A New Beginning…A Powerful Connection


A message from Steve Kalb, camp director

As another Adoptee Camp season is placed in the books, the dust begins to settle from the frantic pace of my summer camp adventures.  Back in my Eugene office, I close my eyes and take a deep breath, inhaling a sense of relative calm before I begin my article.  As I exhale slowly, my eyes open and begin to focus on the blinking cursor and blank page before me.  The calm quickly fades to a light panic.

“How?” I ask myself.

How can I possibly describe everything the campers have taught me?  How can I convey to readers the beauty and value of the Adoptee community?  How can the strength and urgency of their voice be turned into a newsletter?  I fumble through several iterations; reading, re-reading, deleting, shaking my head as I struggle to get it “just right”.  In spite of my desperate efforts to capture their voice, I sense the soul and poignancy of their wisdom evaporating with each keystroke.  Frustrated, I decide to move on to another project.  As I close the document, it hits me; “Just let them tell their stories!”……..

——————————————————————————————————————————————-

Thirteen-year old Allison discusses her life-changing experiences at Holt adoptee camp and encourages others to join her on next summer’s adventures

by Allison Fuchs

My name is Allison Fuchs. This summer was my fifth year attending Oregon Holt camp. When I was younger, I had a lot of unanswered questions in my mind; some were more important than others. This year, I finally realized that many of my questions should be asked.

I think Holt camp is very important for adoptees. It teaches us that there are other people our age who have faced the same problems we have. It’s a great way to share a special bond with another adoptee.

The most rewarding part of camp is seeing how dedicated the staff is. Making sure the the campers have fun and learn who they are, is the staff’s number one goal. To top it off, they don’t get paid for any of it! I truly admire the level of commitment they give.

Adoptee camp helped me so much in everyday life. It helps me make new friends every year and has helped me realize that it wasn’t my fault I was adopted. This was always something I wondered until I asked it at camp. I finally understood that it is never the adoptee’s fault. Never.

I want to tell adoptees that they are special to me. Even if I don’t know them, I still feel very passionate about them. I think of all adoptees as my extended family. It’s a terrific feeling and I hope they feel the same way. Continue reading “A New Beginning…A Powerful Connection”

Surviving, Learning, Laughing: Responding to Relinquishment

Through candid (and often funny!) observations and heartwarming personal stories, a Holt adoptive mother shares the challenges and joys of parenting adopted children

by Jane Ballback

I thought in my first blog entry, I should introduce you to my children. My three young adult children are all working and finishing their educations. Jaik and Brandon are twins and they both work in the restaurant and hospitality industry. Jaik wants to manage hotels and restaurants and Brandon is attending culinary school. Their sister, Stacee, is studying psychology.

All three of them are from Korea, and they all arrived when they were five months old. My greatest accomplishment isn’t that they are all on track towards satisfying and rewarding careers, but the fact that they are well-loved by everyone that knows them, and that they remain good friends with each other, and are very connected to my husband and myself and our extended family. This, in my opinion, is every parent’s dream — but accomplishing this dream is a different task for adoptive parents than it is for birth parents. There is nothing “normal” about being relinquished by your birth mother (no matter what the reason was), and being an adoptive parent is not for the faint-hearted.

I was fortunate to have three adopted children because I got to witness three very different responses to being adopted. Jaik has yet to have a conversation with me about his adoption. Stacee didn’t talk a great deal about it, but was a master thief and world-class liar at six years old. Brandon gave “voice” to every bit of fear and grief that often engulf adopted children and was so overwhelmed as an adolescent, he told me, “Mom, I don’t want to live anymore”.

As I blog I will be telling you their stories, some of which are “normal”, everyday child-rearing stories, and some that you will find hilarious, and some that will make you shed a tear. I will be the “voice” of the blog, but you will hear all of their voices as well. I asked all three of them if it was all right with them for me to share their stories. Jaik and Stacee readily agreed, and Brandon was, of course, the most hesitant. When I assured him that his story would be read by people who love adoption stories and adopted children, he found that reassuring. After much discussion, he asked if our stories would help adoptive parents and their children. I told him that was the goal of the blog, and he said, in his generous and kind way, “then, that’s what we should do.”

Be prepared to be enlightened and entertained by these three children, and to fall in love with them as well. I know I will fall in love with your children and their stories; so please share this with your family and friends and send me your comments, questions, and stories.

Click here to read more blog entries from Jane. And watch for next week’s entry!


Click here for post-adoption services information.

*Plans have commenced for the 2011 heritage tours to China, Korea and Thailand! We hope you will consider joining us on one of these adventures. Holt pioneered in the development of heritage tours for international adoptees and their families. With many adult adoptees on our staff and board, and expertise in overseas travel, Holt is uniquely qualified to provide a special homeland experience for you and your children. For more information about travel dates and costs, visit www.holtinternational.org/tours.

Though the Earth Give Way

Holt’s work in Haiti after the earthquake…and how you can help

Near Port-au-Prince Airport Road, in a Haitian community called Village Solidarite, 22-year-old Nahomie holds in her arms her ailing 2-year-old daughter, Nournia. Nahomie has just returned from her fourth trip in eight months to St. Catherine hospital in Cite Soleil – a slum of Port-au-Prince. Nournia, they tell her, is extremely malnourished. She also has tuberculosis.

Abandoned by Nournia’s father, Nahomie earns what she can as a part-time housekeeper, but it’s not enough. Unable to provide the care her daughter needs, Nahomie stands helpless as Nournia wails in pain and hunger. Nahomie begins to weep with Nournia. She weeps for her mother, who died one year ago, and weeps for her poor daughter. It seems impossible that their situation could get much worse.

And then the sun rose on January 12th, 2010.

In just 60 seconds, 230,000 people were dead. Millions were homeless and an estimated one million children were orphaned. For many already living in the clutches of poverty and hunger, life became even grimmer.

“I had never seen a city so devastated as Port-au-Prince,” says Will Dantzler, Holt International’s board chairman, who traveled to Haiti in June. “To see the hopelessness and emptiness of spirit in so many people as we drove through the city shed light on the magnitude of this disaster, and its long-term effect on an entire society.”

Just two of millions whose lives changed forever, Nahomie and Nournia lost their one source of stability in the January 12th earthquake – their home.

After five months living in the streets, Nahomie sat in a church service in Port-au-Prince and prayed. Prayed for her daughter, prayed to survive. Here, she heard of a temporary care program offered by Holt Fontana d’ Haiti – Holt International’s partner in Haiti. Nahomie applied and her daughter was accepted into a 3-month temporary care program at Holt Fontana Village in the western city of Montrouis.

“Nahomie said it was the first time in years she felt a moment of joy,” says Mansour Masse, Holt Haiti director. “Her daughter would be taken care of.”

Continue reading “Though the Earth Give Way”

Introducing Holt’s Weekly Waiting Child

We at Holt were recently inspired by a Holt adoptee’s creative efforts to help find families for children. Every Wednesday, broadcast journalist Michelle Sherwood hosts a TV news segment featuring a local child in foster care. She also encourages viewers to repost the Wednesday’s Child stories on their blogs, Facebook pages and other sites. Since May, this community effort has already helped six kids find permanent homes!

Inspired, we’ve decided – thank you Michelle! – to copy Michelle’s idea. Every Tuesday, check Holt’s blog and Facebook page for photos, stories and even videos of a different child in the Waiting Child program. Our goal is to create a vibrant profile of every child so a potential family, browsing through, might see a spark – make a connection.

Even if you don’t make a connection, someone you know might. Help the Waiting Child of the Week go viral! Forward the stories 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 a child’s life forever!

So, without further ado, we introduce Ben – Holt’s first Waiting Child of the Week.

We met Ben this summer at an orphanage in Wuxi, a city in southern China. He seemed shy at first, but began to relax and smile during the interview and, at the urging of his caregivers, eventually stood up to demonstrate a headstand.

His caregivers seemed very fond of him and talked about how helpful he is around the orphanage, where he came into care at just a few days old. He likes to help care for the younger children, especially feeding the babies, but he tells us what he would really love are older siblings. Though he has many good friends, Ben misses his pals from the orphanage who’ve joined families through adoption. But when asked how he would feel about being adopted, his eyes immediately brightened.

“Are you at all worried about the language difference?” we asked.

“No problem,” he said. “I can learn.”

Now 8, Ben is in the 2nd grade. He’s a fast runner, loves basketball and also enjoys art projects and origami. He’s doing well in school and hopes to grow up to be a policeman – a point he reinforced for us with a straight-backed salute!

After entering care, Ben progressed well in the institution but was found to have slow motor development. Laboratory reports also noted that he is a Hepatitis B carrier. Ben would do best in a family with older child adoption experience and access to good medical resources.

Contact the Waiting Child program for more information about Ben….

Comment for Children: SixSeeds.tv Features Holt Family Stories, Gives to Holt

In honor of National Adoption Month, parenting e-zine SixSeeds.tv is featuring several Holt adoptive families, including the Groces, the Johnsons, the Dalrymples, the Osburns and the Blumenthals.  For every comment posted on their stories, SixSeeds will donate to one of many wonderful causes.

Post about the Blumenthals’ story and SixSeeds will donate $2 to Holt!

The Blumenthals brought their daughter Etagegn home from Ethiopia in June.  In the SixSeeds Q&A, the Blumenthals describe their adoption experience, their advice for other families considering adoption, and the wonder of watching their daughter “grow into a joyful little girl who absolutely sparkles.”

Thank you to all the Holt families who shared their stories and thank you, SixSeeds, for giving in service of orphaned, abandoned and vulnerable children!

To read the Blumenthals’ story, click here.

Surviving, Learning, Laughing: Introducing Jane

Through candid (and often funny!) observations and heartwarming personal stories, a Holt adoptive mother shares the challenges and joys of parenting adopted children

————————————————————————————————————————————————————

For the past three years, Holt adoptive parent Jane Ballback has shared her adoption stories with families waiting to bring their children home. An adoptive parent for 24 years, Jane speaks at parent training classes led by Holt Social Worker Mike Guinn. Mike offers the formal training. Jane presents the personal experiences relating to the issues being discussed.

“I provide the stories that bring the theories alive and help new parents figure out what they are about to face,” says Jane. “Everyone loves a good story, and mine are real, relatable and memorable. Adoption concepts are rather abstract and hard to explain until you understand how the theories play out in real life.”

Starting today, Jane will share her thoughts and stories on Holt’s blog once a week. The theories and issues discussed will be relevant to new adoptive families as well as families who have had their children home for some time. Our hope is that Jane’s blogs will serve as an educational tool for adoptive parents and also as a catalyst for candid, meaningful discussion.

Feel free to comment on Jane’s blog entries with your own suggestions, questions and personal stories as they relate to the topic being discussed.

Jane’s daughter, Stacee, will also occasionally be joining her mother as a guest blogger.

The following is a message from Jane:

Hello, my name is Jane and I am one of the luckiest women in the world. I have been married forty years to the “boy” I met in high school, I’ve had a fascinating and rewarding career as a Human Resource Consultant and Career Coach, and now that I’m retired I get to do volunteer work for non-profits whose missions are near and dear to my heart.

The best part of this story, though, is that along the way my husband and I adopted three children from Korea, who are now young adults. Being a parent was the hardest job I’ve ever done, and watching them grow and develop has been the experience of a lifetime.

I’ve always been an intensively curious woman and learning to be an adoptive parent was one of my greatest endeavors. Determined to be the best parent I could, I talked to adoption experts, read everything I could find about parenting adoptive children, and when I was “in over my head”, I worked with a gifted child psychologist, who is herself, adopted.

I was, by no means a “perfect” parent. Along the way I stumbled, survived, learned and laughed. The idea for this blog came out of the volunteer work I do for Holt International. For three years now I’ve been working with the Southern California social worker, helping to train parents who are waiting for their new arrival. He does the formal training and introduces the adoption theories and ideas – I provide the stories that bring the theories alive, and help new parents figure out what they are about to face. Everyone loves a good story, and mine are real, relatable and memorable.

I thought my first story would be about my daughter, Stacee who is now twenty years old and a junior in college. I want to introduce Stacee to you because she will periodically be blogging with me. I have often been asked how it is possible to love a child that is not your own. I understand the question — it’s just difficult to answer, so I often tell this story.

I actually did forget once, that I was not my daughter’s “real” mother. When Stacee was three she had a persistent fever and was turning bright red. After a few days of trying to figure this out, my pediatrician told me to drive directly to the Children’s Hospital and get her admitted. He suspected, rightfully so, that she had Kawasoki’s Disease. This is an unusual disease, common among Asians with just these symptoms. It’s a very treatable disease, but time was of the essence and the result of not treating it was the possibility of permanent damage to Stacee’s heart.

As I sat in the admitting department, with this hot, bright red child on my lap, I was distraught to say the least. The nurse began getting a history from me, Continue reading “Surviving, Learning, Laughing: Introducing Jane”

Where Your Paths Meet…

In honor of National Adoption Month, Holt adoptive mother of 2-year-old Zoey (shown in the video) and adoptee Kimberly Williams Shuck created a video of children who came home to their families through the journey of adoption! She hopes that it will inspire others to consider adoption as a wonderful way to build a family.

———————————————————————————————————————————————————————

I reached out to thirty or so of my friends from the adoption world and they provided me with a picture of their children and families brought together through adoption! I knew that anyone considering adoption had to see the faces of the children who had found their families, making one less orphan in the world.

I will do everything I can to be a voice for those who cannot speak for themselves and spread the word about the miracle of adoption.

Adoption has its struggles, financially and emotionally for all involved, but just know that in the end God has a clear- cut plan for where each and every person’s path meets.

I hope that you will watch the video and pass it along, unknowing of who it may inspire and ultimately lead to new adoption journeys.

—————————————————————————————————————————

Learn more about how you can spread the word about the wonderful journey of adoption…

Start your adoption journey today!…Click here to learn more.

Please Pray for the Children and Families in Haiti

God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging. (Psalm 46:1-3)

Following the January earthquake and a recent cholera outbreak, Hurricane Tomas is the third natural disaster to hit Haiti this year.

Fortunately, the storm skirted the vulnerable island, but caused 12 hours of nonstop rainfall and continuing hurricane conditions that may lead to flash foods and mudslides.

At the Holt Fontana Village, the child care center Holt supports in Haiti, staff on the ground have been preparing for the coming storm for the past week – stockpiling a month’s worth of food and water and checking medical supplies.

“For the families in the Fanmi Ansanm program in Montrouis and Jacmel, since it is hurricane season, the families have all received trainings on hurricane preparedness,” says Sarah Halfman, Holt’s director of programs in Latin America, Haiti and Romania. In addition to nutritional and educational support, the 234 families in Holt’s family preservation program receive weekly family wellness trainings. Different topics are discussed, including disease prevention and hurricane preparedness.

Mansour Masse, Holt’s Haiti director, reports that families in our family preservation program are safe.

This weekend, Holt asks that you keep the people of Haiti in your prayers.  Pray for ongoing safety for the children and families in our care and strength and courage for all Haitian people as they struggle through yet another tragedy.

An Angel in Adoption

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. Continue reading “An Angel in Adoption”

Holt Family Featured in The Eugene Register-Guard

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.