It comes with great excitement that we announce that the first child to be adopted through our special pilot adoption program in Vietnam has come home with her family in the U.S. Jessica Palmer, Holt’s director of adoption services for Southeast Asia, was with the Nguyen family when they met their 19-month-old daughter in Binh Duong. “It was such an honor to be able to witness first-hand this milestone in Holt’s adoption program in Vietnam,” Jessica says. “It was also my first trip to the country, so getting to meet all the Holt staff, seeing the country for the first time, and getting to witness such an amazing moment of a family being formed was truly an unforgettable experience.”
Two years ago, Holt received the exciting news that we had been chosen as one of two agencies in the U.S. to participate in a pilot adoption program for children with special needs in Vietnam. With this announcement, a 6-year moratorium on adoptions from Vietnam to the U.S. came to an official end. “The Holt office in Vietnam was abuzz with the first adoption taking place after so many years and excited for more families to be traveling soon,” Jessica says.
The Nguyen family started the adoption process through Holt in 2014, and were matched with their daughter in March 2015. They traveled to Vietnam to bring her home last month. “The whole adoption process was smoother than we expected for a pilot program,” Jessica says. And as for the process in Vietnam, the Nguyen family credits the local Holt staff for their effortless trip. “The staff were super helpful and knowledgeable about the process,” Andy Nguyen says. “When we are ready to adopt again, we will gladly go through Holt.”
Our work in Vietnam began in the early 1970s, through a USAID-funded nutrition program and later through international adoption and foster care. In 1975, Holt evacuated 409 children from Saigon during the “Vietnam Babylift” and was then forced to cease work in Vietnam due to political instability. Holt’s flight came two days after President Gerald Ford announced that all Vietnamese children identified for adoption to U.S. families would be airlifted out of Vietnam. As it became apparent that Saigon would soon fall to the North, the 409 children in Holt’s care boarded a chartered Pan Am flight to join their adoptive families in the U.S. between April 2 and April 29. This event was a dramatic moment in Holt’s history and, despite challenges faced in the aftermath, our commitment to children and families in Vietnam has remained unwavering.
In the late 1980s, Holt was able to resume services in full for children in Vietnam at the invitation of the Vietnamese government. In the years since, and despite two adoption moratoriums, Holt has consistently provided family strengthening services for children and families in Vietnam. Today, Holt continues to work in partnership with the government of Vietnam, providing emergency assistance, counseling and the basic financial, health, nutritional and educational support needed to stabilize struggling households. In 2012, Holt also began providing daycare services for children with special needs in four provinces of Vietnam. With the help of child sponsorship funds, the program, currently serving 1,800 children, provides nutritional meals, tuition support, physical therapy for children with special needs, and parental education. While helping to sustain three government-run child welfare centers, Holt also remains one of the few NGOs providing foster care for children in Vietnam. “Our range of services in Vietnam makes us an ideal organization to provide adoption services through this pilot program,” Jessica says.
Children currently waiting for families in Vietnam are generally between the ages of 1 to 5 and have moderate or major special needs. Older children, ages 6-14, are also waiting for families. Some of these children may not have any special needs, but will need families who are experienced and prepared for the complexities of older child adoption. Parent eligibility requirements for the Vietnam program are generally more open and can be flexible depending on the needs of the specific child. “After many years of anticipation, we are so excited that this pilot program is moving forward and the first child to be adopted has joined her family,” Jessica says. “Now, we look to have many more matched children join their families, as well as continue our efforts to find families for those children who continue to wait.”
For more information about adopting from Vietnam, click here.