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. Read More

In honor of National Adoption Month, the Eugene Register-Guard featured the adoption story of a local Holt family. Four years ago, Colleen and Steve Thompson adopted their daughter Celia through the Waiting Child program, now the China Child of Promise program — an accelerated adoption process for children born with correctable, manageable conditions. Celia was born without the front of her foot, but during the adoption process she also developed a skin condition that proved more challenging to overcome. The Thompsons, already in love with Celia, took an inspired attitude to this unexpected development.

“Life is full of surprises,” Colleen says.  “And it is like having children biologically — you don’t know how they are going to turn out, and what the challenges are going to be. I don’t see it as much different.”

To read the full article, click here. To learn more about the China Child of Promise program, visit Holt online.

Children with special needs in Thailand find strength in the face of challenges

University of Oregon graduate Ally Tritten is currently in Thailand working with Holt Sahathai Foundation (HSF) as an intern with IE3 Global Internships. Ally, a family and human services major, will work for HSF for six months, helping to find homes for 200 children with special needs. The children are currently in government-run child institutions in Thailand; some of them will eventually be placed into Holt’s Waiting Child program.

“I am really excited for this trip,” says Ally. “I look forward to learning more about Holt International, their work in Thailand, and to be able to provide services to children.”

Holt established a partnership with HSF in 1975. HSF serves a large number of vulnerable children through a variety of programs including adoption, pregnancy counseling, foster care, educational sponsorships and outreach services for children in hospitals and orphanages. Many of these programs help birth families stay together through counseling and assistance.

The following is an update from Ally about her first full month in Thailand (Click here to read Ally’s first blog update):

Bangkok, Thailand — I am still adjusting to my new life in Bangkok. For the last month and a half Pi Tuk, Pi Malee and I have coordinated with Child Adoption Center (another adoption agency in Thailand) and assessed approximately 30 children with special needs, all of whom live in governmental orphanages and have been diagnosed with various disabilities. Some of the common disabilities we see in the children are: cerebral palsy (CP), fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS), microcephaly and macrocephaly, seizure disorders, visual and hearing impairment, delayed development, autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and a variety of physical disabilities. Of the four orphanages we visited in the past month, two — Nong Khai Home for Boys and Udornthani Home for Girls — are located in the northeastern part of Thailand and the other two — Ban Fueng Fah Home for Children with Special Needs and Pakkret Babies Home — are located in a nearby province outside of Bangkok. The HSF social workers and I flew by airplane to the two northeastern orphanages and spent four days assessing the overall development of 14 children.

The majority of the other children in the project live in Ban Fueng Fah Home for Children with Special Needs, where we spent most of October interviewing each child’s caretaker, physical therapists and teachers, as well as completing our own individual assessments. Read More

Adopting an older child from Ethiopia

by Susan Johnson

We are the lucky parents of eight children. Our first adoption journey began in 2006 when we brought home our infant son, Matthew. It is hard to describe my feelings when I traveled that first time to Ethiopia. The parents in my travel group who had adopted toddlers and preschoolers were very inspiring to me. The children were amazing and beautiful.

We were so in love with Matthew that we began the adoption process very soon after he came home. This time we knew that we wanted to adopt an older child. Our agency, however, wouldn’t allow us to adopt a child that didn’t follow the birth order of our family. Lucky for us, we brought home our little 18-month-old son, Samuel! Samuel definitely made us work a little harder for his love, but watching him process everything that had changed in his life was amazing.

Our desire to adopt an older child always remained in our hearts. After some discussion with our children, we started researching older child adoption and contacted Holt International. We definitely wanted to adopt from Ethiopia again and there was one little girl that we were particularly drawn to. She was a little older than we were originally planning on, but after some discussion, prayer, and a little bit of faith, we knew she would be our daughter! We began the process with Holt to bring her home!

Our daughter, Asmerach, is nine years old and has been home with us for almost three months. Read More

As of October 27th, the Ministry of Health in Haiti reports at least 303 people dead and more than 4,700 sickened by a cholera epidemic that’s swept through Haiti’s northern regions in the past week.

“There have been no cases to date that have been reported that have affected any Holt children or families,” says Sarah Halfman, Holt’s director of programs in Latin America, Haiti and Romania. “As for preparing a coordinated response to the outbreak at this time for the families in the family preservation program, ongoing preventative education on cholera and hygiene seems to be the best course of action.”

Read More