Urgent: Vaughn and Sarah need a Family!

Kids-IconsUpdate: Vaughn and Sarah have a family!

Unfortunately the adoption authority in Vaughn and Sarah’s birth country doesn’t allow us to share their pictures or videos online. But they still need a family, and they need one soon! We have many photos and videos on file that we can show to families who are interested!

Vaughn and Sarah are a brother-and-sister duo that needs a family of their own. Much like many other siblings, they enjoy being around each other, and with the exception of the occasional disagreement, they are inseparable. But that could soon change for these two, because their time is running out.

If we don’t find them a home very soon, their chances of staying together will become very slim.

Holt always does everything in our power to keep siblings together, but in this case, the adoption authority in Sarah and Vaughn’s birth country are considering separating the two in order to increase their chances of adoption.

Vaughn and Sarah have already experienced too much loss. They came to the orphanage in 2012, after their mother passed away, and have been living there since.

Vaughn is described as an energetic, happy and helpful 9-year-old. He loves being creative with art and dancing. He is diagnosed with epilepsy and is currently being treated with anti-seizure medication. He has some developmental delays and unclear speech for which he attends special education classes. His teachers report that his writing, numbers and fine motor skills have recently improved, but at times he needs motivation to concentrate on his work.

Sarah is described as a caring and happy 7-year-old. She is kind and helps with the younger children in care. She is reported to be on track developmentally for her age and is learning how to read. Much like her brother, she also likes to dance — and her caregivers say she is quite good!

Vaughn and Sarah need a family that is prepared for the challenges of older child adoption and has an understanding of childhood grief and loss. They also need a family that has access to the medical resources that Vaughn will need and the educational resources they will both need to reach their full potential. It also wouldn’t hurt if their family can dance or is at least willing to try!

These two need a home where they can be together and have the care and attention that they need and deserve. Could you or someone you know be the right family for Vaughn and Sarah?

For more information about Vaughn and Sarah, please contact Kristen Henry at kristenh@holtinternational.org.

Dates of Birth:

Vaughn – 3/12/2007

Sarah – 11/13/2009

How A Special Needs Adoption Fund Grant Helped Save Levi’s Eyesight

Combs Family 2

Born with a condition that progressively stole his eyesight, Levi urgently needed advanced medical care to save what was left of his vision. But first, he needed to come home. 

Before Melissa Combs traveled to bring her son Levi home, endless questions of concern raced through her mind: “Does he have other developmental delays? Is that just because of his condition? What if he’s completely blind? What if he loses the rest of his sight before we get there?”

When Melissa learned that Levi had congenital glaucoma, a progressive condition in which fluid buildup in the eye causes permanent vision impairment, she knew that each passing day and week that he was still in orphanage care in China posed a greater threat to his eyesight.

In July 2016, when Melissa and her oldest daughter, Alicia, traveled to China to bring Levi home, these feelings of concern remained. Continue reading “How A Special Needs Adoption Fund Grant Helped Save Levi’s Eyesight”

Why One Adoptive Mom Volunteers at Winter Jam

Holt adoptive mom Angie Lewis shares why she and her family volunteer every year to help sign up new child sponsors at Winter Jam and other Holt events.

Nicole volunteering at a sponsorship table during Winter Jam!

In January 2012, my husband and our three oldest children attended Winter Jam in Atlanta. They all came home that night so excited about the concert. My husband handed me a picture of a child whose packet he picked up that night to sponsor. And he said to me that the difference with these children is that while some of them live with their birth families, some of them are waiting to be adopted. My heart melted at that moment because God had been moving me towards adoption. The next morning, I started researching Holt International, and within a few weeks, God also moved on my husband’s heart. By March, we started the adoption process for our daughter Nicole.

After our daughter came home, we began serving as Holt volunteers at Winter Jam and during Christian artist group NewSong’s Very Merry Christmas tour. These events have always been a great way for our family to enjoy great music while advocating for orphaned and vulnerable children by helping to sign up new child sponsors. We enjoy the chance to try to make a difference for kids and families. Continue reading “Why One Adoptive Mom Volunteers at Winter Jam”

Where Are They Now: Seven Years After the Earthquake

Adoptee Nephtalie Moore was still in Haiti when the country’s devastating earthquake of 2010 hit. Her older sister, Martine, and soon-to-be adoptive family were in South Carolina. One year later, Martine and Nephtalie were reunited — solidifying a bond that today remains as strong as ever.

Rebecca, Nephtalie and Martine

Rebecca Moore was the first one in her family to wake to the news on January 12, 2010. A 7.0 magnitude earthquake had struck close to Haiti’s capital of Port-au-Prince. Hundreds of thousands were feared dead. Buildings were leveled and millions of families were now homeless. Haiti, already the poorest country in the western hemisphere, now faced even more devastation and uncertainty. Millions in the United States and around the world clung to their televisions and computers, awaiting updates. People sent prayers, churches and communities gathered for vigils, and local relief agencies prepared to send aid to our distressed neighbors in the south.

But for the Moore family of South Carolina, the catastrophic event hit even closer to home. In the midst of the devastation, at a Holt-supported care center near Port-au-Prince, the Moore family’s soon-to-be adopted daughter, Nephtalie, waited to come home. Her biological sister, Martine, was already home with the Moores. Continue reading “Where Are They Now: Seven Years After the Earthquake”

A Place Where No Child Should Ever Be

Amid the desolate hillsides outside Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia is a place no one should call home. It is the city’s largest garbage dump, where hundreds of families reside, making a living from the refuse. Until recently, the children of this impoverished community mostly avoided school — fearing bullying and discrimination. But now, for the first time, they have a safe space to learn, where they are loved and embraced by everyone.

Hop in the car. We have somewhere to take you.

You’re in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia — an arid tundra and bustling city, home to the largest concentrated group of people in this historically nomadic country. It’s icy cold outside. But now, you’re fastening your seatbelt in the backseat of an SUV and driving up into the crisp air of the hillsides just outside the city.

As deep ruts turn the car nearly 45 degrees, you hold onto the door to try and keep yourself upright. Dust billows outside your window where you begin to see plastic bags spotting the scraggily roadside — more and more of them the farther you drive.

The car summits one last hill and you see your destination — a concrete and wire fence enclosing a space of several square kilometers, every foot of it overflowing with trash.

You are at Ulaanbaatar’s largest garbage dump. But to the families and children you are coming here to visit, this place is home.

Spotted throughout the garbage dump, shelters like this one — built around the second post from the left — are home to an estimated 100 children and their families.


“It’s brutally magnificent in its desolation,” says Paul Kim, Holt’s director of Mongolia and Korea programs. “It takes your breath away, but in a really sad kind of way.”

Continue reading “A Place Where No Child Should Ever Be”

Top 16 Blogs of 2016

This past year, our organization celebrated 60 years of serving orphaned and vulnerable children and families in countries across the globe. Over these six decades, our work has touched the lives of thousands of people — people whose lives collectively tell the story of who we are as an organization. Their stories are the story of Holt International. And in 2016, many of these people once again graciously shared their life experiences with our readers.

For the first time, we held an adoptee essay contest, asking adoptees to share how adoption shapes or has shaped their identity. We received a number of thoughtful submissions, and featured the winning essay by Noel Hincha in our annual adoption magazine. I am happy to share that the essay penned by one of our runner-ups in the contest is among this year’s top most-viewed blogs of 2016!

Following last year’s trend, stories written by and about adoptees once again topped the list — receiving thousands of views on Facebook and the Holt blog. Among them is a letter one adoptee wrote to her late birth mother, grieving the fact that it was too late for them to meet; a story about a first-generation adoptee reuniting with the man who cared for him in Korea; and a piece by an adoptee from China who describes what the adoption experience was like for her.

Among our Top 16 Blogs of 2016, we also included five stories about our overseas programs — from a story written by a trailblazing woman in our unwed mothers program in Korea to a story about a boy who learned how to express himself for the first time at the Yesus Mena Deaf School that we support in Ethiopia.

And of course, stories by and about adoptive families are always popular among our readers — particularly among families new to the process who appreciate the insight and wisdom that veteran families have to offer. This year, six adoption stories had the most impact on our readers, including, at the top of the list, a heartfelt piece written under a pseudonym by an adoptive mom who wanted to share the truth about raising children with HIV. As more and more families adopt children with more involved and complex special needs, the experiences of these families become increasingly influential — inspiring other families to adopt children with HIV, congenital heart disease or, as one of our top stories explores in detail, Thalassemia.

As we reflect on the year 2016, and on the last 60 years, we thank the many, many adoptees, families, sponsors, donors, staff members, partners and children and families in our programs for your willingness to share what can be very personal and sometimes heart-wrenching experiences. You moved us. You inspired us. And perhaps most importantly, you instructed us. Every year, we continue to learn and grow from what you share with Holt staff and supporters. And we are so, so grateful for your being a part of our story, the Holt story. — Robin Munro, Managing Editor

Top Five Adoptee Stories











Krista in Korea: A Letter to My Birth Mother

Over the summer, Holt adoptee Krista Gause traveled on the Holt Heritage Tour to Korea. Before her departure, she wrote an honest and heartfelt letter to her birth mother, sharing about her life and grieving the fact that it was too late for them to meet.  Continue reading “Top 16 Blogs of 2016”

Davie Needs a Family!

DOB: 8/31/2012, China

7.12.2016 1

Davie came into care shortly after birth. He was found by police officers and taken to a welfare institute, where he remains today. In March 2016, at the age of 4, Davie had glaucoma surgery, and now has improved vision. Although he still needs to hold objects close to his eyes to see them clearly, he can navigate a room well and scribble with a pen.

Although delayed developmentally, Davie is still an active and happy 4-year-old who loves school and has a lot of friends. Even when frustrated, he is “still lovely,” his caregivers say. “You will want to cuddle and kiss him when you see his lovely appearance.”

At two-and-half, Davie began preschool, and was immediately fascinated by his new environment, crooking his head and exploring the toys and games. As fond as Davie was of his new surroundings, his teachers were even more enamored of him. “His teachers always want to cuddle him,” his caregivers say. At first, Davie played by himself and had no interest in interacting with the other children. But through love and patience, his teachers made him more comfortable. He now plays with the other children happily.

Davie loves water, playing outdoors, listening to music and trying new things. And when the day is over, he loves to cuddle up with his special quilt and drift off to sleep, resting up for another day of exploration and fun.

If you are interested in learning more about Davie, please contact Jessica Zeeb.

*Name changed

Holt Secures Grants to Reunite Children With Families in Cambodia

In Cambodia, there are many threats to family stability, and when parents or grandparents fall into hardship, they are forced to make difficult decisions about how to ensure their child or grandchild’s basic needs are met. In desperation, many parents will take the last resort — relinquishing their child to orphanage care. But through research and community collaboration funded by Save the Children, USAID and GHR Foundation grants, Holt hopes to create a model of services that keeps children out of institutions and with their families.

Krasaing Mean Chey Village
Sinat’s home in Krasaing Mean Chey Village near Kampot, Cambodia. Sinat, dressed in green, waves as Holt staff leave. Sinat’s grandson is standing in the front of the frame, wearing the Holt schoolbag his child sponsor in America helped purchase for him.

Last January, I was sitting under a tin-covered porch on a rough, wooden platform. Red-faced and sweating, I was not cutout for the heavy, exhausting heat of the Cambodian summer.

The shade of Sinat’s porch was welcome relief. Sinat’s house is a single-room structure, with green tin walls. Unlike many of the homes in rural Cambodia, her home is not built on stilts, which typically protects homes from flooding. For that reason, Sinat and her 15-year-old grandson sometimes sleep in their rice storage room, an additional structure behind the main house, elevated about four feet off the ground on thick, wooden stilts. Continue reading “Holt Secures Grants to Reunite Children With Families in Cambodia”

A Reading List for Internationally Adopted Kids

For children adopted internationally, books can provide a meaningful window into the culture to which they were born. Here, adoptive mom Riann Schell shares a reading list of some of her family’s favorites — including those deeply rooted in and about the culture of the author, and those whose themes transcend culture, place and time. 


“Please, just one more chapter?” This was the plea my mother heard as we gathered for a story before bed. We loved the adventures of Little Britches, cheered on the Ingalls family in Little House on the Prairie, and laughed at the cleverness of The Great Brain. Although read-alouds and chapter books defined the evenings, picture books filled the nooks and crannies of our days. When the library bookmobile came to town, we filled a bushel basket, and a long-distance aunt and uncle sent paper-wrapped parcels of secondhand books to our mailbox. Much of my childhood was defined by the stories in those pages.

My bookshelves today hold some of the same books, my childish handwriting inside the front cover. There are tattered paperbacks with thrift store stickers on the spine, antique editions of favorite classics, hardbound books bought during a stretch working at a bookstore in college, award-winning titles and pages yet unturned. Today, my family is nearly as diverse as the titles on those shelves, and I, too, hear the plea each evening, “Please, just one more chapter?” Continue reading “A Reading List for Internationally Adopted Kids”

5 Things You Need to Know About Adoption Through Holt!

Is 2017 the year?


Are you ready to take the first step in your adoption journey? If so, awesome! For a child in care, you may be the family that he or she has been waiting for. And we want to bring you together.

Fortunately, once you’ve made up your mind, taking the first step is easy. We offer free and convenient ways for you to learn more about adoption or you can get started on an application here.

We also want to tell you more about what makes our adoption programs unique.

It’s ALWAYS about what is best for the child. Read about Holt’s child-centered approach to how we serve children and families across the globe!

We don’t just do international adoption! We also unite children with families through domestic and infant adoption in some states. Read more about all the options we offer and the international or domestic eligibility requirements for parents!

Adoption is a lifelong process, and we stand by adoptees and their families for life. In addition to the adoption process we also have robust pre-adoption training and post-adoption support.

Adoption can be expensive, but we can help you overcome financial obstacles. We are open and transparent about our adoption fees and can help you find grants and other financial aid.

You don’t have to have it all figured out now! Attend a webinar or schedule a free consultation to learn more about the about the next steps!

I’m excited to see what we can do together to advocate for the world’s most vulnerable children.


Daniel Hespen
Family Recruitment
Holt International