlow. RSVP for the Korean BBQ lunch today or anytime before July 25th.

After the picnic lunch in Eugene, Holt adoptive father Daniel Freed – a.k.a. “The Amazing Spaghetti” – will perform a magic show for the children.

The Camp Harlow pool will also be open after lunch in Eugene.

For directions to the park or to print an invitation for others, please visit us online at www.holtinternational.org/picnics.

Learn About the China Child of Promise program… Attend a Webinar!

Isn’t it odd how change – significant change – can occur right before your eyes, without you ever noticing?

Over the 4th of July weekend, one of my friends mentioned that her hair had grown a couple of inches over the past few months.

I hadn’t even noticed!

How could I have missed this, I wondered . . .And then I realized: I see her all the time. Her hair grew gradually. And I failed to notice the subtle changes from week to week.

The same thing is happening in intercountry adoption!

Subtle change, over time, has resulted in significant change.

As prospective adoptive parents learn that children with “special needs” wait longer for families, interest in special needs adoption grows every day!

As a result, more and more children with special needs are coming home to loving families. In fact, in some countries, special needs adoptions are actually outpacing all others!

Much of this gradual change has to do with another gradual change. In some cultures, domestic adoption has become more socially accepted. And in some countries, a growing economy has given families the means to care for their birth children. As a result, more children are finding families in their birth countries.

But most of these children have no known health conditions.

The majority of children now being released for intercountry adoption have some degree of “special need.” It could be a birthmark or a missing/extra digit that puts a child’s file on a special needs track. It could be a cleft lip and palate, spina bifida, or vision or hearing impairment. Or it could be a more serious condition, or a combination of conditions.

This month, I’d like you to meet a couple of families who have embraced this change, and adopted children with “special needs.”

On Monday, July 11th, join us for the webinar “Adopting from China” where the Mazzio family will share about their decision, experience and joy in adopting their son, Daniel, through Holt’s China Child of Promise Option.

During “Adopting from China” on Thursday, July 28th, hear from the Simpsons who also adopted through the China Child of Promise Option.

If you’re new to international adoption, I highly recommend the webinar “Holt Adoption 101,” which is scheduled for July 20th. Holt’s intake social worker and adoption counselor will share about Holt’s unique, child-centered approach to international adoption, discuss program timeframes and eligibility, and answer your questions throughout the webinars.

Click here to view and register for the full webinar schedule for July – including webinars on the 21st and 27th about how to adopt from Holt’s Ethiopia Program.

Some day, I hope to see a world where every child is wanted and adored regardless of physical or developmental conditions. But today, I am thrilled to see more and more families opening their hearts to a child with special needs.

I look forward to seeing you online. To begin the adoption process now, apply online.


Sally Dougherty

Family Relations Director