The Doig family visits their daughter’s foster family in Thailand — a reunion that shows just how meaningful and enduring the foster experience can be.
Being back in Thailand — once again riding in a van with two HSF social workers to our daughter’s foster home — was surreal. Six and a half years ago, we took this same trip in a similar van, after just having met our daughter for the first time. I still have vivid memories of that day, working our way through Bangkok traffic with our grieving daughter sitting on my husband’s lap. I was nervous, uncertain what to expect, and yet eager to glean any information I could from our daughter’s foster family about her personality and the place she had lived the first year and a half of her life. That first visit, when we met Elizabeth’s foster family for the first time, we watched as our daughter relaxed and became at ease as she navigated her familiar environment. She blossomed and came to life that first visit, and it was our first glimpse into her true personality and an introduction to what her life had been like before we met her. Continue reading “A Place That Will Always Belong To Her”
Together, Mrs. Yang and Mrs. Kim have fostered over 140 children in Korea. Last month, they visited Holt families in Oregon — an experience they, and the adoptees and adoptive families they met, will never forget.
Mrs. Yang sat in a room at Holt’s international headquarters in Oregon — sobbing.
She clutched the glossy photobook to her chest then set it down to cover her face with her hands. The photobook was sent to her by a Holt family, and full of pictures and descriptions about how their son was doing. Her shoulders rose and fell with emotion and a Holt Korea social worker and translator, who was helping me with the interview, put an arm around her. “Separation is not easy,” she said to me. Continue reading “140 Children, Forever Loved From Korea”
A misconception we often hear is that Holt International is only an adoption agency. This probably stems from our long history in international adoption, but in truth, Holt serves far more children through programs that help them stay with their families.
At Holt, we in fact consider international adoption to be the last, best option for children. Holt’s model of adoption is child-centric, meaning that we uphold the needs of the child as our number one priority. Through this model, international adoption is the final effort we make to ensure that every child has a loving and secure home.
We believe, first and foremost, that every child deserves to grow and thrive in the loving care of their family, whenever possible.
To that end, we strengthen families who are on the edge and need just a little assistance to stay together. We do this through nutritional, financial, health, education and counseling services, which provide the tools and resources families need to independently care for their children. These programs would not be possible without our generous child sponsors!
Unfortunately, and far too often, children are unable to stay with their birth family for a variety of reasons. While we strive to reunite children with their families when this happens, many children remain growing up in orphanages. When that is the case, our goal is to find a family through domestic adoption — which gives a child the opportunity to grow up in the country and culture of his or her birth.
Finally, if the child is still waiting, then we begin to look at international adoption as a way to find a permanent and loving family. We understand the challenges that come with a child being adopted into a new country and culture, and so when international adoption becomes our only choice, we work very hard to make sure that the parents are as prepared as possible to care for the child. We have systems in place to prepare and support both the family and the adoptee — from the moment they apply to the moment they come home, and again when they need support, at any time throughout their lives.
Each child’s journey to a loving and secure home is different. But when you are matched, rest assured that every option was explored, and that international adoption was the best option for your child.
While traveling on Holt’s 2012 Adult Adoptee Heritage Tour of Korea, Kim Buckley met the foster family that cared for her before joining her family in the U.S. This piece originally appeared in The Daily Nebraskan, the daily newspaper of The University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
I found out why there is a stereotype of Asians being bad drivers during a trip to South Korea this summer. As it turns out, narrow streets and speeders make for impatient drivers who narrowly avoid accidents.
Most of the children here don’t know they are HIV+. It’s too risky.
Their teachers don’t know. Their neighbors definitely don’t know because if they did, they would have to move again. They’ve moved eight times in ten years, all 28 children. If their teachers knew, they would be isolated and discriminated against or even kicked out of their pricey private school — a school they attend because they don’t have to inform the principal of their disease.
Most of these children don’t even know about the disease in their blood, the disease that killed many of their parents, robbed them of their life in their villages and that was likely passed to them at birth.
They just know that they have strict rules to follow.
Absolutely no fighting. No rough housing. If they get a cut or a scratch, they have their own first aid kit. And they have Mr. Huang.
“The kids are happy now,” Mr. Huang says, his face worn and tired, his spiky, graying hair hinting at his age.
When children pass through the living room of the apartment, they stop to grab his hands or talk to him and his eyes soften as he greets them lovingly.
“They are too young,” Mr. Huang says. “They don’t understand their fate. But as they get older, they will learn. The discrimination will start. They will always have to keep their secret.”
When Bridget and Joe got an unexpected call asking if they’d like to welcome two teenagers into their home, they initially thought there was no way they were ready for that. But the alternative weighed heavily on their hearts. If they didn’t say yes, who would? In the process of becoming parents to a brother and sister pair, they’ve learned a lot about love, how to serve vulnerable kids and the incredible need for foster and adoptive families.
They had every reason to say no.
Joe and Bridget Beal already had two toddler-age girls at home. They’d just moved. They’d never parented teenagers. And at 26 and 29 years old, the age gap between them and the 12- and 15-year-olds they were asked to parent was thin enough to raise constant eyebrows when introducing themselves as mom and dad. The sole provider for his family, Joe had also just taken a pay cut in order to take a new pastoral position at a church he loved.
“We were broke,” Joe says, laughing. “Bridget had just started working again. It had been four or five years since she’d been working outside the home. We were just getting settled in a new community. It was a lot of change, a lot of transition.”
“It was so fast. We were driving to my mom’s house and we just got this call from Hannah and Skyler’s caseworker and she just threw it all out on the table,” Joe says. “In bated silence for the rest of the drive, all I was thinking is I have to find a way out of this. At first I was like, no way. I’m a mess, we’re a mess. But thirty minutes later, we already knew that we were going to answer this call with a yes — whatever that meant.”
A crisis is happening in Oregon. It’s a crisis that you probably won’t hear on the news. A crisis you may not even know about. A crisis that’s affecting children in your local community — children who attend your kids’ schools and live around your block.
Children in Oregon’s foster care system — and in foster care systems around the U.S. — are in desperate need of permanent, loving families.
Holt’s headquarters are in Eugene, Oregon, and when we learned about the foster care crisis happening right here in our home state, we knew we had to step up our efforts to advocate for these children — just as we have advocated for children around the world for over 60 years. Whether in Ethiopia, India, China or Oregon, there is no greater tragedy than a child losing their family. Our mission is to find permanent, loving families for children who truly need them.
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
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”
Holt Sahathai Foundation — Holt’s trusted partner in Thailand — celebrates 40 years of commendable service to children.
Andy Voelz was adopted from Thailand in 1986 at the age of 5 to a loving family in Paris, Illinois. In 2005, he returned to Thailand with his dad to reconnect to the culture and visit Holt Sahathai Foundation (HSF), Holt’s much-respected and sole partner in Thailand since 1975, and the agency that placed Andy with his family. On his trip — a college graduation present from his parents — Andy was able to reconnect with his foster family and HSF staff.
“I remember my parents used to send donations to HSF and letters of how I was doing as I grew,” Andy says. “Meeting them was a profound experience. It was a surprise even to my dad to discover that all the same workers that had diligently worked on my case were still active in new roles at HSF.” Continue reading “A City of Angels”
Facing an unplanned pregnancy, Napha, a college student in Thailand, made the difficult decision to place her baby for adoption. But when she learned that Holt Sahathai Foundation could help with support and resources she needed to raise her daughter, everything changed.
Napha* looked down at her swollen belly, six months along with her first child, anguished over the decision before her. No longer able to hide her pregnancy, she had recently dropped out of school — one of the top universities in Bangkok — where she was in her final year of studying to be a teacher. Her boyfriend, the father of her baby, left her shortly after learning of the pregnancy. Her parents knew nothing, and because of the strong stigma against unwed pregnancy in Thailand, she intended to keep it that way. At just 22 years old, Napha was afraid, without a home and alone. So she picked up the phone.
The number she called was an unplanned pregnancy hotline where she got in touch with Jintana Nontapouraya, executive director of Holt Sahathai Foundation (HSF), Holt’s longtime partner organization in Thailand. HSF works with women like Napha who are experiencing unplanned pregnancies. They offer counseling to help women make a decision for themselves and their babies. And regardless of whether they choose to parent or relinquish their child for adoption, HSF provides these women with a safe place to live, prenatal nutrition and, if they do parent, opportunities for training and education needed to provide for themselves and their baby.
While a difficult decision was still before her, Napha was no longer alone.