Transracial Adoption and Growing Up White

By Holt’s vice president of policy and external affairs, Susan Soonkeum-Cox.

The recent NPR report, “Growing up White—Transracial Adoptee Learned to be Black” is an illuminating story of the complexities and challenges of transracial adoption.  This is certainly not a new topic, or an easy one, but it is a critical reminder for everyone involved in transracial, domestic or international adoption, not to minimize the importance of race and identity as a life-long part of the adoption journey.

When Holt first placed children from Korea with adoptive families in the U.S. in the 1950’s, it was during the era of physically matching children and parents.  This ‘matching’ made it possible for the adoption to be secret, hidden, as if the child was physically born to their adoptive parents.  Adoption of Korean children into white families split wide open the notion of secrecy. It was impossible for adoptive parents to pretend that their Korean children were born to them.

The wisdom of the day was for parents to ‘Americanize’ their child as quickly as possible.  “Fitting in” was given priority over understanding or maintaining connection to race, culture and nationality. Continue reading “Transracial Adoption and Growing Up White”

D.C. Photo Exhibit

Children of Korea
A Sixty Year Retrospective

On November 13, a group of Korean adoptees, lawmakers and adoption advocates gathered on Capitol Hill in Washington D.C. for a special exhibit of photos from the archives of Holt International. As a point of celebration and reflection during National Adoption Awareness Month, Holt presented a collection of photos documenting life for many orphaned children following the Korean War, as well as the humble beginnings of what is now the leading international adoption agency. Illustrating the work of Harry and Bertha Holt in service of orphaned, abandoned and vulnerable children in Korea, the photos pay tribute to the couple, the thousands of families touched by international adoption, and adoptees themselves. Many of these photos had never been previously shared with the public.

The response to the exhibit was overwhelming. Susan Cox, Holt’s vice president of public policy and external affairs, said that adoptees from at least nine states attended the event in D.C., traveling from as far away as Alaska, Oregon and California. “Many of the adoptees had come to the U.S. in the 1950s, and the images in the photos represented Korea when they were there,” Susan says. “Several of the adoptees discovered that they came to the U.S. on the same flight, and that discovery was profoundly exciting. It has been gratifying to present these pictures to as many people as possible.”

You can view the collection online by clicking here.

Top 5 Facts About Adopting From Thailand

If you are considering adoption, chances are you’ve thought about countries like China, Korea and maybe even Ethiopia. But what about Thailand? You don’t always hear a lot about Thailand in the adoption community. But, maybe you should, because there’s a lot to love about our program and partners in Thailand.

Here are our top 5 reasons to consider adoption from Thailand:

5. The minimum age for adoptive parents is 25.

For younger couples who want to start a family through adoption, Thailand is a great choice. Couples can have up to one child in the home prior to submitting their application, and couples with a child can request to be matched with a child opposite of the gender of the child already home. Childless couples must be open to a child of either gender. Adoptions from Thailand, while limited, have remained stable.
Continue reading “Top 5 Facts About Adopting From Thailand”

A Selfless Act of Pure Love

A mom learns of the extraordinary kindness and generosity of Holt sponsors.

by Amy Lafler 

My husband Barry and I started the adoption process for our first son, Evan, in July of 2007. We were matched with him in August of 2008 and brought him home in December of that year. Best Christmas present ever! Evan is a smart, handsome and thoughtful little boy who loves to build. We are positive that he will be building or designing something when he grows up. He started kindergarten this year, and is doing very well academically.

Shortly after we came home with Evan, we knew we wanted him to have a brother or sister and almost immediately began the adoption process again. We were matched with our twin daughters in March 2012 and traveled to Korea to bring them home that November. Kassandra and Addison complement each other very well, but are still developing their own interests. Kassi is very interested in anything her big brother is doing, and Addie loves to sing and dance. They have only been home for a year, so we are still seeing their personalities emerge.

During the wait for our girls, the rules changed in Korea. This gave adoptive parents a chance to connect to each other and support one another during the wait. Several Facebook groups were set up to encourage one another when the waiting days seemed endless. Additionally, it gave waiting families the opportunity to cheer for each other when one of us was finally united with our child. Today, we are all learning from each other, helping to raise our kiddos together and supporting each other through the journey of parenthood. We have such an amazing connection in our group. We just “get each other.”

It was in this group that I learned of Holt child sponsorship, and its connection to our family.

Continue reading “A Selfless Act of Pure Love”

Something As Simple as a Water Jar

How Holt is empowering women and children in Cambodia.


Nai hopes to become a teacher someday


 Holt International hopes the water jar we recently provided *Nai will help her change the world.

But for now, we just hope it helps her get to school on time…

Every morning, 13-year-old Nai fetches the water, takes fertilizer to the field and tends to her family’s four cows in the poverty-stricken Chhouk district of Cambodia. If these tasks take too long, as they often do, Nai misses her ride to school. Sometimes, she walks the long distance and is able to join her classmates. Most often, she stays home and helps her family with the rest of the daily chores.

With aspirations of attending college and becoming a teacher some day, Nai can’t afford to miss out on the very lessons that she hopes to one day teach. But in Cambodia, impoverished families often rely on their school-aged children to help earn the income needed to survive.

At Holt, we applaud children like Nai, who sacrificially step up to help their families make it from day to day. It’s our belief, however, that children shouldn’t have to sacrifice a proper education – and their dreams – to assist their struggling families.

To help Nai and children just like her, Holt began partnering with Cambodia Organization for Children and Development (COCD) in February 2013.  COCD believes that vulnerable children are better protected and cared for through the social and economic empowerment of women.  Having initiated programs that help to empower women and young girls in India and Haiti, this was a mission that Holt could get behind. To achieve this goal, Holt and the COCD have established community self-help groups for poor, female-headed households in the Chhouk district. The self-help groups serve as education tools, teaching women to contribute to a savings plan. Holt helps provide the groups with income-generating projects and teaches technical skills and lessons on proper household care and hygiene. Continue reading “Something As Simple as a Water Jar”

Harvey Needs a Family


DOB: 2.17.2003, China

Ask Harvey to pose for a picture, and he throws up his hands with a casual peace sign to go along with his sweet, simple smile. You can find him, most days, playing with his remote controlled car or his action figures. He gets excited to visit KFC or McDonalds, and while he’s in the top 25 percent of his class, he would rather watch cartoons or play on the playground than do homework. He’s polite, active, and consistently described as “lovely.”

Pretty typical 10-year-old boy, huh? Mostly. Continue reading “Harvey Needs a Family”

Philippines Ambassador Update

 In October, seven Americans traveled to the Philippines for a week with Holt’s third annual Philippines Ambassador trip. Holt started this pilot adoption program in 2011 as a way to increase home-finding efforts for 13 older children and sibling groups living in Holt’s care. The ambassadors, chosen by Holt, spent a week bonding with the children, then returned to the U.S. to help the children find their forever families. Holt’s Jessica Palmer, Director of SE Asia Adoption Services, led the trip and reflects on the group’s experience here.

A group photo of the U.S. ambassadors with the 13 children in the 2014 program.

I was the first of the group to arrive in the Philippines. I waited up as long as I could for the rest of the ambassadors to arrive late at night, and when I didn’t think I could stay up any longer, there they were, arriving safely from New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Our first day was supposed to be a fairly easy one — to catch up on rest and jetlag since we wouldn’t meet the children in the ambassador program until the following day. I should have known that making stops at two of Holt’s partner, Kaisahang Buhay Foundation’s, most powerful programs might not make for an easy day though!

The first stop was KBF’s Nazareth Home, a house where single, expectant mothers live with other women in similar situations, receive the prenatal care they need, and grapple with the decision of what to do with their unborn child. One of the girls, who seemed to be a sort of informal spokeswoman for the group, shared her story with us, unable to fight back tears. She explained how she had been going to college until she became pregnant and didn’t know what to do. She found KBF’s single mothers’ program. She has regained hope, happiness, her spirituality, and is planning to move in with her parents and her newborn child.

The ambassadors meet with scholars in the ILEA program.

Our second stop was the Independent Living and Educational Assistance program (ILEA), where a group of scholars receive assistance from KBF to help them finish high school and go on to college while they live independently. Continue reading “Philippines Ambassador Update”

The Joy of Xin

When Kristi Mathia and her husband read a waiting child story about an older boy from China, they knew he would be their son. They also knew that adopting an older child might have some challenges. While they were prepared for the challenges, they weren’t expecting the abundant rewards.

Child Hand Off Day.  That was the name given to the monumental day we would meet our youngest son, the child who we had prayed for, chased an endless paper trail for and — most of all — loved and cherished. We had thought and dreamt about what this day would be like. We were told that most children cry painfully. Not our little guy.  He ran to us with open arms and full of joy.  I was blessed to be the first to walk into the room where he was waiting.  He hugged me and called me “Mama.”  Next, my husband lifted our son up in an embrace while being called “Baba” (Daddy) and our oldest son was called “Gah Gah” (Brother) while being hugged.

After such a wonderful union, we started the incredible adventure of becoming a family of four. We arrived home from China in November of 2012 and we just celebrated our one-year anniversary as Xin’s (Sheen) Mom and Dad.  He was 9-and-a-half years old when he joined our family, and he has enriched our lives in countless ways. Continue reading “The Joy of Xin”