In April, Ian will turn 14 and become ineligible for international adoption from China. Eligible and interested families should immediately contact their agency. Holt families should contact Jessica Palmer at firstname.lastname@example.org. See eligibility requirements below.*
Ian (name changed) entered institutional care when he was 4 years old, in May of 2002. A healthy boy with a “sunny” disposition, Ian was also rather quiet upon admission and tended to stand back and observe his surroundings. At the institute, caregivers quickly enrolled him in a program to help him adjust to his new environment. Here, he got along well with his classmates, and quickly became more talkative and active in the group. The following year, he began primary school near his home at the child welfare institute. He became a diligent student who listened well, eagerly answered questions in class, and regularly completed his homework after school. His teachers all liked him a great deal.
After five years in the institute, Ian went to live with a foster family in July of 2007. Then 9, Ian developed a loving bond with this family, in whose care he continued to grow strong and healthy. He developed a taste for spicy food, honed his basketball skills, and became interested in computer games and remote control toys, as well as drawing and playing the guitar. Described as bright and extroverted, Ian has many friends. His foster mom describes him as “sensible and good.”
Now 13, Ian is in junior high school. He is a serious student with grades that always put him at the head of the class.
Although close to his foster family, Ian understands that his situation is not permanent. Initially, he felt fearful of going to a new place – of feeling lonely, and missing his foster family and friends – but he has grown to understand what it means to join an adoptive family, and now embraces the idea of international adoption.
*Ian has less than four months before he turns 14, at which time he will become ineligible for adoption. Due to the short timeframe to adopt, families must already have a dossier in China or have adopted from China within the past year and have a current USCIS 1800A approval. An ideal family for Ian will have parented past his age and also have previous adoption experience.
Holt adoptive mom Mary Leigh Brown has adopted twice — both times coming home from Korea with a child who has a special need. To help advocate for other children who need families, she regularly blogs about the children on Holt’s waiting child photolisting (at someshadesofbrown.blogspot.com). This week, Mary Leigh has written a special guest post for us about Nolan, our featured waiting child. This is a special treat to have an adoptive mom write about waiting children, as she also reflects on her own experience adopting children with special medical needs. Enjoy!
Update: As of February 2012, Nolan has a family! Congratulations Nolan!
Born April 23, 2007, China
I have a passion for waiting children, but I didn’t start out feeling that way. Just a few years ago, I would often look at the children on Holt’s waiting child photolisting and think, ‘Aw, I hope they find their family, but that family isn’t mine.’ We always said we would adopt children one day. When that day came sooner than we thought, we knew we wanted to adopt a child as young and healthy as possible.
When we started the process to adopt in June of 2008, we were led to the Korea program. I was a tad hesitant – well, maybe “terrified” better describes my emotions. Because we didn’t live in one of Holt’s branch states, we would have to be in the “waiting child/special needs” part of the program – a requirement of Korea’s central authority, which oversees all international adoption from Korea. To me, at that time, a “special needs” child meant a child in a wheelchair, who might not be cognitively or physically able to do “normal” activities.
That was a lot to swallow, especially for first-time parents dreaming of a “perfect” child.
But the Lord, in his faithfulness, put a family in our path to calm our fears. This family told us their story of adopting two children with special needs. Our agency is GREAT, but sometimes a momma just needs to hear from another momma. When the mother of this family told me about her son’s special need, my fears were calmed. We really just needed to hear someone say, “It’s okay to adopt a child with special needs. ‘Special needs’ just means special needs, not broken or defective or never able. Just SPECIAL.”
I knew we could handle “special needs.”
I marvel at the way God opened our hearts and our minds and then led us to our Bates on Holt’s waiting child photolisting!
Now, three years and two special needs adoptions later, I know of no other way to grow our family than by adopting a waiting child.
My husband has jokingly (I think) banished me from the photolistings! I could spend hours pouring over those children’s
pictures, reading their bios, and praying for them. Some of these children simply need a voice, someone to be their champion…
Meet Nolan*. Nolan means “champion.” From what I’ve read and seen of Nolan, this kid is a born champion. All he needs is a mom and a dad who will always cheer him on.
Nolan is described as a “cute, resilient preschooler who is smart and a well-behaved child.” “Cute” doesn’t do this kiddo justice. He’s got dimples that will just make your heart melt! Nolan has some physical delays due to his limb differences, which include a missing right hand and forearm, missing/webbed fingers on his left hand, and left clubfoot. I’ve seen Nolan in action on video and he doesn’t let anything slow him down. Just by watching that short video, I can tell that whoever is holding that camera wants to show the viewer how well Nolan is doing. He asks him to walk around, ride a scooter, and put a vest on and off.
I imagine that caregiver praying as they recorded that video, praying for a champion for Nolan.
Nolan likes basketball. Nolan needs a family to believe in him. He needs a loving parent to coach his peewee basketball team while others cheers for him on the sidelines. He needs a family to go out to ice cream with after the game.
Nolan’s smile lights up his entire face. I can just imagine his face lighting up the first time his family takes him to a basketball game!
Nolan will more than likely need corrective surgery on his foot. I think of my son Bates, who was born at 2 lbs with a hole in his heart. He needed surgery at one week old, and again after he came home to us. I picture my son in those very cute hospital scrubs when he had surgery. I feel the warm tears on my cheek as they took him back, and I remember not breathing until they told us we could see him. It was all I could do not to run past that nurse in recovery and scoop up my son. I pray that when that day of surgery comes, Nolan will have a mother and father by his side. Parents who are his champions.
One thing I was afraid of missing by adopting an “older child” was missing the firsts – first steps, first words, first everything. You know what, with Nolan, you will get to experience so many firsts. His first basketball game. His first steps on his corrected foot. His first campout. And you get to experience them all while looking at those bright brown eyes, those round cheeks, and indescribable dimples!!!
I know it’s a scary step, waiting children. Trust me, I was there once. But there are hundreds of thousands of children – children like Nolan – waiting for families. Just waiting for someone to be their champion.
Many of the children who enter Holt’s care have living parents or relatives whose lack of resources, not lack of love, compelled them to seek outside care for their child. Rather, relinquishing a child is an act of love. What parent wouldn’t rather separate from their child than watch their child grow sick and malnourished?
At Holt, we believe poverty – or disease or discrimination – should not prevent children from growing up with otherwise loving birth parents. That is why, everywhere we work, we strive to keep at-risk families safe, stable and together.
To that end, we provide basic nutrition and medical care for physical health, and counseling for psychological wellbeing. We assist with education, sending children to school and training parents in income-generating trades. And through microloans for small businesses, we help families achieve both self-reliance – and lasting stability.
One small business is particularly adaptable to many of the regions we serve: raising livestock. After Holt provides the resources and know-how, families can quickly take the reins.
Here are three short family stories from Vietnam, a country where – with international adoption suspended – family preservation efforts have become a major focus, and livestock a major source of support. All three of these children are supported by Holt’s sponsorship program as well:
A few little chicks can make a big impact…
When Cara’s* mother died in November of 2009, she and her three siblings went to live with her grandmother and aunt. For income, the family harvested rice and raised a few chickens. This barely provided enough to meet their basic needs, however, let alone pay the fees for the children to attend school. Cara and her siblings were at risk of dropping out of school when the local district referred the family to Holt-Vietnam.
To ensure that Cara and her siblings could stay in school – and with their family – Holt provided funding to support the family’s chicken-raising efforts. Holt social workers regularly visit Cara’s family to check on their health and wellbeing, and to advise her grandmother and aunt on how to manage their small business.
New York Times best selling author Donna VanLiere recently returned from India with Christian music group NewSong. “God is here. Among us,” she says. “Disguised as an 8-year-old orphan.”
by Donna VanLiere
Years ago, I read that the apostle Thomas made India his mission field. Remember Thomas? He was one of the twelve apostles who made it clear that he would not believe Jesus had risen from the dead until he saw the scars on His nail-pierced hands. Doubt nips hard at the heels of belief. That was Thomas’ problem. In John 14, Jesus was speaking of Heaven and said, “You know the way to the place where I am going.” Thomas, always confused, always doubtful, said, “… We don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?” We can’t be too hard on Thomas. Even the wisest among us doubt and question and scratch our heads. Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” This is a crucial moment for Thomas. A choice has to be made…believe what Christ says is true, or that he’s either a diabolical liar or clinically insane.
Time marched on and doubt and disbelief still drummed away at Thomas’ mind and nerves. When Christ was crucified, then flung off his grave clothes three days later, the other apostles came to Thomas and said, “Great news! He’s alive!” Thomas shook his head. That’s the nature of doubt. It’s a head-shaking disease. His reunion with Christ is laid out in John 20. Jesus held out his hands like a magician proving there was nothing up his sleeves. “Go ahead,” he said. “Touch them. They’re real. Stop doubting and believe.” And Thomas did. The last time the apostles were with Jesus he gave them a simple directive—Go into all the world and spread the gospel. “Go Thomas. Be brave. I am with you always. Remember, I tell you the truth. Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.” According to ancient records, Thomas traveled farther than any other apostle. His life reveals that he came to know Christ best through his missing him. His desire grew stronger and his longing deeper. He loved and fed the people of India as if feeding God himself and Thomas gave himself for that love, dying at the end of a spear.
I just returned from a 9-day trip to India. My husband Troy and I went there with members of the Christian music group NewSong. In Bangalore, we visited a care center run by a beautiful, saintly woman named Mary Paul. One night at dinner, NewSong member Eddie Carswell and his wife sat with Mary Paul and she told them that twenty generations ago her great, great, great (do this twenty times) grandfather met the apostle Thomas and Thomas shared the truth with him. I doubt I will ever again meet anyone who can trace their faith journey directly back to one of the apostles!
Ancient documents do not describe Thomas as a dynamic orator like the apostle Paul, but rather, a quiet man who drew people to the gospel of peace through his saintly ways and the message of truth. Twenty generations later, Mary Paul sees God dressed as abandoned children and shares hope and love with them.
You would expect me to write of the misery of the orphans, but that’s impossible to do when writing about the care center Mary Paul runs. The walls are bright, the staff is warm and the children are loved. Very loved. They smile and laugh easily and are quick to wrap their pencil-thin arms around you. A little boy walked up to Troy and I, grinning. “My name’s Vanej,” he said. “I’m nine years old.” NewSong sang a couple of songs for the children and then the children sang for us, little Vanej holding one of the two microphones and singing loudly. Eighteen months earlier, Vanej was on an outing with his parents when he was somehow separated from them. The orphanage advertised in the papers, on TV and radio, looking for his parents. They traveled where Vanej said he lived and put up flyers and talked with people on the streets, with no results. In a country of 1.1 billion people, it’s much like finding a needle in a haystack. Vanej talked of missing his mother and his sister. It was heartbreaking, but he still smiled. Continue reading “For the Least of These”
In Mongolia, an abrupt shift from rural to urban life has fractured both families and communities, leaving thousands of children homeless and vulnerable. In Ulaanbaatar, the coldest capital city in the world, Holt is working to keep families together, children safe and nurtured, and homes stable and warm.
by Robin Munro, Senior Writer
In mid-winter Mongolia, the air often gets so cold that when you walk outside, all the hairs in your nose instantly freeze. So says Paul Kim, Holt’s director of programs for this ancient country in the East, also known as “the country of blue sky” for its uncommon number of clear, cloudless days. A Mongolian winter lasts from November to April, and temperatures often drop below -22°F.
To escape the cold, street children often head underground, seeking warmth in the steam heat that flows through the city’s sewer system. In recent years, the number of children living on the streets in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia’s capital, has grown to an estimated 3,000 to 4,000. So many live underground, they have acquired a nickname: “manhole children.”
“I’ve seen a child pop their head out of a manhole,” says Paul, who recently returned from a visit to Holt’s programs in the region – in early November, just as winter began to set in.
Although the Mongolian people have learned to endure their native climate, for those without enough resources, harsh winters are not only a matter a comfort – they’re a matter of survival.
For a little over ten years, Holt has provided needed resources and services for at-risk children and families in Mongolia. In that time, Holt staff has developed partnerships with two government-run care centers in Ulaanbaatar – the Infant Sanitorium and No. 58 Kindergarten. Working with the Infant Sanitorium, we developed the Rainbow Special Baby Care Unit, where ailing and malnourished infants and toddlers can receive the proper nutrition, medical care and nurture they need to recover and thrive. Many children later reunite with their birth families, once healthy. Others join families through adoption. At both care centers, we continue to provide nutritional support and funding for medical supplies, clothes, toys and more modern equipment for the children in care.
“It’s like night and day,” Paul says of the changes to the care centers since Holt began providing support. “Before, the kids were well fed and cared for, but they had no balanced nutrition. They had limited medical supplies. Their clothes were old and worn out.” Caregivers would prop bottles for babies to drink, a practice linked to slow development and poor nutritional intake. Holt staff traveled to train the caregivers and staff in better practices, including holding babies while they bottle-feed. Continue reading “Season of Love, Gifts of Hope: Seeking Warmth in Mongolia”
May is National Foster Care Month. In honor of this special month, we pay tribute to Holt’s loving foster families in Korea and China, India, Thailand and Vietnam who devotedly nurture and protect thousands of vulnerable children every day. When children come into Holt’s care in these countries, it’s the foster families who wrap them up and comfort them, giving them love for possibly the first time in their lives. They love and care for the children as if they were their own and provide for their every need until they go home to loving, permanent families.
Last year, two foster mothers from Korea visited Holt’s headquarters in Eugene, Oregon. Read about their visit below.
Holt honors two foster mothers from Korea. Since 1995, Mrs. Choi has cared for 67 children. Mrs. Lee has cared for 312.
by Robin Munro, Senior Writer
Mrs. Choi hasn’t seen Isaac in more than a decade. Back then, Isaac wore diapers, and went by the Korean name Dong-joon. Since then, Isaac has sprouted into a lanky 13-year-old boy who plays the trumpet and loves Star Wars memorabilia. He now lives in California with his parents and sisters.
Isaac may have been too young to remember Mrs. Choi, but Mrs. Choi sure remembers Isaac. As a Holt foster mother in Korea, Mrs. Choi, Yeong-sun cared for Isaac during the first five months of his life, before he joined his adoptive family in the U.S. and became Isaac Hughes.
Every year, Holt honors two foster mothers for their devoted service to children awaiting adoption in Korea. Holt Korea flies them from Korea to Holt’s headquarters in Eugene, Oregon, where we treat them like royalty for a few days. Every year, we also invite families of children they’ve cared for to a reception in Eugene. Isaac’s family couldn’t travel to Oregon for the event, but they wanted to do something special for Mrs. Choi. So they put together a picture collage of Isaac over the years, including a photo of Mrs. Choi holding Isaac as a baby. “I was hoping that would spark her memory of him,” says Isaac’s mom, Barbara.
They also recorded a video, in which Isaac takes Mrs. Choi on a virtual tour of his room. He shows her his Lego creations, his trophies, his Star Wars collection. She smiles, amused, as she watches the video during the Holt reception. As he begins to play the Korean National Anthem on his trumpet, Mrs. Choi sighs with joy. Although she can’t understand what he says, she understands this melody.
“Thank you for taking care of me when I was a baby,” he says at the end of the video, smiling broadly. It’s clear. Isaac has a good life and a loving family, and Mrs. Choi is so pleased to see that.
“This opportunity to see the kids I’ve cared for grow up so beautifully and strong brings me such joy. I’m so grateful to the parents who’ve love them so well,” says Mrs. Choi, in Korean, after both foster mothers are presented with awards for their service. Sitting beside Mrs. Choi is her fellow honoree, Mrs. Lee, Wol-seop, both of them wearing traditional hanboks. Continue reading “Thank You For Taking Care of Me”
We’ve all heard it said: the only constant in life is change. We know change will occur. Sometimes change is welcome. Other times change in life — big or small — is hard to embrace. We get into the habit of doing things a certain way and struggle when circumstances change. We attempt to stay positive, and with prayer and patience, we try to make it through. It’s tough and frustrating. But somehow, we always manage to come out the other side, maybe even better off than when we started.
But, still, the facts stay the same. Change can be difficult.
Now, imagine for a moment what change must be like for a child. How might a child be affected by ongoing instability and uncertainty? Children, even young children, can sense change in their lives. They know when something is different. They are deeply affected by change. And yet, at the same time, children are resilient. They are brave and strong. But change is tough, even for them.
At just 3 days old, Bethany was brought to an orphanage. Her mother was unable to care for her, and she remained at the orphanage for 4 years. During this time, her caretakers described her as a solemn girl, rarely smiling or laughing.
Then, in 2006, Bethany joined a loving foster family. Here, she began to smile. She began to laugh and communicate. “How are you feeling today?” she would often ask her foster mother. For a moment, things for Bethany seemed to be moving in the right direction. Then, once again, life changed for Bethany. Members of Bethany ’s foster family became ill, and Bethany went to live with another family. The transition was difficult for Bethany, but she carried on and eventually found love in her new home.
Today, Bethany enjoys coloring and writing, playing with Barbies and listening to music. She is said to be very talkative and mostly happy. She’s “the girl with the great sense of humor,” says her social worker. Bethany puts her toys away when she’s done with them, folds her own clothes and can make her bed and feed herself.
Currently on medication for hyperactivity, Bethany struggles in school. The uncertainty in Bethany ’s life has led to trust issues, causing emotional outbursts and behavioral problems. “ Bethany wants attention and love,” says Jessica Palmer, Holt’s waiting child manager, who met Bethany earlier this year. “ Bethany will reject the love of others until she feels comfortable, until they have passed her test.” Home school might be the best option for Bethany.
For now, Bethany has found stability in the arms of a loving foster family. But this is only a temporary home. If a loving family can’t be found for Bethany, she may have to return to the orphanage.
If we can find Bethany a family, we can prevent this from happening!
It’s true, going home to a permanent family in the United States would mean one more change in Bethany ’s life, but it’s a change that Bethany looks forward to. She understands adoption and has heard that a family might be out there for her.
Bethany is a brave and resilient little girl. Yes, she has struggled. Her emotions sometimes get the better of her. When dealing with constant change, we all struggle. But we all come out the other side. We all somehow make it through. And Bethany will make it through too. She just needs a family to be there for her….no matter what.
Should Bethany find that forever family, she will no doubt experience the changes that come with a new home and new surroundings. Change is a part of life, and Bethany will still have to deal with her fair share of it. But in a permanent family, Bethany will experience the changes in life in a place of love and encouragement. And it will be a love that remains forever……a love that will never change.