Partnering for Better Parenting; Holt and Birth To Three Host India Guests

In countries around the world, Holt works with local partners to provide parenting education for the most vulnerable families and children. Earlier this month, Holt invited representatives from two of these partner organizations in India to Holt’s headquarters in Eugene, Oregon. While here, the visiting social workers gained an overview of the programs and services offered by local parenting organization and long-time Holt partner, Birth To Three. Once home in India, they will share what they learned with their staff and begin to apply the practices in their communities —  strengthening Holt’s parent education programming in the region.

by Robin Munro, Senior Writer

Vaishali (left) and Sylvia present during the training in Eugene.

If you were to pack a suitcase for your children, filled with the values and attributes you hope to instill in them, what would you include?

Truthfulness? Confidence? Compassion? Good citizenship?

If you asked this question of parents in India or Uganda or Vietnam, would they want the same for their children?

Last year, Minalee Saks, director of the nonprofit organization Birth To Three, traveled to Pune, India to lead a parenting education workshop organized by Holt. The four-day training drew 19 social workers from six countries, including Vietnam, India, Ethiopia, Uganda, Thailand and the Philippines. Upon returning home to Oregon, Minalee felt resolute about one universal truth, writing in an Op-Ed for the Eugene Register-Guard: “Regardless of cultures, allegiances, experiences, living situations or countries — people love their children and want the best for them.”

During the workshop in Pune, the 19 social workers received training on how to use Birth To Three’s “Make Parenting a Pleasure” (MPAP) curriculum – a group-based program for parents that stresses positive techniques for raising their children. Upon returning home to their respective countries, the social workers began to put Birth To Three’s practices to work – making the act of parenting both more enjoyable, and more effective, for the families and communities they serve.

Among the social workers in attendance were five from Bharatiya Samaj Seva Kendra (BSSK), Holt’s partner organization in Pune – and host for the workshop. After the training, the BSSK social workers found many creative ways to apply Minalee’s parenting curriculum. “Many of its modules are being used during parent preparation workshops as well as with the parents and children from lower socioeconomic groups,” says Vaishali Vahikar, program director of BSSK’s educational sponsorship program and one of the five social workers in attendance. One component they adapted is the metaphorical suitcase exercise, which helps families identify the values they hope to model for their children. Although designed as an activity for parents, Vaishali also saw a benefit in engaging children in the suitcase exercise.

“We ask what they want their parents to put in their suitcase,” Vaishali says. Often, children respond with very specific needs – with small children asking for good food, parents not fighting, teachers treating them kindly, and older children more interested in educational and other support to help them transition to adulthood. Vashaili and her fellow staff then return to the parents and share the needs their children have expressed.

Continue reading “Partnering for Better Parenting; Holt and Birth To Three Host India Guests”

There’s Still Hope for Donata

Urgent: Donata Needs a family.

Date of Birth:  November 11th, 1999, China


Last November, I became a first time aunt. For the past 7 months, I’ve watched my little niece reach important milestones. A couple months ago, she learned to sit up by herself. Just before that, she learned to roll herself over, and now she is starting to crawl. Soon she will be walking, and before we know it, she will start her first day of school!

 Though my niece is quite a bit younger than 12-year-old Donata, I found myself thinking about her as I read through Donata’s growth report and list of milestones.  I felt grateful that my niece has been blessed with the love of a family to encourage her and protect her as she grows.  I, too, felt sadness as I thought about Donata and the milestones she’s reached without the love and support of a permanent family.

But I have faith — faith  that it’s not too late for Donata to have that family someday.

On January 19, 2000, Donata was found wrapped in a small, cotton quilt and brought to an institution. A happy and healthy baby, Donata began to thrive.

At 3 months old, Donata could move her hands and legs vigorously and would startle at loud noises. At 5 months old, she could turn her head to sounds, and at 7 months old she could reach for and grab her toys. Continue reading “There’s Still Hope for Donata”

We Were Waiting Children

“Special Needs” is just a label. Children are waiting, right now, for families.

When it comes to finding homes for children with special needs, Holt and, an online adoption advocacy group, share the same ambition and the same passion: do all we can to help children labeled “special needs” find their forever homes.

With each Waiting Child and family story Holt shares on our blog, and each article we publish on special needs myths and misconceptions, we hope that we inspire at least one family to take the next step to a child who could be waiting for them.

All too often the term “special needs” hinders families from taking that important step, and all too often children with special needs, some minor, some more serious, wait in orphanages for years, the “special needs” label preventing them from finding the families they need and deserve.

Today, it’s an honor for us to share a touching video produced by – a video with an important and inspiring message.

“The majority of children with special needs are merely children waiting for the love of a family,” says the video. “Some are older, or part of a sibling group, all are waiting, longing for the love and acceptance of a family who sees life beyond the ‘special needs’ label.”

Please watch this special video and hear from the children themselves:

the children once labeled “special needs,”

the children once labeled “waiting children,”

The children whose families saw beyond the labels, took the next step and brought them home into loving arms.




View Holt’s waiting child photolisting and take the next step…

An Unbreakable Bond

After adopting a healthy boy from Korea in 2006, Chris and Elizabeth Tiernan returned to Holt to adopt again in 2010. Embracing the changing needs among children in Korea, the Tiernans adopted Noah – a boy born with a normal neonatal health condition. In many ways, their journey to Noah reflects the recent changes in international adoption from Korea – including a longer wait from match to travel (due to a quota Korea places on the number of children joining families every year). It also illustrates why the Korea program is still one of Holt’s strongest. Click here to read more about the recent changes in Korea adoption.

by Chris Tiernan

We witness a miracle every time a child enters into life.  But those who make their journey home across time & miles, growing within the hearts of those who wait to love them, are carried on the wings of destiny and placed among us by God’s very own hands. – Kristi Larson

The above quote encompasses our adoption journey, which ended with two beautiful boys coming home to us from Korea.

Even before we were married 15 years ago, my wife Elizabeth and I had always planned to adopt.  We envisioned having a dynamic and loving family made up of both biological and adopted children.  But after several years of attempting to get pregnant, infertility issues prompted us to start our adoption journey earlier than expected.  However, since we already had a mindset to adopt, this decision was not a difficult one.

Eight years later, we have the family we could never have envisioned.

In 2010, we received an email from Holt notifying us that Korea was now accepting adoption applications for children with minor medical conditions.  We knew that Korea had stopped accepting applications for some time, so it was exciting to receive the email.  It was very important to us that we adopt from Korea, since we wanted a sibling from Korea for our first son Nathaniel (Nate) – who we adopted from Korea in 2006.

As our experience with Holt was extremely positive the first time, we contacted them without any hesitation.

We submitted our application in October of 2010 and, after furiously completing all the paperwork and home study requirements, we received our child assignment papers in March of 2011. It was so exciting to receive those first couple of pictures.  Noah was 8 months old at the time.

We fell in love with him at first sight, and named him as soon as we saw the picture.

At the same time, it was a little scary as well.  We knew going in that Korea was only releasing for international adoption children with at least some minor medical conditions.  In preparation, we filled out a medical conditions checklist stating which conditions we would be open to. But until that first referral email, we had no idea what kind of condition that would be.  Noah was born with an abnormal sonogram of the brain and, after some research, there was no definitive way to determine how – or if – it would affect him now or later in life.  However, Holt’s medical staff reassured us that the results from these scans were fairly common as they usually indicate some sort of trauma during childbirth that doesn’t normally manifest further.  Fortunately, all subsequent monthly scans came back normal and this alleviated some of our concerns.

We fell in love with him at first sight of his referral picture and could think of nothing else, except, “How soon can we go pick him up?!” What made the experience even more enjoyable was to see the joy on Nate’s face as he could finally see tangible evidence of his little brother.  He was so excited and immediately started talking about all the things he could do with him.

Awaiting approval for the travel call was quite intense.

Continue reading “An Unbreakable Bond”

The Unexpected Ease of Older Child Adoption

When Bob and Agnes Wells first adopted in 2002, they — like many families adopting from China at the time — came home with a healthy, infant daughter. Several years later, when they returned to Holt for their second adoption, the wait to adopt a healthy, infant girl had dramatically lengthened. After opening their hearts to special needs adoption, they were matched with a 6-year-old girl with delayed speech. As to be anticipated, they encountered some unknowns in China. And once home, they were again surprised — this time to discover that their second adoption was, in fact, easier than their first! 

by Agnes Wells

Bob with Jane, Agnes with Margot.

In 2002, we adopted our older daughter, Jane, from China at the age of nine months.  She was a healthy infant, and she made us perfectly happy.  When we decided the time was right to increase the size of our family, we chose to adopt again from China. Because our experience had been so positive the first time, we also decided to adopt again through Holt.

When we began the process the second time, we decided to adopt a 2 to 3-year-old so that there would not be such a great age difference between our two children.  As the standard process took longer and longer, we asked for a 3 to 5-year-old girl.  We were not open to a child with many disabilities, but we did look into the special needs option and put our names on that list.

We got information about a couple of different children, but felt no pressure to choose any child who was not right for our family.  Finally, after our dossier had been in China for four and a half years, we received a call about the child who would become our second daughter, Margot. She was 6 and a half at the time (Jane was 9 and a half), and her disability was that she had delayed speech and was sometimes difficult to understand.

Other than that, she was perfectly healthy.

We played “catch-up” with the paperwork, some of which had expired, but everyone was really helpful. We traveled to China in late February of 2011.  This time, instead of being part of a group of several families, we were the only ones adopting through Holt.

The Holt team in China took very good care of us and was always around when we needed them. We had been given information that Margot had been in foster care, which was true, but we discovered when we met her that it had only been for a short time when she was a baby.  The orphanage director said that she left foster care and returned to the orphanage because “it was not a good foster family.”  He did not elaborate.  I was worried that she would have a difficult time adjusting to living with a family, as is common among children who have grown up in institutions.  Margot’s adjustment, however, has been a lot easier than I thought. She is a kind and sweet child. She gives us hugs and kisses. She likes to read and play and snuggle.  She does get mad with her parents and fight with her sister, just like any other child. Continue reading “The Unexpected Ease of Older Child Adoption”

Congratulations, Dr. Dana Johnson!

Congratulations to our dear friend Dana Johnson, MD, PhD, for receiving a lifetime achievement award from the Joint Council on International Children’s Services (JCICS). In 1985, Dr. Johnson and his wife adopted their son from Calcutta, India. A year later, he co-founded the International Adoption Clinic at the University of Minnesota – the first clinic of its kind in the world. As a pioneer in the field of international adoption medicine, he deepened our understanding of the conditions that shape the early lives of internationally adopted children. His research and legislative advocacy have improved the health, development and medical treatment of children both in country, and once home with their families. And through the years, he has been a wonderful partner to us in our service of orphaned, abandoned and vulnerable children. For that, we at Holt are forever grateful.

In 2005, we presented Dr. Johnson with the Harry Holt award. View the video below to learn more about Dr. Johnson’s extraordinary contribution to the field of international adoption medicine.


“I love Korea, because…” Video Contest!

Win a trip to Korea!  The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade of the Republic of Korea are seeking 3-minute video submissions inspired by diverse Korean attractions, including traditional Korean culture, K-POP, landscape, economic development or your personal experiences related to Korea.

How to enter:

–        Qualified applications must be foreigners (to Korea); no age limit.

–        Make a video clip no longer than 3 minutes describing why you love Korea. (The video may be made with any device, such as a cellphone, digital camera, video camera, or digital device).  *English or Korean submissions are preferred.

–        Upload your video to YouTube or other legal video-sharing website

–        Email the completed application form to or

Contest runs through March 1-May 20, 2012 (12 weeks)

* If the video is not filmed in English or Korean, please include a complete description written in English or Korean along with your application.

Individual winners will be announced on June 11, 2012.

Important Notes:  Prize can be rescinded if the video clip is proven to be plagiarized or winning work from other contests.  Prize-winning works may be used to promote the Ministry of Affairs and Trade of the Republic of Korea.  The copyright of the submitted works becomes vested in the Ministry.