The Korean War ended with the signing of an armistice in 1953, splitting the peninsula along a demilitarized zone and leaving, in its wake, many orphaned and vulnerable children. The war also devastated the Korean economy, causing widespread poverty. Unable to provide for their children, many families saw international adoption as a way to give them a better life - a belief shared by many unwed Korean mothers who, fearing the stigma of out-of-wedlock birth, chose to relinquish their children.
As the nation has grown more prosperous, so has the role of the Korean people and government in the welfare of their children, including greater cultural acceptance of domestic adoption. Traditional Confucian values, which place great emphasis on bloodline, nevertheless remain entrenched in Korean culture. Although more unwed mothers are choosing to parent their child, discrimination makes life extremely difficult for them. For many Korean children, social stigmas still create barriers to having a permanent, loving family within their birth culture.
In 1955, Harry and Bertha Holt urged an act of Congress enabling them to adopt eight Korean orphans. Guided by Christian faith, the Holts quickly returned to Korea on a mission to unite every homeless child with a permanent, loving family, and in 1956, they founded Holt International. Since the mid-1950s, over 150,000 Korean children have joined families through international adoption
Concerned about the children who weren’t adopted, especially those with profound medical and developmental conditions, the Holts built a long-term care facility near the village of Ilsan in 1961. The Ilsan Center has since become a world-renowned residential facility specializing in the care of people with disabilities. Today, Ilsan provides short and long-term rehabilitation and medical care; apartment-style group homes overseen by housemothers; vocational training, such as pottery and sewing; and a K-12 school for children with special needs, including those living outside of Ilsan.
Holt developed its philosophy of care in Korea - a philosophy of affectionate, attentive care to nurture children’s growth and development while they await permanent placement. In 1965, Holt introduced a foster care program founded on this philosophy, and continues to place homeless children in the care of expert, loving foster families prior to their adoption.
Holt Korea also counsels expectant mothers and unmarried couples. Through guidance and support, Holt empowers single mothers to decide whether to parent or relinquish their child. Women who decide to parent are provided the opportunity to stay in care for one year after their child is born at one of several long-term facilities throughout the country, receiving community housing, nutrition, counseling, medical care, childcare training, and vocational and educational development.
Help Support Children and Families in South Korea!
Sponsor a child in Holt’s care!
Help provide nutritious food, warm clothing, safe shelter and loving, attentive care for a child in Holt’s programs in South Korea.
Donate to the Special Needs Adoption Fund!
This fund helps families adopt children with special medical or developmental needs, many of them from South Korea.
Give a Gift of Hope!
Whether for Christmas or another occasion, giving from Holt’s gift catalog is a wonderful way to honor a loved one. Help provide warm clothing for children in care. Or contribute to the cost for a much-needed medical procedure, such as a cleft lip and palate repair. Your gift of hope can change a child’s life forever.
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