Surviving, Learning, Laughing: The “Real” Story

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.


All young children have some trouble expressing their true emotions. I think this is particularly true of adopted children who feel the need to hide more of what they are feeling in an effort to fit in and not rock anybody’s boat. Sometimes they will act out their emotions and sometimes if they are willing to talk, they tell you something that really isn’t the issue.

Stacee came home from school very sad and crying one day when she was seven. I had a special place in my bedroom — a chair — where I often invited the children to sit and talk to me when I sensed that they needed to tell me about something or express some emotion. When we were sitting in my chair I asked Stacee what was wrong. She said in a tearful voice that she was sad because she was the only girl in her class who did not have blonde hair.

I knew this wasn’t true because I had visited her class many times and her best friend was Japanese. I listened for a couple of minutes, let her cry, and then I said “Sweetheart, I think that’s not actually what’s going on. There are certainly a lot of blonde girls in your class, but there are girls with brown hair like yours and even some girls with black hair like your best friend. So why don’t you tell me what this crying is really all about.” She started crying harder while we sat there for a few minutes longer, and then she said in the saddest, softest little voice, “I have a hole in my heart.” I said, “You do? Why do you have a hole in your heart?” She said, “I have a hole in my heart where my birth mom belongs.”

I sat there for a moment and let her cry and thought very hard and quickly about how I might respond to her. I hadn’t told Stacee very much about my own birth mother who died the same year I adopted my twin boys. I hadn’t told her very much because there wasn’t a great deal of “positive” to tell. But Stacee was so intuitive at her young age, I thought I could now say something about the situation without giving a lot of details. I said to Stacee very softly, “Well Stacee, you know Mama had a birth mother too. You know you haven’t met her because she died before you were born. But I need to tell you something Stacee…despite the fact that I had a birth mother, I have a hole in my heart too. My birth mother was very difficult to live with and very hard to get along with. I think maybe one of the reasons you and I are together is because we fill each other’s hearts.” Continue reading “Surviving, Learning, Laughing: The “Real” Story”

Haiti a Year Ago Today: Prayer for the Children and Families in Haiti

The Holt International magazine featured Haiti in our Fall 2010 issue. Read more about our ongoing work with children and families in Haiti.

January 12th marks the one-year anniversary of the 7.0 magnitude earthquake that devastated Haiti and killed an estimated 230,000 people. On this day, we remember those who lost their lives, the thousands of children now orphaned and the millions of people left homeless and still struggling to survive.

“But the needy will not always be forgotten, nor the hope of the afflicted ever perish.“–Psalm 9:18

Please, join us in prayer for the people of Haiti, today. Pray that God’s healing hand will be on the sick, hungry and helpless children and families, and that He would continue to bring the people of this devastated country peace, courage and strength in a time of continual suffering.

Read more on our website.

Need a Good Laugh? Meet Shen Ying, Class Clown and This Week’s Waiting Child

by Robin Munro, Senior Writer

Date of Birth: 8/1/01

From China

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.

Help Shen Ying, the Waiting Child of the Week, go viral! Forward this to friends and family. Share every week at church or a community group. And repost to your own blog, Facebook page and company site. With the simple press of a button, you can change Shen Ying’s life forever!

Contact Holt’s Waiting Child program for more information about Shen Ying.

* Name has been changed

Surviving, Learning, Laughing: Having Brown Eyes in a Blue-eyed world

Through candid (and often funny!) observations and heartwarming personal stories, a Holt adoptive mother shares the challenges and joys of parenting adopted childrenRead more of Jane’s post adoption blogs by clicking here.

by Jane Ballback

Since my children are Korean and look different from my husband and myself, I’m often asked whether or not there were any huge issues with that as they were growing up.

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.” Continue reading “Surviving, Learning, Laughing: Having Brown Eyes in a Blue-eyed world”

Holt Family Featured – Meski Becomes A Citizen!

In 2009, Tom Chandler and Nancy Swift adopted their daughter Meskerem — “Meski” — from Ethiopia.  Last week, Meski officially became a U.S. citizen!

“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.”

Click here to read the family’s story on the Mt Shasta News site.

To learn more about adopting from Ethiopia, visit Holt’s website by clicking here.

Coming Home with Kate — Start Your China Adoption Journey Today…

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

Follow Kate’s blog here….

Start your China Adoption Journey in 2011!  Click here to learn more about your options…

Interested in Adoption from another country?….click here

Christmas Blessings & Thanks

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.

Happy Holidays! Adoption Tax Credit Extended through 2012!

Happy holidays, Holt families!  On Friday, December 17th, President Obama signed the 2010 Tax Relief Act, a package of income tax, estate tax and unemployment provisions – including one huge benefit for adoptive families.  This act extends the adoption tax credit through 2012!

The adoption credit would have sunset in 2011, but now families filing through 2012 may take this credit for adoption-related expenses – reducing their tax bill up to $13,170 in 2011 and $12,170 in 2012.

For families filing in 2011, the tax credit includes one additional benefit: it’s refundable.  This enhancement is not a feature of the Tax Relief Act, but rather the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act – the massive health care reform legislation enacted earlier this year.

Although the credit will vary for adoptive families, the ultimate outcome is the same.  It eases the financial burden of adopting internationally – enabling more orphaned, abandoned and vulnerable children to have permanent, loving families.  And for that, we celebrate.

To learn more about these benefits, visit the North American Council on Adoptable Children.

It’s a Win-Win for Adoptive Families as Obama Signs Two Important Acts!

Great news!  President Obama has approved two important pieces of legislation affecting adoptive families — the Help HAITI Act, signed into law December 9th, and the Adoption Simplification Act, signed November 30th.

The Adoption Simplification Act does more than simplify the process for families.  It helps ensure the safety of adopted children.  Previously, the U.S. required all children adopted from Hague Convention countries – including China, Thailand, the Philippines and India – to receive all their vaccinations before entering the U.S.  Delivered all at once, these immunizations can be unsafe to young children.  “It’s good public health,” Susan Cox, Holt director of public policy and external affairs, says of ensuring everyone receives routine vaccinations against infectious diseases.  “But not for babies.”

With the passage of this act, all children 10 or younger – adopted from any country – may wait to get their shots until after they enter the U.S.  Delaying immunizations has one additional effect on the adoption process – an effect important to every parent and every child eager to be united as a family.  “It means the children won’t have to wait so long (to enter the U.S.),” says Cox.

The Adoption Simplification Act includes one additional provision.  Families who’ve adopted from Hague signatories may now adopt their child’s siblings, up to 18-years-old.  Previously, the cut-off age was 16.  For the siblings who will now be able to reunite in an adoptive family, this news is monumental – as well as a major step forward in protecting the rights of orphaned, abandoned and vulnerable children.

Another breakthrough for adoptive families – and 21 Holt families in particular – occurred December 9th.  Nearly one month shy of the one-year anniversary of Haiti’s massive earthquake, Obama signed into law the Help HAITI Act, ensuring citizenship for every child brought to the U.S. from Haiti on humanitarian parole visas.

Following the earthquake, the U.S. issued these visas to approximately 1,000 children already matched with adoptive families – including 21 children living at the Holt Fontana Village, the care center Holt supports in Haiti.  Unlike children adopted through the usual process – who are automatically naturalized – these children faced years of waiting for the legal protections entitled to U.S. citizens.  Among the children to become citizens are Nephtalie, pictured above with her sisters, Mazie Grace Jean, who joined the Polzin family in Wisconsin, and Sthainder, who lives with his family in Oregon.  Click here to read more about how the 21 Holt Fontana Village children joined their families after the earthquake.

Holt adoptee Interviewed by New England Cable News Channel

A letter from Holt adoptive mom Nancydee MacFarland about her son, Noah:

December 14th, 2010.

Dear Holt Family,


Six years ago this weekend, Noah walked into our hotel room in China with an un-repaired cleft palate. At 7:45 this morning, The New England Cable News Channel interviewed Noah and the executive of Boy Scouting in Greater Boston about the 100th anniversary of Scouting, and the dinner to be held at the Boston Harbor hotel tonight.

This evening, Noah is looking forward to speaking to a ballroom of CEOs and the leading businessmen of Boston. Our newly elected Republican Senator Scott Brown will be honored at the banquet.

God is so good. I wish the moment could be shared with Noah’s Chinese parents, his foster parents, his surgeons and his speech therapists. Noah has an amazing confidence and ability to handle whatever life puts in front of him. Neinei, Noah’s foster mom/grandmom in the Lanzhou, Gansu foster care project, wrote in 2004: “Someday Qian Hong will be a leader.” It seemed a funny thing to say about a “failure to thrive” baby with a cleft lip/palate and gums. Perhaps there was truth in her early prediction. Blessings do have power. God certainly has plans for this young man. To God be the glory.

Click here to view Noah’s interview….

Many children with manageable, treatable medical conditions are waiting for permanent families in China right now.  Click here to Learn more about Holt’s China Child of Promise program.