Surviving, Learning, Laughing: Having Brown Eyes in a Blue-eyed world

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

by Jane Ballback

Since my children are Korean and look different from my husband and myself, I’m often asked whether or not there were any huge issues with that as they were growing up.

The short answer is that we are so fortunate to live in Southern California, a melting pot of every conceivable ethnic and racial identity. People were, for the most part, endlessly curious, but kind.

As the children got older and were in high school, we actually experienced some of what I call “reverse discrimination.” All three of my children struggled some with math in high school. I hired tutors for all three of them because I wasn’t able to do the work, and my husband was too tired to do it at night. While they mastered all the concepts they needed to master, it was difficult for all of them. Each of them came to me at different times and asked me to write a note to their teacher saying they really were trying, and despite the fact that they were Asian, they simply were not math geniuses! By the time that it had happened with my third child, Stacee, I just couldn’t stop laughing!

Jaik did struggle with looking different than other people around him. Despite the fact that we live in a very ethnically diverse environment, we live on the small island where, for the most part, the population is Caucasian — a lot of them are blonde and blue eyed. So, until Jaik got to high school he did look different than most of his friends and classmates. Jaik’s reaction was to change his name when he was nine.

I know a lot of adoptive parents choose to keep their adopted children’s names. My husband and I also made a decision to keep the children’s Korean names as their middle names instead of their first names. My decision was born out of trying to limit the things my children were going to have to explain in their lives about why they were different or why they looked different from me and my husband.

• Jaik is named Jaik Joon Hwan,

• Brandon is Brandon In Hwan, and

• Stacee is Stacee Mee Sun.

We used their first and middle names together many times so that they got used to hearing that we were very comfortable with using both their American and their Korean names. I also decided to give Jaik’s name a different spelling. I had read in a book that in India the name Jay is spell “Jai’ — so I spelled his name as “Jai” and put a “k” on the end for “Jaik.” Continue reading “Surviving, Learning, Laughing: Having Brown Eyes in a Blue-eyed world”

It’s a Win-Win for Adoptive Families as Obama Signs Two Important Acts!

Great news!  President Obama has approved two important pieces of legislation affecting adoptive families — the Help HAITI Act, signed into law December 9th, and the Adoption Simplification Act, signed November 30th.

The Adoption Simplification Act does more than simplify the process for families.  It helps ensure the safety of adopted children.  Previously, the U.S. required all children adopted from Hague Convention countries – including China, Thailand, the Philippines and India – to receive all their vaccinations before entering the U.S.  Delivered all at once, these immunizations can be unsafe to young children.  “It’s good public health,” Susan Cox, Holt director of public policy and external affairs, says of ensuring everyone receives routine vaccinations against infectious diseases.  “But not for babies.”

With the passage of this act, all children 10 or younger – adopted from any country – may wait to get their shots until after they enter the U.S.  Delaying immunizations has one additional effect on the adoption process – an effect important to every parent and every child eager to be united as a family.  “It means the children won’t have to wait so long (to enter the U.S.),” says Cox.

The Adoption Simplification Act includes one additional provision.  Families who’ve adopted from Hague signatories may now adopt their child’s siblings, up to 18-years-old.  Previously, the cut-off age was 16.  For the siblings who will now be able to reunite in an adoptive family, this news is monumental – as well as a major step forward in protecting the rights of orphaned, abandoned and vulnerable children.

Another breakthrough for adoptive families – and 21 Holt families in particular – occurred December 9th.  Nearly one month shy of the one-year anniversary of Haiti’s massive earthquake, Obama signed into law the Help HAITI Act, ensuring citizenship for every child brought to the U.S. from Haiti on humanitarian parole visas.

Following the earthquake, the U.S. issued these visas to approximately 1,000 children already matched with adoptive families – including 21 children living at the Holt Fontana Village, the care center Holt supports in Haiti.  Unlike children adopted through the usual process – who are automatically naturalized – these children faced years of waiting for the legal protections entitled to U.S. citizens.  Among the children to become citizens are Nephtalie, pictured above with her sisters, Mazie Grace Jean, who joined the Polzin family in Wisconsin, and Sthainder, who lives with his family in Oregon.  Click here to read more about how the 21 Holt Fontana Village children joined their families after the earthquake.

Holt adoptee Interviewed by New England Cable News Channel

A letter from Holt adoptive mom Nancydee MacFarland about her son, Noah:

December 14th, 2010.

Dear Holt Family,


Six years ago this weekend, Noah walked into our hotel room in China with an un-repaired cleft palate. At 7:45 this morning, The New England Cable News Channel interviewed Noah and the executive of Boy Scouting in Greater Boston about the 100th anniversary of Scouting, and the dinner to be held at the Boston Harbor hotel tonight.

This evening, Noah is looking forward to speaking to a ballroom of CEOs and the leading businessmen of Boston. Our newly elected Republican Senator Scott Brown will be honored at the banquet.

God is so good. I wish the moment could be shared with Noah’s Chinese parents, his foster parents, his surgeons and his speech therapists. Noah has an amazing confidence and ability to handle whatever life puts in front of him. Neinei, Noah’s foster mom/grandmom in the Lanzhou, Gansu foster care project, wrote in 2004: “Someday Qian Hong will be a leader.” It seemed a funny thing to say about a “failure to thrive” baby with a cleft lip/palate and gums. Perhaps there was truth in her early prediction. Blessings do have power. God certainly has plans for this young man. To God be the glory.

Click here to view Noah’s interview….

Many children with manageable, treatable medical conditions are waiting for permanent families in China right now.  Click here to Learn more about Holt’s China Child of Promise program.

Surviving, Learning, Laughing: An Adoptee’s View

As children grow into late adolescence and early adulthood, I think all parents are probably curious about how their children have felt about their own childhood.  Often children don’t think about it or don’t have a way to express their experiences.

To my complete surprise, our daughter Stacee wrote about herself and our family in her college essay (she is now a junior at UC, Santa Cruz).

Please enjoy her essay and also enjoy getting to know Stacee a little bit better.  When she’s done with her finals this quarter, I’m going to ask her to start blogging with me. –Jane Ballback, guest blogger

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Introducing Jane’s daughter, Stacee

by Stacee Ballback

Looking at my family portrait, you might notice a lack of consistency. My brothers, Jaik and Brandon, are Korean like myself.  My Aunt Bea Bea is Mexican.  My other aunt Pranita is Indian.  And the rest of my family is Caucasian. This generates a lot of questions and a lot of stares from people. Sure, we’re all very different, but one thing we all share is a strong bond of love, mutual respect and support for each other.

I was born named Mec Sun Kim. Five months later, I was adopted and my name changed to Stacee Ballback. I can’t tell you much about the experience because I can’t remember it, but I know 1 started out a sad baby. I think being taken from my mother at birth instead of being held by her and feeling her love created an emptiness in my heart that remained until I became a Ballback. At five months old, I was given a new home and a new life. My mom and dad, along with my brothers, quickly filled the emptiness in my heart with the family I had been missing and needing.

After I settled into my new life, I became much happier because I knew I had a loving family behind me no matter what. The most influential people in my life are my mom and dad. My mom is the strongest, most independent woman I know. She presides over our family and we refer to her as “Alpha Dog” because she makes every final decision. My dad is much more passive than my mom and has a childlike tendency about him that makes him spacey and forgetful. My mom is organized. When we have dinner, she often ends up pulling out a typed paper with topics and lists of things she wants to discuss concerning vacations, holidays, household chores, etc. Needless to say, you can often walk out of one of her dinners feeling like you just got out of an extremely productive business meeting. However, all neurotic tendencies aside, my mom has taught me valuable lessons as I’ve grown older. She taught me to be independent and never to be a follower, but a leader. Continue reading “Surviving, Learning, Laughing: An Adoptee’s View”

On This Special Day

Through the sharing of photos and memories, Randa Hazzard remembers the day she met her sister, Kait. The Hazzards began their own adoption journey to Ethiopia earlier this year….

by Randa Hazzard

Randa at the Des Moines Airport, holding Kait for the first time.

Today is an important day for my family. On this day, 23 years ago, we picked up my sister, Kait, at the airport in Des Moines.  I remember being so filled with excitement waiting for someone to step off the plane with Kait in their arms. We had given Kait a special blanket to be wrapped in, so we would know which baby she was. Up until that point, all we had was a photo taken shortly after her birth. I had kept a photo of her in my room and looked at it often, wondering what she would be like. Little did I know, we would grow up to be so close, so alike, and such good friends.

On December 8th, we always celebrate her coming into our family, and she always tells me how much it means to her.

Once our little guy joins the family, we will most definitely celebrate his special day every year, as well. Thinking about this brings tears to my eyes. I am so thankful for Kait. I can’t even begin to imagine us not having each other.

As I have said before, adoption is amazing!  I Love you Kaitlin Kim! I Love everything about you.

Randa, Kait and Kyle with Grandma Holt.

You are the best sister I could ever have!

Follow the Hazzard family on the journey to their son, here.

Want to learn more about the wonderful journey of adoption?  Click here to learn more.

Surviving, Learning, Laughing: Too Good to be True

Through candid (and often funny!) observations and heartwarming personal stories, a Holt adoptive mother shares the challenges and joys of parenting adopted children

by Jane Ballback

I mentioned in my last blog that all three of my children had very different reactions to their relinquishment and adoption. In this blog I want to talk specifically about my son Jaik who has never shown or expressed an interest in — or any curiosity about — his adoption, nor does he seem particularly interested in anything related to it.

When I started teaching the classes for Holt he was in his late adolescence. Now that I’m doing this blog, I sat down one more time to talk to him about my participation in the blog and how I was telling his stories. He listened very politely to the whole thing and when I got finished he said (in Jaik’s very clear way), “I know you are very interested in all this, Mom, I simply am not.”

I actually do think that he does care about his relinquishment and his adoption but for his own reasons he just is not, in any way, ready to deal with it.

I recently read a very interesting book on this subject. The book is called, Being Adopted, the Lifelong Search for Self, by David Brodzinsky, Marshall D. Schechter, and Robin M. Harris. This book along with several other good books, are listed under the links “Post Adoption Services/Recommended Books on Holt’s website”.

This is the first book I’ve found that mentions in the introduction of the book that there really are vast differences in the way that children react to their relinquishment and adoption. There are some children that are so happy, so relieved, so pleased to be within a family that they don’t have a great deal of reaction to their early life.

What’s also interesting about this book is that it follows adoptees all through their life cycle. I’m busy reading the book because my boys are now 23 and my daughter Stacee is 20; and I’m very interested in now knowing how their adoption issues could play out in their young adult and middle adult years. It’s a fascinating book.

Despite Jaik’s reluctance to talk about his adoption, Jaik had some “adopted behaviors.” Let me describe an incident that taught me a great deal. Jaik is pretty much the perfect kid. Continue reading “Surviving, Learning, Laughing: Too Good to be True”

A New Beginning…A Powerful Connection


A message from Steve Kalb, camp director

As another Adoptee Camp season is placed in the books, the dust begins to settle from the frantic pace of my summer camp adventures.  Back in my Eugene office, I close my eyes and take a deep breath, inhaling a sense of relative calm before I begin my article.  As I exhale slowly, my eyes open and begin to focus on the blinking cursor and blank page before me.  The calm quickly fades to a light panic.

“How?” I ask myself.

How can I possibly describe everything the campers have taught me?  How can I convey to readers the beauty and value of the Adoptee community?  How can the strength and urgency of their voice be turned into a newsletter?  I fumble through several iterations; reading, re-reading, deleting, shaking my head as I struggle to get it “just right”.  In spite of my desperate efforts to capture their voice, I sense the soul and poignancy of their wisdom evaporating with each keystroke.  Frustrated, I decide to move on to another project.  As I close the document, it hits me; “Just let them tell their stories!”……..

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Thirteen-year old Allison discusses her life-changing experiences at Holt adoptee camp and encourages others to join her on next summer’s adventures

by Allison Fuchs

My name is Allison Fuchs. This summer was my fifth year attending Oregon Holt camp. When I was younger, I had a lot of unanswered questions in my mind; some were more important than others. This year, I finally realized that many of my questions should be asked.

I think Holt camp is very important for adoptees. It teaches us that there are other people our age who have faced the same problems we have. It’s a great way to share a special bond with another adoptee.

The most rewarding part of camp is seeing how dedicated the staff is. Making sure the the campers have fun and learn who they are, is the staff’s number one goal. To top it off, they don’t get paid for any of it! I truly admire the level of commitment they give.

Adoptee camp helped me so much in everyday life. It helps me make new friends every year and has helped me realize that it wasn’t my fault I was adopted. This was always something I wondered until I asked it at camp. I finally understood that it is never the adoptee’s fault. Never.

I want to tell adoptees that they are special to me. Even if I don’t know them, I still feel very passionate about them. I think of all adoptees as my extended family. It’s a terrific feeling and I hope they feel the same way. Continue reading “A New Beginning…A Powerful Connection”

Surviving, Learning, Laughing: Introducing Jane

Through candid (and often funny!) observations and heartwarming personal stories, a Holt adoptive mother shares the challenges and joys of parenting adopted children

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For the past three years, Holt adoptive parent Jane Ballback has shared her adoption stories with families waiting to bring their children home. An adoptive parent for 24 years, Jane speaks at parent training classes led by Holt Social Worker Mike Guinn. Mike offers the formal training. Jane presents the personal experiences relating to the issues being discussed.

“I provide the stories that bring the theories alive and help new parents figure out what they are about to face,” says Jane. “Everyone loves a good story, and mine are real, relatable and memorable. Adoption concepts are rather abstract and hard to explain until you understand how the theories play out in real life.”

Starting today, Jane will share her thoughts and stories on Holt’s blog once a week. The theories and issues discussed will be relevant to new adoptive families as well as families who have had their children home for some time. Our hope is that Jane’s blogs will serve as an educational tool for adoptive parents and also as a catalyst for candid, meaningful discussion.

Feel free to comment on Jane’s blog entries with your own suggestions, questions and personal stories as they relate to the topic being discussed.

Jane’s daughter, Stacee, will also occasionally be joining her mother as a guest blogger.

The following is a message from Jane:

Hello, my name is Jane and I am one of the luckiest women in the world. I have been married forty years to the “boy” I met in high school, I’ve had a fascinating and rewarding career as a Human Resource Consultant and Career Coach, and now that I’m retired I get to do volunteer work for non-profits whose missions are near and dear to my heart.

The best part of this story, though, is that along the way my husband and I adopted three children from Korea, who are now young adults. Being a parent was the hardest job I’ve ever done, and watching them grow and develop has been the experience of a lifetime.

I’ve always been an intensively curious woman and learning to be an adoptive parent was one of my greatest endeavors. Determined to be the best parent I could, I talked to adoption experts, read everything I could find about parenting adoptive children, and when I was “in over my head”, I worked with a gifted child psychologist, who is herself, adopted.

I was, by no means a “perfect” parent. Along the way I stumbled, survived, learned and laughed. The idea for this blog came out of the volunteer work I do for Holt International. For three years now I’ve been working with the Southern California social worker, helping to train parents who are waiting for their new arrival. He does the formal training and introduces the adoption theories and ideas – I provide the stories that bring the theories alive, and help new parents figure out what they are about to face. Everyone loves a good story, and mine are real, relatable and memorable.

I thought my first story would be about my daughter, Stacee who is now twenty years old and a junior in college. I want to introduce Stacee to you because she will periodically be blogging with me. I have often been asked how it is possible to love a child that is not your own. I understand the question — it’s just difficult to answer, so I often tell this story.

I actually did forget once, that I was not my daughter’s “real” mother. When Stacee was three she had a persistent fever and was turning bright red. After a few days of trying to figure this out, my pediatrician told me to drive directly to the Children’s Hospital and get her admitted. He suspected, rightfully so, that she had Kawasoki’s Disease. This is an unusual disease, common among Asians with just these symptoms. It’s a very treatable disease, but time was of the essence and the result of not treating it was the possibility of permanent damage to Stacee’s heart.

As I sat in the admitting department, with this hot, bright red child on my lap, I was distraught to say the least. The nurse began getting a history from me, Continue reading “Surviving, Learning, Laughing: Introducing Jane”

Where Your Paths Meet…

In honor of National Adoption Month, Holt adoptive mother of 2-year-old Zoey (shown in the video) and adoptee Kimberly Williams Shuck created a video of children who came home to their families through the journey of adoption! She hopes that it will inspire others to consider adoption as a wonderful way to build a family.

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I reached out to thirty or so of my friends from the adoption world and they provided me with a picture of their children and families brought together through adoption! I knew that anyone considering adoption had to see the faces of the children who had found their families, making one less orphan in the world.

I will do everything I can to be a voice for those who cannot speak for themselves and spread the word about the miracle of adoption.

Adoption has its struggles, financially and emotionally for all involved, but just know that in the end God has a clear- cut plan for where each and every person’s path meets.

I hope that you will watch the video and pass it along, unknowing of who it may inspire and ultimately lead to new adoption journeys.

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Learn more about how you can spread the word about the wonderful journey of adoption…

Start your adoption journey today!…Click here to learn more.

An Angel in Adoption

Holt adoptee Michelle Sherwood receives special recognition for her advocacy of children in need of families

by Robin Munro, Senior Writer

He flips. He cartwheels. He can even do “the worm.” Jayson hams it up for the camera as KSPR News, a station in Springfield, Missouri, films his acrobatic dance moves. “Blood rushes to my head and I like the way it feels,” he says, smiling and trying to catch his breath, his arms casually dangling over the gymnastics bars.

KSPR News has chosen to feature Jayson in a Wednesday’s Child segment, a weekly program designed to help children in foster care find homes. KSPR News anchor – and Holt adoptee – Michelle Sherwood introduces and narrates the segment. She also interviews Jayson during filming.

“If you could have three wishes, what would you wish for?” she asks him.

“To find a family, for me to see my sisters every day, and for me to go to heaven,” he says, before bouncing back to gymnastics practice.

Michelle and her team tailor segments to the children’s interests – they take them to interactive museums, to farms, to the zoo. One baseball-enthusiast received a lesson from the local team. Another got an art lesson. As well as behind-the-scenes work, Michelle participates in many of the segments, shooting hoops or baking cakes, engaging every child.

“We try to bring out the best in these kids,” she says.

Since the program appeared in May, many of the kids featured on Wednesday’s Child have found families. Michelle’s efforts to show children at their best also caught her local representative’s attention. In October, Missouri Congressman Roy Blunt presented her with an Angel in Adoption award for her advocacy on behalf of children who need homes.

On this, Michelle is quite humble. “Although I am thrilled and honored to be accepting a congressional award for my volunteerism,” she wrote on her blog, “it does not even compare to the daily contributions our social workers make.”

Michelle’s efforts, however, are anything but modest. She began lobbying for Wednesday’s Child at KSPR News over a year ago, after learning a disturbing statistic about the community her station serves. Greene County has the highest rates of child abuse and neglect in the state of Missouri, a statistic correlated with the high number of children in the foster care system.

“Why,” she thought, “are we not doing something for these kids to help find them homes?”

As a broadcast journalist, Michelle found a tremendous resource at her fingertips. She discovered Wednesday’s Child, a common vehicle used by news stations across the country to promote adoption, and initiated partnership with The Adoption Exchange – a national child welfare organization that recruits adoptive families for foster children. The segments were an instant success. Continue reading “An Angel in Adoption”