On this blog, we share stories and updates about our work around the world. With reporting from Holt staff in the U.S. and overseas as well as contributions from adoptive parents, adoptees, sponsors and supporters, we strive to represent the heart, life and experiences of our extended “Holt Family.”
by Robin Munro, Senior Writer
Date of Birth: 8/1/01
Within the first few minutes of meeting Shen Ying*, I can tell: this is the funniest kid in school. A boy most adored by classmates and teachers. A class clown or class president. Maybe both. But definitely, well known by everyone.
Last July, I traveled to China with several Holt staff members. Our goal – to meet the children living in orphanages and foster care so that, upon return to the states, we could better advocate for their adoption. Toward the end of our trip, we journeyed to the far northern province of Jilin. Here, we met Shen Ying.
We enter a room to find four boys in motion, bouncing on giant balls or rolling around in soft tubing, teasing each other and making faces. Two of the boys, dressed in matching striped polos and shorts, look like twins. They are foster brothers, though not related, 8 and 9-years-old – happy, hyper, outgoing boys with telltale scars on their lips from cleft lip surgery. Shen Ying is the older of the two.
To Shen Ying, comedy hour has commenced. Aware of the language barrier, he chooses the comic medium of miming instead. He makes exaggerated movements with his lanky body and silly expressions with his face. His props – a humongous stuffed bear, a scarf, a tube. He poses for the camera. He dances around the room with the bear, also using it to playfully knock down another boy’s foam tube. Yes, he seems to possess the destructive tendencies of a typical 9-year-old boy. He also exudes intelligence, charm and charisma. I imagine him working in some creative field. But as a boy without a family name, his educational and employment opportunities in China are limited. I worry about the obstacles – the social stigmas – he will encounter if he grows to adulthood here.
“He’s very confident,” his foster mother tells us. She says Shen Ying is his teacher’s favorite in his 3rd grade class, and very popular with other children.
“Does he know anyone who’s been adopted?” asks Jessica, Holt’s Waiting Child program manager.
Through translation, he tells us he loves his foster mother very much, but knows he may be adopted someday.
Shen Ying is funny. He’s smart. But he’s also warm and kind, generously throwing his arms around his foster mother, around Sue Liu – the beloved Holt China office manager who often visits from Beijing – and even around Jessica and I as we leave. This boy so deserves a loving family. And I envy the family that gets to adopt him.
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* Name has been changed
Through candid (and often funny!) observations and heartwarming personal stories, a Holt adoptive mother shares the challenges and joys of parenting adopted children. Read more of Jane’s post adoption blogs by clicking here.
by Jane Ballback
The short answer is that we are so fortunate to live in Southern California, a melting pot of every conceivable ethnic and racial identity. People were, for the most part, endlessly curious, but kind.
As the children got older and were in high school, we actually experienced some of what I call “reverse discrimination.” All three of my children struggled some with math in high school. I hired tutors for all three of them because I wasn’t able to do the work, and my husband was too tired to do it at night. While they mastered all the concepts they needed to master, it was difficult for all of them. Each of them came to me at different times and asked me to write a note to their teacher saying they really were trying, and despite the fact that they were Asian, they simply were not math geniuses! By the time that it had happened with my third child, Stacee, I just couldn’t stop laughing!
Jaik did struggle with looking different than other people around him. Despite the fact that we live in a very ethnically diverse environment, we live on the small island where, for the most part, the population is Caucasian — a lot of them are blonde and blue eyed. So, until Jaik got to high school he did look different than most of his friends and classmates. Jaik’s reaction was to change his name when he was nine.
I know a lot of adoptive parents choose to keep their adopted children’s names. My husband and I also made a decision to keep the children’s Korean names as their middle names instead of their first names. My decision was born out of trying to limit the things my children were going to have to explain in their lives about why they were different or why they looked different from me and my husband.
• Jaik is named Jaik Joon Hwan,
• Brandon is Brandon In Hwan, and
• Stacee is Stacee Mee Sun.
We used their first and middle names together many times so that they got used to hearing that we were very comfortable with using both their American and their Korean names. I also decided to give Jaik’s name a different spelling. I had read in a book that in India the name Jay is spell “Jai’ — so I spelled his name as “Jai” and put a “k” on the end for “Jaik.” Read More
“Tom held Meski’s right hand in the air, and they talked about what each of the children would become in our society,” Nancy told a reporter of the “moving” ceremony held in their state capitol, Sacramento.
“There are kids all over the world who deserve and need love,” Nancy is quoted of saying about their decision to adopt internationally. “We literally traveled more than halfway around the world to get her, and we’re glad she found us. She’s brought us so much joy… I can’t imagine a life without Meski.”
Our journey began three years ago when we decided to adopt from China. We had put off having children until were were in a position to provide a good home. Lisa’s sister , who had already started her China adoption process, shared her experience with us, and we felt like this was a good way for us to begin.
After six months of beginning to assemble a dossier for China, we became discouraged by the wait times and decided that adopting a child from Mongolia may be a better option. After much time and expense, our agency sent our completed dossier to Mongolia. Many months passed without much information. Then, one night, we were told that our agency would no longer be handling adoptions in Mongolia.
It was hard to describe how we felt at the time–stunned, depressed.
Three months later we realized that we still wanted to have a little girl, and our hearts were set on a toddler. We considered domestic adoption, investigated it with our social worker and came to the realization that we could adopt an infant, but there would be many unknowns.
After considering this for a time, we decided that we wanted to adopt a young girl with minor special needs from China. We were told that the wait times for these children are much shorter. After all of this time we had come full circle! Deciding on the needs that we were willing to accept for our family was not easy. After much deliberation and investigation, we informed Holt that a child with bilateral or unilateral cleft lip and palate would be a good fit for our family.
Our referral came through in record time! When we finally arrived in China, our guide took us to the Social Welfare office to meet Kate and have the “hand off”. Of course we had seen many heart warming hand offs on the Internet, but ours was a little different. Lisa and I were all tears of joy to meet “Chun-Chun” (pronounced Chew-in-Chew-in). She, however, wanted nothing to do with us. She wailed each time someone pointed to us and said “Ba-Ba, Ma-Ma”. Finally, I took her in my lap and tried to console her. She just went limp and wailed at the ceiling.
The next two weeks really put Lisa and me to the test. There were many tears, and we felt really inadequate…but I’d do it all again in a heartbeat.
Today Kate is a vivacious little girl. She gives us hugs and kisses, whispers very important things in our ears, swims like a fish, and surprises us with entire sentences in English. She has to watch “Cinderella” every day and tells me: “No, that’s not a monkey in the mirror. That’s Kate!”
–Gary and Lisa Falkenberg
We hope and pray that this Christmas brings you a deep sense of God’s enduring peace and love, and that you feel blessed and truly appreciated.
On behalf of all of us at Holt International, and on behalf of the children we serve together, thank you.