Announcing the first annual adoptee scholarship contest!

We are excited to announce the first annual Holt International Scholarship Contest!

Three adoptees will each win $500, thanks to the generous contributions of donors.

This opportunity is open to any international adoptee who is a 2017 high school graduate planning to attend higher education, or any international adoptee currently enrolled in a university, trade school, technical training program or other eligible educational pursuit.

To apply, please send your contact information to Holt International, along with an artistic expression that answers the question:

“How does or how has adoption shaped your identity?” Continue reading “Announcing the first annual adoptee scholarship contest!”

Tomorrow I Will Meet a Biological Family Member for the First Time in My Life

In searching for her birth mom, Holt adoptee Krista Gause meets her first biological family member — though not the one she expected. This post originally appeared on Krista’s blog, Adopted and Korean

A few weeks ago it was January 17, the first time in my life that I recognized and memorialized my birth mother’s death. It was quiet and it was sad, but it went on like any other day of my life. And then a couple weeks later I went to a doctor’s appointment.

“No husband today?”

“Nope just me, his sister is getting married tomorrow so he’s super busy at the office preparing for the day off.”

“That’s so exciting, how is he doing? Only a few weeks away!”

“He’s doing good! Taking care of me really well…he’s a little nervous.”

“That’s normal, how about you?”

“Me? I’m doing really good. A little nervous too, but mostly just excited.”

“What are you most excited about?”

“Well you know…I’m adopted… Continue reading “Tomorrow I Will Meet a Biological Family Member for the First Time in My Life”

A Stork Bound for South Jersey

Twenty-two years ago, William Davis wasn’t just adopted by a family. He was adopted by a region. Now, he aims to give back to the community that gave him a love for baseball, and a place to call home. William’s essay was a finalist in Holt’s 2016 adoptee essay contest. 

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William with his parents at his medical school’s “white coat” ceremony.

I don’t remember my parents ever telling me that I was adopted. I certainly knew at an early age; I remember responding to another child’s, “Do you know that you’re adopted?” with an off-handed, “Of course,” when I was 7 or so. I wasn’t that perceptive, though, as apparently my parents had told me when I was even younger, showing me videos of me coming home from Philadelphia International Airport and pictures of my brief time in South Korea from time to time.

I think that molded how I thought of adoption. From my (very basic) understanding of cognitive development, really young children’s brains aren’t entirely convinced that something has actually happened if they don’t experience it firsthand. That meant that being adopted was just a word, something that might not even exist, especially compared to all the hugs and kisses and band-aids and bedtimes from Mom and Dad. Continue reading “A Stork Bound for South Jersey”

Why All Adoptees Need a Certificate of Citizenship

Holt adoptee Susan Cox highlights the importance of securing a certificate of citizenship, and urges all adoptees and adoptive parents to take this critical step. Susan also serves as Holt’s vice president of policy and external affairs. 

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A childhood photo of Susan Cox holding her certificate of citizenship after joining her family through adoption from Korea.

When I was adopted in 1956, I came to the U.S. with a Korean passport and a U.S. visa. I did not have a birth certificate then, and still don’t. The day I became a naturalized citizen was a big day and my parents impressed upon me how important it was.

To get a work permit as a teenager, I had only my certificate of citizenship (naturalization papers) and Korean passport. Because those two documents could not be replaced, we made the trip to the nearest immigration office and presented the documents in person so that they would never be out of sight.

I’m grateful that my parents took this responsibility seriously and took the necessary steps to provide me with the protections granted by U.S. citizenship. I’m keenly aware that many adoptees did not have the same experience and that some of them are vulnerable without a certificate of citizenship as adults. Continue reading “Why All Adoptees Need a Certificate of Citizenship”

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.

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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”

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

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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”

Why Is It Important to Have a Special Needs Heritage Tour?

In October of this year, Jordan Love traveled to Korea as part of the Happy Together tour for adoptees with special needs. This was his second time traveling on the Happy Together tour. And this time, he brought back with him some fresh insight about the experience, including a deeper understanding of why it’s so important to have a birth country tour just for adoptees with special needs. 

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Jordan with Dr. Cho, the long-time resident doctor at the Ilsan Center in Korea.

At the end of October this year, I had the great opportunity to travel to Korea on the Happy Together tour. This tour is designed specifically for Korean adoptees who have a special need — giving them the opportunity to experience the Korean culture in a variety of activities and also have opportunities to explore their adoption. I first traveled on this tour back in 2011, which was also the first time I returned to Korea since I was adopted at 4 and a half years old. Looking back on my trip in 2011, the whole week seemed like a whirlwind of new experience and discovery. This trip, I felt a lot more comfort and was able to be more relaxed as I knew what to expect.

Upon reflection, I think there are two main things I brought back with me from the Happy Together tour to Korea. Continue reading “Why Is It Important to Have a Special Needs Heritage Tour?”

A Story I Won’t Stop Sharing

For most of her life, Holt adoptee Molly Martin viewed her adoption as something that just “happened.”  But after traveling to Thailand to meet her birth mom, she developed a completely different outlook — and a deeper understanding of how loved she truly is. Molly’s story was a finalist in Holt’s 2016 adoptee essay contest. 

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For someone who was adopted at a young age, being adopted seems, for lack of a better word, normal. For as long as I can remember, except for a few blurry memories, being adopted is all that I have known. I don’t really remember what it was like not to be adopted, so being adopted has always seemed somewhat natural and definitely not really anything worth talking about. However, at the same time, being adopted isn’t normal. While I can’t speak for all kids that have been adopted, I think a lot of us, at some point or another, have entertained the thought that our situations aren’t normal. Surely, not looking like my family wasn’t normal and the thought that my biological family did not want me was always in the back of my mind. But those aren’t exactly things that most kids want to talk about. Continue reading “A Story I Won’t Stop Sharing”

The Story Behind The Photo: This Way to Your Birth Family

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This photo shows the sign on the side of the highway listing “Campina Grande” that we — me, my mother and our three family friends — saw as we drove to meet my birth family. This was the sign that literally pointed us in the direction of our most unbelievable, loving and fulfilling adoption reunion.

I searched for my birth family for 22 years before locating them. One year after that, my mother and I, along with our family friends, embarked on the journey to come face to face with as many birth family members as possible. Continue reading “The Story Behind The Photo: This Way to Your Birth Family”

The Story Behind The Photo: When You Don’t See Adoption

Adoptees growing up in a transracial adoptive family rarely have the option of keeping their adoption private. But for some adoptive families — domestic and even international — others don’t always see adoption. Below, Brazilian adoptee Carmen Hinckley shares her experience of growing up the daughter of a single mother who shares her same race, including when she chooses to share about her adoption and when she chooses to keep this part of her life private. 

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I am an international adoptee. I was born in Brazil and adopted as an infant by my single mother. My mother and I are the same race. Our facial features are strikingly similar, causing us to look as though we’re related. Both of us have heard comments from friends and strangers alike for my entire life, about our similarities. For anyone who doesn’t know my family and how it was created, there is no question as to whether I am biologically related to my adoptive mother.

I am able to “hide behind” sharing the same race as my mother. I share that I’m an adoptee with people that I’m comfortable around, and that I feel are important enough in my life to have this information. If I don’t feel that there is a reason to reveal that I’m adopted, I can quietly omit this information, leaving the other person none the wiser. For people with whom I’m comfortable talking about this, I share it to reveal a part of myself that they wouldn’t otherwise know. I also share it to become closer to them, and with the willingness to answer many questions that will undoubtedly arise. Still, I wait before revealing this part of myself because it does increase my vulnerability and opens my heart. I will typically only divulge this right away if I am talking to another adoptee or another Brazilian. Continue reading “The Story Behind The Photo: When You Don’t See Adoption”