To Be Loved, Unconditionally

Jimmy is today’s featured waiting child. 

by Jessica Palmer, Waiting Child Program Manager

Originally published June 21, 2011

A couple of months ago, I traveled to Southeast Asia to meet children living in Holt-supported foster and institutional care.  On the first two days of my trip, I visited children in our foster care program, mostly in rural areas a far distance from the big city.  It was heartwarming to see these children surrounded by the love of foster parents, siblings and neighbors, while they wait – and we search – for permanent adoptive families.

In these foster families, orphaned and abandoned children learn to attach and bond – to call someone “mom” and someone else “dad.”

They prepare for the day they will meet their adoptive parents, their forever mom and forever dad.

On the third day, we visited children living in a very different setting. In a green, fence-enclosed oasis in the middle of the big city, we came upon a playground, a basketball court and multiple buildings that act as home to boys who do not have families of their own.

We peeked into the common area of one of the buildings to see about 20 boys sprawled out on the floor.  They all wore the same color soccer jersey, and were raucously playing with blocks and other toys.  When they noticed us – the strangers spying on them – most of them showed excited interest.

All except for one boy – a shy, slender boy, age 9.  Jimmy* seemed quiet and nervous, quite a contrast to the other boys.

I wondered why he seemed so much more guarded. Perhaps, I thought, Jimmy responded differently because he has lived in an institution for almost his entire life.  Children who grow up in orphanages have few opportunities to venture into the outside world, and are often wary of strangers.  Jimmy came into care at one month of age.  In 2009, he transferred to this boys’ home.

I think of how different life is for the children I met two days ago, the children living in foster families. While life in a family has its boundaries and rules – bedtimes and chores – life in an institution is often more rigid and rule-bound.  One of his caregivers describes Jimmy’s greatest strengths as his good attention span and that he never causes any conflicts. He is compliant, she says, a rule-follower. Jimmy even tells us that he wants to be in the military when he grows up.

After a while, Jimmy began to relax, and we got to see another side of this stoic little soldier.

He told us about two of his favorite activities – soccer and playing with the resident cats.  Lounging nearby, these cats often caught Jimmy’s eye as we conversed. It was easy to see the gentle soul of an animal lover in this reserved little boy.

Jessica with Jimmy on her orphanage visit.

In the comment section of Jimmy’s child report, it reads: “It is strongly believed with a permanent family who will provide him with love, individual attention and encouragement he will rapidly grow and develop, ultimately reaching his full potential. It is recommended the permanent family be patient and flexible with this child who has been living in an institutionalized environment for an extended period of time.”

“He deserves a family who will give him the love and attention he needs to flourish as an individual,” it concludes, “as he is a child who could be lost in the system.”

Unlike the children I met on the first two days, Jimmy has not experienced the love and personal attention of a foster family. He is a boy who has grown up in a “system,” not a family.

But like all the children I met, Jimmy deserves the love and support of a forever family.  He deserves someone to call “mom” and someone to call “dad.” He deserves the chance to pursue all of his hopes and dreams – and even to break the rules once in a while, secure in the knowledge he’ll always be loved, unconditionally.

For more information about Jimmy, contact Erin Mower at

* name changed

National Adoption Month is underway! Join Holt’s efforts to advocate for children who need homes, many of them older boys like Jimmy…

Every weekday throughout November, Holt will feature a different waiting child on Holt’s blog. Repost the child’s story on Facebook and Twitter, print prayer cards to guide prayers for the featured children, and/or download a bulletin insert to share at church.

When Holt asked Stacie and Taylor Forsberg to consider adopting an older child, they initially thought it would be too challenging.  After a change of heart, they welcomed 6-year-old Jacob into their family. Click here to read their story.    

For more info on how you an help change the conversation this November, click here.








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