Holt International offers a variety of post-adoption programs for adoptees and families, including weeklong adoptee camps and a coaching and education program to help families navigate challenges. Below, adult adoptee Bre Linder shares her reflections on Holt Adoptee Camp while the Choate family shares about Holt’s Post-Adoption Coaching & Education program.
As a new adoptive family, you will likely experience both joys and challenges once your child comes home. And as your child grows up, he or she will probably have some questions — questions surrounding their adoption, race, identity as an adoptee or their birth family. You both may encounter issues that you’re not sure how to handle. But don’t worry, you won’t be alone.
Holt’s diverse team of post-adoption service professionals includes both adoptees and adoptive parents who have experienced many of the same challenges that you and your child may face. They get it, and they will always be here to help with programs and services that are designed for adoptees and adoptive families to grow, learn and interact together in a variety of ways.
Through Holt Adoptee Camp, adopted kids ages 5 to 17 can build stronger connections with other adoptees, and explore their unique identity as adoptees together. Holt also leads heritage tours in many countries and assists with birth family searches — helping adoptees dig deeper into their history.
Another great resource for young adoptees is the Circle Back program. Growing up, adoptees can experience a wide range of emotions, thoughts and experiences surrounding adoption. Through Circle Back, your son or daughter can explore these thoughts and emotions by connecting with a member of Holt’s post-adoption team who is also an adult adoptee — a mentor of sorts who will help your child build a health adoptee identity. Circle Back sessions are conducted via webcam, and at the end, you will be able to debrief with your child’s mentor — allowing you to continue the conversation and growth together.
Holt also has clinical social workers on staff who can provide counseling and support, if needed. But not every issue requires therapy or counseling. Maybe your child is struggling to sleep through the night. Or having a hard time at school. That’s where the Post-Adoption Coaching & Education (PACE) program steps in. Through Holt’s newest program, families work one on one with an adoption-competent professional to identify strategies, tools and resources that can help address the challenges they are struggling with. Unlike other coaching programs, PACE helps families identify whether the issue is adoption-related, or typical developmental growing pains. And like Circle Back, PACE is also conveniently set up over free video communications software — letting you talk wherever is most comfortable.
No matter what, our post-adoption team is here for you — ready to encourage and support you and your child, now and throughout your lives.
What’s Holt Adoptee Camp All About?
Every year, the PAS department chooses a group of leadership staff and counselors to spend their entire summer at Holt Adoptee Camp — a weeklong overnight camp for international and domestic adoptees, ages 5-17. The staff members grew up all across the U.S., and they come from different backgrounds, families and cultures.
But they all have one key thing in common.
They are all adult adoptees who share similar stories and experiences as the campers. And every summer, they arrive ready to have fun with the youth adoptee campers and provide a safe environment to discuss adoption, share their experiences, and build their unique adoptee identities together.
“Camp is just so much fun,” says Bre Linder, a 23-year-old domestic adoptee and Holt camp 2019 leadership staff member. “We get to develop mentor relationships with the campers, which I really enjoy.”
Bre didn’t attend Holt Camp as a camper, but she says that being on the leadership staff helped develop her identity as an adoptee.
“Being an adoptee was never part of my identity, or a role that I claimed for myself,” Bre explains. As a domestic adoptee, she never had to disclose whether she was adopted or not. Unlike most Holt adoptees, who joined families of a different race and culture than their own, Bre looked like her family, so she didn’t mention it to people. “Coming to camp made it more real and opened a lot of opportunities for me to have healing with my family … Now I feel like I have this closeness to them,” she says, “because I understand how I felt in the past as a child.”
Bre says there are just some things that only other adoptees can fully understand. And that is one reason to consider sending your child to Holt Adoptee Camp.
“Holt Camp allows children to explore their feelings about adoption independently,” she says. “It’s a support for the child that parents can’t give them. And that’s OK.”
When You Need a Little Parenting Help, There’s PACE
When John and Anne Choate first heard about Holt’s Post-Adoption Coaching & Education (PACE) program, they were immediately interested. They didn’t think they needed therapy or counseling. They just needed some extra support overcoming challenges they were facing with their 3-year-old son, Chaopan. And that’s exactly how Holt described the program.
They learned about PACE about six months after they brought Chaopan home from China.
“Chaopan was waking many times each night, needing support that we were trying to give him,” John and Anne explain. “At the same time, we were trying to balance our need to sleep.”
Along with sleep issues, John and Anne recognized that their son was also grieving the loss of his culture and caregivers. Although Chaopan and his parents quickly began to build a strong attachment, Chaopan naturally missed China. He would tell his parents about the people he missed, and how he wanted to return soon. Other times, he expressed his grief in tears, nightmares or the need to be close to John and Anne. To help Chaopan cope with his losses and ease his sleep issues, which often went hand in hand, John and Anne decided to try the PACE program.
During their sessions, their PACE counselor, Carolyn, gave them the tools, support and encouragement they all needed. She suggested books and different techniques to help John and Anne interact with their son. One of the challenges their family faced was separation. Even when Anne went to the bathroom, Chaopan didn’t understand that she would come back.
“Carolyn suggested I cuddle him before parting and then rush back,” Anne explains. “When I rushed back the first day telling him I missed him, it was like a spell broke. He was suddenly OK with me going to the bathroom alone! It felt like an amazing gift.”
And for Chaopan, Carolyn gave him a voice. She explained to John and Anne the fears that Chaopan was likely feeling, and how these fears manifested in different behaviors. One fear that Carolyn suggested Chaopan might be experiencing is a fear of failure. For example, John and Anne would ask him to help get himself dressed, something they knew he could accomplish, but he would often break down instead. With Carolyn’s help, John and Anne can now identify Chaopan’s fear of failure, and help him to confront and overcome it together.
Carolyn’s insights empowered John and Anne not just with new strategies, but a new outlook on what Chaopan was going through. “She gave us a gift of a new perspective,” they say. “Letting us see his unspoken fears that motivate behaviors was really helpful.”
After trying the sleep strategies that Carolyn suggested, John, Anne and Choapan are all sleeping better now, too. They learned to reassure Chaopan before bedtime by communicating where they are going, why they are going to bed and when they will be together again. Now, Chaopan feels safe and loved when he goes to sleep. They also ensure that the moment they wake up is joyful and affirming for him. And with more sleep, John and Anne feel more present, aware and sensitive to their son and his needs.
Mai Anh Hall | Digital & Content Marketing Specialist