Susie Doig, Holt’s senior director of adoption services, recently wrote a short testimonial to our branch offices, encouraging the adoption staff to embrace and promote Holt’s child sponsorship program — and maybe even sponsor a child themselves. With a continual decline in international adoption across the globe, child sponsorship is one of the strongest and fastest-growing ways Holt can ensure that children in our programs remain with their birth families and receive the vital, life-saving support they need.
Child sponsorship. It’s nice. I’m glad we do it. But it doesn’t really affect me, because I work in adoptions. My focus is to spread the word about the need for adoptive families, and help families get the support and assistance they need to successfully complete their adoption process.
Back when adoption fees made up the majority of Holt’s revenue, focusing on fundraising efforts like child sponsorship felt like an elective to me. It was something that, if I had extra time, I would learn a little about it, or maybe mention it to a friend, but for the most part I kept my blinders on and my head down — focused on serving adoptive families.
Holt’s model of service, to find families for children through family strengthening, family reunification, domestic adoption and international adoption, was the rallying cry that got me out of bed each morning and kept me excited and engaged in my work. When I got to present a child-match to a family — when I got to listen to their screams of excitement or hear their sobs of joy — that was an amazing and spiritual experience for me. When families sent me photos of their newly arrived child, capturing their first special moments together, I was thrilled to have played a small part in bringing their family together.
Then I had the privilege of traveling overseas, and seeing Holt’s child welfare projects personally. Suddenly, I understood that for every child placed for adoption in the U.S., tens — and sometimes hundreds — more are served by Holt staff in life-changing ways, without ever having to leave their country of birth. Children are able to remain in their birth families with Holt’s help. Children are adopted domestically because of the excellent care they received in Holt foster care or Holt-funded care centers. Children are reunited with their birth families and their biological parents are given the resources to develop the capacity to care for their child once again. None of these children ever have to experience the loss and heartache of being separated from their birth families — of losing their birth culture. Holt has an amazing impact on these children’s lives. My experience traveling cemented my commitment to doing this work, to caring about each of these kids, and dedicating my energy and time to helping in whatever way I could to carry out the Holt model of services to children.
As international adoptions decline — and the costs of processing adoptions continues to rise — Holt as an organization has been faced with the question: where will the funding come from to continue this important work? If adoption fees aren’t covering the cost of delivering these services to kids, how will we continue into the future? We can’t let the decline in international adoptions stop Holt’s work to unite children with loving families or keep them from being separated from the only family they know — it’s just too important.
Child sponsorship is a powerful tool to communicate the impact Holt’s work has on the life of a single child, and it also provides the funding necessary to help carry out Holt’s work — even with the decline of international adoption. Child sponsorship isn’t just something that’s nice, that we can take or leave. It’s the single most effective way to engage people in Holt’s mission and allow them to support Holt’s work while demonstrating, in a powerful way, how their support changes the life of a single child.
I decided that if I was going to fully embrace the importance of child sponsorship, I had to put my money where my mouth was. It was time for my two children, both adopted from Thailand, to become sponsors.
I worked with our sponsorship staff to identify a child for each of my kids to sponsor. They sent my kids each a child sponsorship welcome packet in the mail, with photos of their sponsored child and a report. The kids love to get mail addressed to them, and they tore open the envelopes. They pulled out the photos of their sponsored child and immediately started firing off questions: How old is he? Does she have a Thai grandma (what we call their Thai foster moms)? Am I going to adopt her? Why am I getting his photo?
I explained the sponsorship process to them. My son was the first to ask for a pair of scissors. He carefully cut out a photo of his sponsored child and used the magnetic photo frame to put the boy’s photo on our refrigerator. He’s just learning to read, and he carefully read through the report, asking for help with words he couldn’t pronounce. He got very excited when he read that his sponsored child is going to be adopted.
“That’s like me!” he exclaimed. My kids vacillate right now between thinking that everyone is adopted, to wondering if anyone else is like them. Here was another child who is just like my son — a chance for my child to connect with someone else whose story is similar.
The process of signing my kids up for sponsorship made me realize that I get to hear stories every day about how Holt’s work changes the lives of children, and it’s those stories that inspire me and energize me to do this work. But for my kids, that excitement I feel every day came to them through child sponsorship, and seeing their sponsored child’s photo for the first time.
Holt’s work is too important not to continue — there are so many children in the world who do not have a permanent loving family. Adoption fees will not cover the costs involved in carrying out Holt’s model of services in the countries where we work. If we want to continue to help children experience the love and belonging of a family, we need to find other sources of revenue to support Holt’s work. And child sponsorship is an amazing way to involve individuals, congregations and communities in caring for the work that we do, and having a lasting impact on a child’s life.
If we care about the kids Holt serves, if we want the work to continue and grow, child sponsorship is something we all need to be committed to helping promote. What is more powerful than sharing a child’s story, and offering others the opportunity to support the work of finding and supporting families for children? We need to work together to promote child sponsorship so that Holt’s mission, which we all believe in, can continue changing children’s lives for the better.
Susie Doig | Senior Director of Adoption Services