Hey, New Jerseyans!….Got any plans for September 24th?

Join Holt in Princeton, New Jersey for a night of food, friendship, fun and, most of all, helping children in Holt’s care!

Holt has a long history of commitment to children with special needs.  We strive to ensure that expenses are not a barrier between a child with special needs and a loving adoptive family.

This year’s Gala Dinner and Auction will raise money to support Holt’s Children with Special Needs Adoption program — helping to bring children with special needs home to their families.

A message from Jackie Miller, Gala Chair:

On Saturday September 25, 2010 the idea for an annual New Jersey Holt Gala Dinner became a reality. New Jersey Holt families had enjoyed an annual dinner in the past, but this time we were challenged with making a fun evening into a gala event. Despite a small but wonderful dinner committee, I wasn’t sure we could pull it off.

The evening was a mix of a silent auction, make a difference and live auctions. Parents, adult adoptees, community members as well as many of the Holt staff came together to make the New Jersey dinner a very  special event. We enjoyed the food, the camaraderie, and the knowledge that each of us was helping New Jersey families who had adopted a child with a special need.

Late into the evening, a committee member whispered into my ear that the evening’s proceeds were at $20,000. I was so overwhelmed by everyone’s support and generosity that it was difficult to announce it to the group.

Currently, we are in the process of planning the 2011 New Jersey Holt Gala Dinner for September 24, 2011. It will be held at the Princeton Westin. We are currently seeking dinner sponsors and donated auction items.

I would love to see everyone at the dinner in the fall!

For more information about the Holt Gala and Dinner Auction in New Jersey and to RSVP, Click here

Connections That Last a Lifetime

by Kourtni Rader, Adult Adoptee Director

I remember my first trip to Korea as an adult as if it were yesterday – sitting on a plane filled with Korean people, experiencing my first Korean meal as an adult (granted it was airplane food), pondering for a second what line to step into at immigration and, of course, the many experiences I had in Korea during my two-week visit.

My first journey to Korea was as a participant on a Holt heritage tour, for families and children of all ages. In 2009, I became Holt’s adult adoptee director – and began hosting a tour specifically for adult adoptees, age 21 or older. At the time, I did not realize how quickly people connect based on being an international adoptee. I’ve now hosted two Holt-Bethany Korea Adult Adoptee tours.  On both, I’ve witnessed the strong connections that develop between adoptees – strangers – visiting Korea for the first time.  Connecting to one’s culture and history is important, I’ve realized, but for many of us, not as important as the connection we feel with other adoptees. In a short time, family-like relationships develop, and when the tour is over, it is difficult to say goodbye. Our hearts ache not only to leave Korea, but for the people we’ve grown so close to and with whom we’ve shared some of the most personal experiences. We’ve laughed, cried, relied heavily on each other for support—and have even expressed frustration and anger.

When I look at photos from my first trip to Korea, I wonder what the other people on our trip are doing now. Continue reading “Connections That Last a Lifetime”

Jesus Loves Jamie….And Somewhere a Family is Waiting to Love her Too.

Jamie Needs a family

Birthdate: October, 2002, Africa

by Ashli Keyser, Managing Editor

I just read through Jamie’s bio on Holt’s Waiting Child photolisting. She’s 8 years old and lives in Africa. I’m often drawn to the cute, endearing qualities in the children’s bios — the qualities that make each child unique and special.

Jamie loves to sing. Most children do. But Jamie likes to sing gospel music, in particular. I smile at this little detail and think of gospel songs Jamie might know. This thought takes me back to my Sunday school days…..

I’m 4 years old, standing on the edge of a church stage and wearing a pretty blue, flowered dress. My hair is curled and in a ponytail. I’m short. The height of the stage only adds to my nervousness. Fifteen other children stand with me, waiting to sing. Having practiced this song many times, I shouldn’t be nervous. But I am. I hear the piano start. Unsure of myself, I slowly scan the audience and find two familiar faces – my mom and dad. We lock eyes. They smile at me, and I smile back. The nerves quickly dissipate as I start to sing…..

“Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so. Little ones to Him belong, they are weak, but He is strong.”

With my parent’s love, their smiles and encouragement, I confidently make it through the song.

I think back to Jamie’s love of gospel music and wonder if she’s ever been taught this popular and universal Sunday school song. Maybe she sings it in Luganda, her native language…. ay yah gah lahn zeh, ay yah gah lahn zeh, ay yah gah lahn zeh, Yayogera bw’atyo.” Maybe she doesn’t know it yet, and needs a family to teach it to her.

Today, Jamie sings to her friends and caretakers. She sings to these special people in her life because, at nine months old, Jamie was abandoned by her parents and brought to a Holt care center. Her parents weren’t around to teach her the songs she has grown to love. They weren’t around to listen to Jamie sing for them. Continue reading “Jesus Loves Jamie….And Somewhere a Family is Waiting to Love her Too.”

Building Adoptee Community… at Camp

An interview with Steve Kalb, Holt’s camp director and post-adoption services social worker.  Every year, Steve organizes and designs curriculum for Holt’s six adoptee camps, now held in Oregon, Iowa, Georgia, California, Wisconsin and New Jersey.  He also assists with background information requests and birth search counseling.  Steve is a Holt International adoptee, born in South Korea and raised in Iowa.

What did you do prior to joining Holt?

I was a camp director for another camp, a church camp.  I started that job right after I graduated from college and did that for five years.  I was looking for another camp director position and that’s what led me to Holt, in January of 2005.

What’s your educational background?

I have a bachelor’s in education and a master’s in social work.

Why did you decide to pursue a camp director position instead of a teaching position?

I think the camp environment is a very powerful environment.  I think I have a better platform for creating the kind of learning environment I want for children in camping than in education.  I have more creative license.

Did you grow up going to camp?

I didn’t go to any camps period as a kid.  The Holt Midwest Camp didn’t even exist when I was growing up.

You have said that the need for a strong adoptee community guides your advocacy work at Holt.  Growing up, did you struggle to find an adoptee community?

My sisters are adopted.  But there wasn’t a community of adoptees around me.  I don’t think an adoptee community really even exists.  That’s the whole purpose of my work.

Continue reading “Building Adoptee Community… at Camp”

Surviving, Learning, Laughing: A Little Girl’s Smile

Through candid (and often funny!) observations and heartwarming personal stories, a Holt adoptive mother shares the challenges and joys of parenting adopted children. Read more of Jane’s post adoption blogs by clicking here.

by Jane Ballback, Holt Adoptive Mom

Unlike the day we picked up the boys at the airport, my husband Steve and I were cool, calm and collected when it was time for our daughter, Stacee, who arrived in May of 1990. It was also the boys’ third birthday, so there was much excitement. We got to the airport at 10 a.m., her plane was on time, and everything went smoothly. I thought she looked very “lost” and exhausted, but that is understandable, so I thought a nap might make things right.

That evening at her welcome home party, she continued to look very sad and tired, but I didn’t think this would last long. I was wrong. The next morning when I went to pick her up from her crib, she was very awake and rested but wouldn’t let me hold her close to me. Every time I tried, she would push me away with her little arms. Despite the fact that she was only five months old, she was strong! I spent the day trying to see if this behavior would easily extinguish itself, but it did not. She didn’t cry and fuss a great deal. She just wouldn’t let me hold her.

I had my husband babysit while I went to the nearest store and bought one of the baby “slings” that allows you to have your baby face you while you hold her on your chest next to your heart. She literally couldn’t push me away at this point, and the behavior soon disappeared, even when she wasn’t being carried. I continued to carry her next to my heart as long as I could hold her weight. By this time she was very calm and receptive in my arms, but I knew she loved being next to my heartbeat.

What didn’t go away though, was the incredibly sad look on her face. I knew that Stacee had been born in Daegu Metropolitan City — the third largest metropolitan area in South Korea — which is about 146 miles from Seoul, South Korea. I didn’t know how she was relinquished or how she got to Seoul, I just knew that those five months were very traumatic for her. I don’t know how many “hands” she passed through, I’m just guessing she got sadder and sadder as time went on. Even a five-month-old baby can begin to lose all hope.

I did everything I knew how to do to get Stacee to relax and smile. Like my two boys, I put Stacee on a structured schedule where everything was predictable and stable. The boys would also spend many hours doing goofy things to get her attention and make her smile. She continued to eat and sleep well and began to adjust to the rhythm of our home. After a while she didn’t look incredibly sad, but she didn’t look incredibly happy either. She arrived in May, and it was about seven months later in December, in time for her first birthday, when she began to laugh and smile. I don’t think it was any one thing that finally brought about this first smile, just a combination of calm steady love and care that finally allowed her to begin to believe she finally had a home of her very own.

Please enjoy this slide show that depicts Stacee’s first years in our family.

Read Jane’s post-adoption blog, here!

President and CEO Kim Brown sits down for Interview with KACmedia

Kim Brown holding a child in ChinaKim Brown, Holt president and CEO, recently sat down with Kwon Cho, executive director of Korean American Christian (KAC) Media for the network’s “Faith, Power, and Influence” segment. In the interview, Brown discusses his adoption story and Holt’s humble beginnings, issues facing adult adoptees and adoptive families, and the future of Holt’s work.

“It’s a humbling position for me to be in,” says Brown. “I feel the weight of all the children who have been placed by Holt through the years, and I also feel the responsibility of the children who need homes.”

Brown also discusses Holt’s work as a child welfare organization…

“We are not just an adoption agency. We are concerned for the kids who don’t get the opportunity to find a home of their own.” We’re expanding what we’re doing, and we’re excited about being able to help more and more children around the world.

To see Kim Brown’s full interview, click the video below…..

Faith, Power & Influence #314 Kim Brown: “Rescuing Orphaned Children” from KAC Media on Vimeo

Intercountry Adoption—Moving Forward From a Fifty-Five-Year Perspective

An International Forum in Washington D.C.


by Susan Seunkoom Cox, Vice President of Policy and External Affairs

Adoptees and family gather for a picture with David Kim and Molly Holt

Participants from around the world gathered in Washington D.C. (April 14-16) to celebrate fifty-five-years of intercountry adoption at the International Forum sponsored by Holt International and Adoptees for Children. The conference was an unprecedented examination of international adoption and child welfare through the lens of adult adoptees.

Since the environment for international child welfare and adoption is influenced by global concerns and challenges more than ever, Washington D.C. was selected as the conference site so national and international policy makers could participate. Notable presenters from various countries presented during the conference. This was the first significant conference to highlight the unique personal perspective of adoption professionals who also happen to be adult adoptees. Too often the influence and voices of those who have lived the experience are not represented. As the organization that pioneered intercountry adoption, Holt International benefits from the experiences of three generations of adult adoptees.

Many of these adult adoptees attended the International Forum and represented the critical importance of adoption in the lives of children. The adoptees met with government officials, international guests, child welfare experts and Members of Congress and their staff.

The International Forum began with a press conference at the National Press Club (entire event can be seen at www.holtinternational.org) and the premier book signing of the new adoptee anthology, “More Voices.” The Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute hosted a luncheon in the Kennedy Caucus Room and Korean Ambassador Han hosted an amazing evening of Korean food and dance at his residence. The Forum concluded with a Gala dinner and program Saturday evening with Holt adoptive parent, the Honorable Marjorie Margolies serving as host.


Click here to watch an International Forum press conference at the National Press Club in D.C.

Click here to go to the International Forum homepage and learn more about the event

The Forum was made possible by a grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.

Forum photos and details at www.holtinternational.org and www.adoptees4children.org

Contact Adoptee Outreach Director, Courtney Rader courtneyr@holtinternational.org to order “More Voices” anthology


There’s a Little ‘Jerk’ in Us All

How a silly movie helped one girl keep it real

by Michelle Li

When I think of my childhood, I can’t resist thinking of good ole Navin Johnson. You know, he’s Steve Martin’s quirky character in the 1979 movie, The Jerk. Navin grew up as the only white kid in a black family from Mississippi and was obnoxiously delusional about his upbringings. And despite loving his adoptive family more than anything else, he had a whole world to see.

My mom hated that movie. But oddly, there’s something I can still relate to.

Just like Navin, I grew up a poor, white kid in rural Missouri. Okay, we weren’t really poor, but my parents certainly made sacrifices for me. I was a first-generation college student. My dad spent a lot of hours operating a backhoe on various construction sites to get me through my undergraduate years. My mother gave up her own education to cart me around to tap classes and basketball practice in high school. I was a good point guard, but I wasn’t that good.

For the most part, I grew up like any other white girl in the Midwest. I was the only Asian-looking girl in my class up until high school graduation. I had little interest in anything that sounded Asian-y. I once remember throwing a fit when my mom suggested I take a martial arts class. Of course, now I regret not knowing any self defense moves.

The point is, as a child, I thought I was white and nothing else. Then, I grew up.

Some people might assume it took meeting my birth family to make me realize that yes, indeed, I was Korean. That’s partly true. After all, we reunited when I was practically a kid. At 18, I discovered my birth family was intact. My three sisters and I were all born within about 5 years from one another. They were learning English. I had already coincidentally registered for Korean language classes at the University of Kansas. We were well on our way to adding each other to our family trees. My parents at home felt like they got three more Korean girls out of the deal. Life was good.

So, I took my newly-found Korean roots to KU. I joined the Asian American Student Union. I started hanging out with Korean kids from my language class. Then something weird happened. A few of my new friends turned on me.

“You’re so white-washed,” one girl said.

“You aren’t diverse enough,” another guy told me.

“It’s a shame you’re adopted,” another one said.

I remember feeling betrayed because I had put so much effort into becoming their friend. Here I was, unnaturally calling the older boys “ohpa” and learning phrases like “maekju masheetda” to cheers a beer, and what did I get in return? A swift kick in the shins.

It made me angry because these kids were actually born in the United States, unlike me. And they wanted to scold me about diversity? Most of them only hung out with Korean students in the science library, speaking only Korean to one another. Where were their non-Korean chingus?

I was confused. No white kid saw me as white. No Korean kid saw me as Korean. Who was I?

I’ve heard so many adoptees ask this question. Even though many are living happy lives, many will also tell you they don’t feel like they fully belong in any place. In one breath, my friends would tell me they just saw me as Michelle, but in the second breath, they’d make some wise crack about me being Asian. I could never escape looking different in the United States. Continue reading “There’s a Little ‘Jerk’ in Us All”

Surviving, Learning, Laughing: It Would’ve Been a Bit Awkward, Don’t You Think?


by Jane Ballback

I always knew that Holt International, the wonderful agency that brought us our children, offered “Homeland Tours”.  When your adopted child turns 18 they are invited to join other adoptees and return to the country and the orphanage where they were relinquished. It’s a chance to meet and interact with other adoptees, visit their country of origin, and even find out if the agency has other information about how, when, and why the child was relinquished. Tour participants also experience Korea together as they visit national and historic sites and learn about Korea’s rich cultural heritage.

I have always had an intense curiosity about all three of my children’s relinquishment history. At the point of adoption, we were provided with some information about that, but because it was a “closed” adoption, the information was scarce. I knew that our boys had two living parents and older brothers. And I knew that our daughter’s birth mother was young, single, and worked in a factory. That is all we were told and I was looking forward to hearing more of their story, and perhaps even finding my children’s birth parents. Holt even provides adoptees with help finding birth parents, if this is what they wish to do.

Our entire extended family talked a great deal about making this trip together. Our extended family is not that large, but we are all very close and it was a group effort raising my three children. We had all traveled together as a group many times, and talked about the impending trip to Korea.

When the boys were 17 years old, our extended family was together for dinner when we began to discuss our upcoming trip. As everyone was talking about how exciting it was going to be, I finally looked over at my twin boy’s faces. They could not have looked any more frightened, overwhelmed, or sad. I am so glad I was tuning into how they were feeling. As usual, they were not saying anything until they got me alone — my boys are intensely private people. Continue reading “Surviving, Learning, Laughing: It Would’ve Been a Bit Awkward, Don’t You Think?”

Adoptees and Adoption Advocates Become One Voice for Children in Washington D.C.

by Brian Campbell, Creative Services Director

On the first official day of discussions at the International Forum in Washington D.C., adoptees and adoption advocates —laughing and chatting — created a loud bustle in every room they entered. Some connected with each other for the first time, others reconnected with old friends.

More than just a look back into the 55-year history of international adoption, the discussions served as a tremendous resource for

adoptees and the adoption community — a wonderful opportunity to share experiences and look to the future of international adoption and how to best serve children.

When the welcome plenary began, chatting and laughing gave way to intense silence and devoted attention. Speakers shared stats

and figures that represented everyone in the room in one way or another. The attendees listened closely, taking notes and nodding as

Senator Jim McDermott speaks to International Forum attendees

topics about the importance of post adoption services and ongoing support for adopted children were discussed.

After the morning session concluded, a parade of forum attendees made their way from the hotel, down the street to the Russell Senate building and into the Kennedy Caucus room, where Senator Jim McDermott prepared to speak to the guests. An advocate for children and adoption for several decades, McDermott — between voting in the Senate —dashed across the street, eager to speak to the forum group about an issue for which he is passionate.

The Kennedy Caucus room has served as the setting for many significant events, trials and political gatherings that helped to move forward policy and legislation.  And on this important day — in a room alive with history and the voices of people moving forward with one goal in mind — over 200 adoptees and adoption advocates spoke out and became one voice for children, moving forward together to do what’s best for every child.