Surviving, Learning, Laughing: An Adoptee’s View

As children grow into late adolescence and early adulthood, I think all parents are probably curious about how their children have felt about their own childhood.  Often children don’t think about it or don’t have a way to express their experiences.

To my complete surprise, our daughter Stacee wrote about herself and our family in her college essay (she is now a junior at UC, Santa Cruz).

Please enjoy her essay and also enjoy getting to know Stacee a little bit better.  When she’s done with her finals this quarter, I’m going to ask her to start blogging with me. –Jane Ballback, guest blogger

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Introducing Jane’s daughter, Stacee

by Stacee Ballback

Looking at my family portrait, you might notice a lack of consistency. My brothers, Jaik and Brandon, are Korean like myself.  My Aunt Bea Bea is Mexican.  My other aunt Pranita is Indian.  And the rest of my family is Caucasian. This generates a lot of questions and a lot of stares from people. Sure, we’re all very different, but one thing we all share is a strong bond of love, mutual respect and support for each other.

I was born named Mec Sun Kim. Five months later, I was adopted and my name changed to Stacee Ballback. I can’t tell you much about the experience because I can’t remember it, but I know 1 started out a sad baby. I think being taken from my mother at birth instead of being held by her and feeling her love created an emptiness in my heart that remained until I became a Ballback. At five months old, I was given a new home and a new life. My mom and dad, along with my brothers, quickly filled the emptiness in my heart with the family I had been missing and needing.

After I settled into my new life, I became much happier because I knew I had a loving family behind me no matter what. The most influential people in my life are my mom and dad. My mom is the strongest, most independent woman I know. She presides over our family and we refer to her as “Alpha Dog” because she makes every final decision. My dad is much more passive than my mom and has a childlike tendency about him that makes him spacey and forgetful. My mom is organized. When we have dinner, she often ends up pulling out a typed paper with topics and lists of things she wants to discuss concerning vacations, holidays, household chores, etc. Needless to say, you can often walk out of one of her dinners feeling like you just got out of an extremely productive business meeting. However, all neurotic tendencies aside, my mom has taught me valuable lessons as I’ve grown older. She taught me to be independent and never to be a follower, but a leader. Continue reading “Surviving, Learning, Laughing: An Adoptee’s View”

On This Special Day

Through the sharing of photos and memories, Randa Hazzard remembers the day she met her sister, Kait. The Hazzards began their own adoption journey to Ethiopia earlier this year….

by Randa Hazzard

Randa at the Des Moines Airport, holding Kait for the first time.

Today is an important day for my family. On this day, 23 years ago, we picked up my sister, Kait, at the airport in Des Moines.  I remember being so filled with excitement waiting for someone to step off the plane with Kait in their arms. We had given Kait a special blanket to be wrapped in, so we would know which baby she was. Up until that point, all we had was a photo taken shortly after her birth. I had kept a photo of her in my room and looked at it often, wondering what she would be like. Little did I know, we would grow up to be so close, so alike, and such good friends.

On December 8th, we always celebrate her coming into our family, and she always tells me how much it means to her.

Once our little guy joins the family, we will most definitely celebrate his special day every year, as well. Thinking about this brings tears to my eyes. I am so thankful for Kait. I can’t even begin to imagine us not having each other.

As I have said before, adoption is amazing!  I Love you Kaitlin Kim! I Love everything about you.

Randa, Kait and Kyle with Grandma Holt.

You are the best sister I could ever have!

Follow the Hazzard family on the journey to their son, here.

Want to learn more about the wonderful journey of adoption?  Click here to learn more.

Surviving, Learning, Laughing: Too Good to be True

Through candid (and often funny!) observations and heartwarming personal stories, a Holt adoptive mother shares the challenges and joys of parenting adopted children

by Jane Ballback

I mentioned in my last blog that all three of my children had very different reactions to their relinquishment and adoption. In this blog I want to talk specifically about my son Jaik who has never shown or expressed an interest in — or any curiosity about — his adoption, nor does he seem particularly interested in anything related to it.

When I started teaching the classes for Holt he was in his late adolescence. Now that I’m doing this blog, I sat down one more time to talk to him about my participation in the blog and how I was telling his stories. He listened very politely to the whole thing and when I got finished he said (in Jaik’s very clear way), “I know you are very interested in all this, Mom, I simply am not.”

I actually do think that he does care about his relinquishment and his adoption but for his own reasons he just is not, in any way, ready to deal with it.

I recently read a very interesting book on this subject. The book is called, Being Adopted, the Lifelong Search for Self, by David Brodzinsky, Marshall D. Schechter, and Robin M. Harris. This book along with several other good books, are listed under the links “Post Adoption Services/Recommended Books on Holt’s website”.

This is the first book I’ve found that mentions in the introduction of the book that there really are vast differences in the way that children react to their relinquishment and adoption. There are some children that are so happy, so relieved, so pleased to be within a family that they don’t have a great deal of reaction to their early life.

What’s also interesting about this book is that it follows adoptees all through their life cycle. I’m busy reading the book because my boys are now 23 and my daughter Stacee is 20; and I’m very interested in now knowing how their adoption issues could play out in their young adult and middle adult years. It’s a fascinating book.

Despite Jaik’s reluctance to talk about his adoption, Jaik had some “adopted behaviors.” Let me describe an incident that taught me a great deal. Jaik is pretty much the perfect kid. Continue reading “Surviving, Learning, Laughing: Too Good to be True”

A New Beginning…A Powerful Connection


A message from Steve Kalb, camp director

As another Adoptee Camp season is placed in the books, the dust begins to settle from the frantic pace of my summer camp adventures.  Back in my Eugene office, I close my eyes and take a deep breath, inhaling a sense of relative calm before I begin my article.  As I exhale slowly, my eyes open and begin to focus on the blinking cursor and blank page before me.  The calm quickly fades to a light panic.

“How?” I ask myself.

How can I possibly describe everything the campers have taught me?  How can I convey to readers the beauty and value of the Adoptee community?  How can the strength and urgency of their voice be turned into a newsletter?  I fumble through several iterations; reading, re-reading, deleting, shaking my head as I struggle to get it “just right”.  In spite of my desperate efforts to capture their voice, I sense the soul and poignancy of their wisdom evaporating with each keystroke.  Frustrated, I decide to move on to another project.  As I close the document, it hits me; “Just let them tell their stories!”……..

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Thirteen-year old Allison discusses her life-changing experiences at Holt adoptee camp and encourages others to join her on next summer’s adventures

by Allison Fuchs

My name is Allison Fuchs. This summer was my fifth year attending Oregon Holt camp. When I was younger, I had a lot of unanswered questions in my mind; some were more important than others. This year, I finally realized that many of my questions should be asked.

I think Holt camp is very important for adoptees. It teaches us that there are other people our age who have faced the same problems we have. It’s a great way to share a special bond with another adoptee.

The most rewarding part of camp is seeing how dedicated the staff is. Making sure the the campers have fun and learn who they are, is the staff’s number one goal. To top it off, they don’t get paid for any of it! I truly admire the level of commitment they give.

Adoptee camp helped me so much in everyday life. It helps me make new friends every year and has helped me realize that it wasn’t my fault I was adopted. This was always something I wondered until I asked it at camp. I finally understood that it is never the adoptee’s fault. Never.

I want to tell adoptees that they are special to me. Even if I don’t know them, I still feel very passionate about them. I think of all adoptees as my extended family. It’s a terrific feeling and I hope they feel the same way. Continue reading “A New Beginning…A Powerful Connection”

Surviving, Learning, Laughing: Introducing Jane

Through candid (and often funny!) observations and heartwarming personal stories, a Holt adoptive mother shares the challenges and joys of parenting adopted children

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For the past three years, Holt adoptive parent Jane Ballback has shared her adoption stories with families waiting to bring their children home. An adoptive parent for 24 years, Jane speaks at parent training classes led by Holt Social Worker Mike Guinn. Mike offers the formal training. Jane presents the personal experiences relating to the issues being discussed.

“I provide the stories that bring the theories alive and help new parents figure out what they are about to face,” says Jane. “Everyone loves a good story, and mine are real, relatable and memorable. Adoption concepts are rather abstract and hard to explain until you understand how the theories play out in real life.”

Starting today, Jane will share her thoughts and stories on Holt’s blog once a week. The theories and issues discussed will be relevant to new adoptive families as well as families who have had their children home for some time. Our hope is that Jane’s blogs will serve as an educational tool for adoptive parents and also as a catalyst for candid, meaningful discussion.

Feel free to comment on Jane’s blog entries with your own suggestions, questions and personal stories as they relate to the topic being discussed.

Jane’s daughter, Stacee, will also occasionally be joining her mother as a guest blogger.

The following is a message from Jane:

Hello, my name is Jane and I am one of the luckiest women in the world. I have been married forty years to the “boy” I met in high school, I’ve had a fascinating and rewarding career as a Human Resource Consultant and Career Coach, and now that I’m retired I get to do volunteer work for non-profits whose missions are near and dear to my heart.

The best part of this story, though, is that along the way my husband and I adopted three children from Korea, who are now young adults. Being a parent was the hardest job I’ve ever done, and watching them grow and develop has been the experience of a lifetime.

I’ve always been an intensively curious woman and learning to be an adoptive parent was one of my greatest endeavors. Determined to be the best parent I could, I talked to adoption experts, read everything I could find about parenting adoptive children, and when I was “in over my head”, I worked with a gifted child psychologist, who is herself, adopted.

I was, by no means a “perfect” parent. Along the way I stumbled, survived, learned and laughed. The idea for this blog came out of the volunteer work I do for Holt International. For three years now I’ve been working with the Southern California social worker, helping to train parents who are waiting for their new arrival. He does the formal training and introduces the adoption theories and ideas – I provide the stories that bring the theories alive, and help new parents figure out what they are about to face. Everyone loves a good story, and mine are real, relatable and memorable.

I thought my first story would be about my daughter, Stacee who is now twenty years old and a junior in college. I want to introduce Stacee to you because she will periodically be blogging with me. I have often been asked how it is possible to love a child that is not your own. I understand the question — it’s just difficult to answer, so I often tell this story.

I actually did forget once, that I was not my daughter’s “real” mother. When Stacee was three she had a persistent fever and was turning bright red. After a few days of trying to figure this out, my pediatrician told me to drive directly to the Children’s Hospital and get her admitted. He suspected, rightfully so, that she had Kawasoki’s Disease. This is an unusual disease, common among Asians with just these symptoms. It’s a very treatable disease, but time was of the essence and the result of not treating it was the possibility of permanent damage to Stacee’s heart.

As I sat in the admitting department, with this hot, bright red child on my lap, I was distraught to say the least. The nurse began getting a history from me, Continue reading “Surviving, Learning, Laughing: Introducing Jane”

Where Your Paths Meet…

In honor of National Adoption Month, Holt adoptive mother of 2-year-old Zoey (shown in the video) and adoptee Kimberly Williams Shuck created a video of children who came home to their families through the journey of adoption! She hopes that it will inspire others to consider adoption as a wonderful way to build a family.

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I reached out to thirty or so of my friends from the adoption world and they provided me with a picture of their children and families brought together through adoption! I knew that anyone considering adoption had to see the faces of the children who had found their families, making one less orphan in the world.

I will do everything I can to be a voice for those who cannot speak for themselves and spread the word about the miracle of adoption.

Adoption has its struggles, financially and emotionally for all involved, but just know that in the end God has a clear- cut plan for where each and every person’s path meets.

I hope that you will watch the video and pass it along, unknowing of who it may inspire and ultimately lead to new adoption journeys.

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Learn more about how you can spread the word about the wonderful journey of adoption…

Start your adoption journey today!…Click here to learn more.

An Angel in Adoption

Holt adoptee Michelle Sherwood receives special recognition for her advocacy of children in need of families

by Robin Munro, Senior Writer

He flips. He cartwheels. He can even do “the worm.” Jayson hams it up for the camera as KSPR News, a station in Springfield, Missouri, films his acrobatic dance moves. “Blood rushes to my head and I like the way it feels,” he says, smiling and trying to catch his breath, his arms casually dangling over the gymnastics bars.

KSPR News has chosen to feature Jayson in a Wednesday’s Child segment, a weekly program designed to help children in foster care find homes. KSPR News anchor – and Holt adoptee – Michelle Sherwood introduces and narrates the segment. She also interviews Jayson during filming.

“If you could have three wishes, what would you wish for?” she asks him.

“To find a family, for me to see my sisters every day, and for me to go to heaven,” he says, before bouncing back to gymnastics practice.

Michelle and her team tailor segments to the children’s interests – they take them to interactive museums, to farms, to the zoo. One baseball-enthusiast received a lesson from the local team. Another got an art lesson. As well as behind-the-scenes work, Michelle participates in many of the segments, shooting hoops or baking cakes, engaging every child.

“We try to bring out the best in these kids,” she says.

Since the program appeared in May, many of the kids featured on Wednesday’s Child have found families. Michelle’s efforts to show children at their best also caught her local representative’s attention. In October, Missouri Congressman Roy Blunt presented her with an Angel in Adoption award for her advocacy on behalf of children who need homes.

On this, Michelle is quite humble. “Although I am thrilled and honored to be accepting a congressional award for my volunteerism,” she wrote on her blog, “it does not even compare to the daily contributions our social workers make.”

Michelle’s efforts, however, are anything but modest. She began lobbying for Wednesday’s Child at KSPR News over a year ago, after learning a disturbing statistic about the community her station serves. Greene County has the highest rates of child abuse and neglect in the state of Missouri, a statistic correlated with the high number of children in the foster care system.

“Why,” she thought, “are we not doing something for these kids to help find them homes?”

As a broadcast journalist, Michelle found a tremendous resource at her fingertips. She discovered Wednesday’s Child, a common vehicle used by news stations across the country to promote adoption, and initiated partnership with The Adoption Exchange – a national child welfare organization that recruits adoptive families for foster children. The segments were an instant success. Continue reading “An Angel in Adoption”

Sign Up for Next Summer’s Heritage Tours Today

Adoptees discovering their homeland and heritage

by Robin Munro, senior writer

For Shannon Landry – a 16-year-old Nebraskan girl adopted as a baby from China – life so far has mostly revolved around school and soccer, friends and family. Returning to China rarely crossed her mind, though she thought it would be cool, she says, to see where she was born.

But from the time she turned 10, her mother told her that one day, they would go.

That day arrived this past summer, when she embarked on a two-week tour of China. She expected a cool adventure – an adventure that has since become a lifelong journey.

“I just feel like there’s so much more I could learn about me. Before, I never really thought about it,” Shannon says, “but now that I’ve had the experience, I don’t want to lose it.”

Joining 21 other adoptees and their families, Shannon and her mom, Melanie, traveled to China on a Holt heritage tour. The adoptees – all girls from this country of the one-child policy – explored the land of their birth, together. They climbed the Great Wall and toured the Forbidden City. They learned to cook traditional Chinese dishes, studied calligraphy and honed their chopstick skills. On a cruise down the Li River, they saw cormorant fisherman and water buffalo. They traveled to a panda reserve, where some even held these squirmy, soft-furred vegetarians, subdued by honey on the paw. They biked and cruised and climbed through China, ending where they began their adoption journey – at the White Swan Hotel in Guangzhou, the southern city home to the American Consulate, where all adoptive families secure their child’s visa.

But for many of the girls, the most meaningful part of the trip occurred on separate journeys – journeys to their finding places, their orphanages and foster families. Here, they found a connection to their past.

When Shannon visited her orphanage, she broke down in tears. “I got to meet the old [orphanage] director, which was really cool,” she says. “It kind of felt like I had a connection with her.” Shannon spent the morning at the orphanage, holding and playing with the children. She met children with special needs, a characteristic shared by many of those needing adoptive families in China. “That definitely impacted me the most,” she says. “That stood out for me and I think it did for a lot of the girls.”

Holt heritage tours are designed for adoptees and their families to experience the customs, culture and history of their birth country. Central to the tour philosophy is the adoptee’s personal story, and personal journey. To recreate this story, Holt strives to coordinate visits to adoptees’ orphanages and reunions with foster families, whenever possible. Continue reading “Sign Up for Next Summer’s Heritage Tours Today”

Holt Adoptee Camps

A mother’s perspective

When my nine-year-old declared there was “no way” he would go to Holt Adoptee camp for a whole week, I was disappointed. I was sure it would be a good experience, but he didn’t want to sleep away from home. I considered the usual parental options: persuasion, bribery and coercion! Fortunately, I soon discovered Holt’s day camp. Not only was this one-day camp much more acceptable to my eldest, but because the age range was from 5-16, his younger siblings could participate too. And parents were welcome!

The kids and I arrived at Camp Angelos promptly at 9 am, and Harry immediately spotted a friend from home on the basketball court. Before I could even apply sunscreen, he was off, disappearing into a crowd of black-haired, rough and tumble boys. Five-year-old Betty darted across the lawn to the playground. Theo, who is 8 and quite shy in new situations, walked with me to the registration table. Camp leaders Michael and Steve greeted us with friendly smiles and gathered the parents and kids into a big circle for some icebreakers. It was refreshing to be in a group of families similar to our own: kids of all complexions, with parents who resembled them very little, performing motherly and fatherly duties – encouraging, cuddling, slipping away for potty breaks as needed. Many of the kids were reserved at first, but the staff’s enthusiasm was contagious.

Steve invited the younger day campers to team up with a group of older, week-long campers – veterans now, with three days of Holt camp under their belts!  And all the day campers, except one, followed their new teenage mentors onto the lawn for games and icebreakers. Theo stuck to me like Velcro, and I was grateful that the staff and other parents were totally accepting. He participated gamely in the adoptive parent workshop, writing a list of words that described his parents and another that described him (“Mom? How do you spell ‘good climber’?”).  But when one of the camp counselors invited him personally to join in a game of freeze tag, this was too tempting, and I didn’t see him again until lunch!

While the kids played and participated in age-appropriate workshops about race and adoption, the parents were invited to consider adoption from our children’s point of view. We heard from teen and adult adoptees and had the chance to listen, ask questions, and share our own experiences with race and racism. I took home an uncomfortable truth: all of our minority kids, regardless of country of origin, experience racism on a regular basis. Both positive and negative stereotypes, as well as nosy and inappropriate questions about where our kids are from or “what” exactly they are, are upsetting to our children. Adoptive parents often want to minimize these encounters, but we need to acknowledge them. Continue reading “Holt Adoptee Camps”