The Flat Side

With the love of her family and community — and a little Chinese chicken soup — adoptee Maya Price gains a confidence that shows in “her bounce, her risk-taking, and most especially, VERY especially, her laughter.” This post originally appeared on the Price family’s blog, “the littlest price.

IMG_9057I made chicken soup for my daughter tonight. Mindlessly, chopping and peeling and crushing, which is how we all make chicken soup. But these days are different: gone are the days of celery, carrots, turnips, fresh parsley from the garden. These are the days of thick slices of ginger, crushed to let the juice out, many many garlic cloves, also crushed and juicy. Fragrant star anise, spring onion, very finely ground white pepper. When the chicken is cooked in this fragrant broth, I pull it out and shred, shred, shred. Then it all goes back into the pot. Without even thinking about it, I grab the big beautiful Chinese soup bowl, the white Chinese soup spoon with pink flowers on it, and ladle it out for my girl. Sometimes I stop and smile, and tonight was one of those nights, at how excited she gets when we’re in an Asian store and she gets to pick out bowls and spoons that look like the ones she had in her home in Wuhan. I have to smile at the pink floral rice spatula, the one that she practically begged for, and IMG_6473how she quietly gets it out of the drawer and places it beside the rice cooker when I make rice. Continue reading “The Flat Side”

Our Son, However He Comes to Us

In the following story, the Shardell family shares about their experience adopting a boy with unknown medical needs from China. Before referring children to families, we do all that we can to make sure questions about the children’s medical condition or development are answered. But given the many unknowns in international adoption, Holt also considers the family’s experience level and openness to potential unknowns. The Shardell family had a particular expertise in and openness to developmental concerns, which was a great fit for their son Brennan. Brennan’s unknowns were all part of the process of discovery during their wait for him. Allison, tenacious in her pursuit of answers to her concerns about his development, asked key questions and was open to wherever the answers led us. Our local on-the-ground staff in China was able to follow up and learn more about Brennan. And ultimately, the Shardells decided to move forward and welcome Brennan into their family. In many ways, their story illustrates how the adoption process is an active partnership between families and Holt’s program staff — ensuring families are as prepared and informed as possible as they enter this major, and wonderful, part of their lives. — Beth Smith, Director of Services, China Program

 Brennan has learned over four-dozen ASL signs that he uses independently.
Since being diagnosed with profound bilateral hearing loss, Brennan has learned over four-dozen ASL signs that he uses independently.

They say the biggest surprises come when you least expect them, and this definitely seems to be our family’s adage. As a family of five, including a 10-year-old biological son, a 7-year-old daughter adopted as an infant from northern Vietnam, and a 5-year-old biological daughter, we were comfortable and firmly out of the toddler stage. We had a nice little routine of homeschooling and traveling, sports and music lessons, co-ops and field trips. Until one day, that routine was shaken up when we had a family picture taken as part of a culture camp for Vietnamese adoptees and our middle child announced that nobody in the family looked like her. It was around that time that we began to look at different options for possibly adopting one more child. Vietnam, at the time we were looking, was not an option, so we began researching China.

As an autism behavior specialist with a doctorate focused on child development and developmental disorders, I felt well equipped to care for a child with special needs. So my husband and I began talking to Holt to find out about our options. We were told the current status of China adoptions — almost all children have special needs, there was a 6-9 month wait for a young girl, and there was an urgent need for families open to adopting boys. Since we had two girls and a boy, we felt like a little boy would be the perfect fit for our family, and so in August 2014, we applied to adopt a child with a special need through Holt’s China program. Continue reading “Our Son, However He Comes to Us”

Passing the Torch: Part Two

In 2011, Holt adoptee and adoptive father Lawrence Vallandigham reflected on how his experience of growing up adopted might influence how he parents his son. Four years later, Lawrence, whose son is now 6, discusses how his perceptions have changed over time.

By Lawrence Gordon Vallandigham, Mountain View, California

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Divining nature from nurture is a parent’s lifetime Gordian knot. Ask any parent with a history of family adoption to attribute character, predilections and quirks, and that’s when stories become confusing. It’s not like we can simply point to Daddy’s or Mommy’s side of the family – though we jokingly do.

This is our evolving story with our son, Gordon.

In 2011, my wife and I shared our adoption journey from our decision to adopt through the first two years of our son’s new life. I closed the article with rhetorical flourish about ways my being an adult adoptee might influence parenting attitudes and behaviors for raising Gordon:

(2011 story excerpt):  As an adult Holt adoptee, I occasionally wonder how it informs my approach to fatherhood. Will my experiences be relevant to Gordon? Should I be more intuitive about identity issues? Of this I am certain: just as I was lovingly raised, Gordon will always know of his beginnings – not as a reason for solicitous gratitude, but to understand the richness of family and the blessings of life.

Little did I think I’d be asked for a follow-up perspective four years later. Upon discussing with my wife the proposition to write another article, we believe our story might resonate with others in this unique community who have chosen love through adoption. Continue reading “Passing the Torch: Part Two”

The Family We Always Dreamed Of

Holt adoptive mom Emily Jasman reflects on family, adoption and life as an empty-nester.

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Nick Jasman, 23, graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 2014 and Abby Jasman, 20, attends South Dakota State University.

This week, I am experiencing something that I haven’t been able to for seven months! My son is home on leave from the Navy and my daughter is home from college. Things are once again right in the world when my two children are under the same roof. Where did the time go? Flash back 23 years ago when my husband and I welcomed a 5-month-old baby boy from Korea. Three years after that, we were blessed with a baby girl from Korea. Now these memories sustain us through the empty nest months. Nick, now 23, and Abby, now 20, became our forever family and I truly believe that God worked in our lives to put all of this in place. It is a rollercoaster ride from the time you get that picture of your child to when they come to you on a plane or you go to pick them up in their countries. In fact, for years my kids thought that babies came on planes. My son asked his preschool teacher what type of airline she came on: TWA or United? Continue reading “The Family We Always Dreamed Of”

Holt China Tour Blog: Annabel Meets Her Foster Mom

Ten-year-old Holt adoptee Annabel Horvath reunites with her foster mom and visits her finding site on the 2015 Holt China Family Tour. This post originally appeared on the blog Bringing Home Annabel.

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As our travel group prepared to depart for our respective provinces, the larger group of adopted girls all became a bit pensive and introspective. It was clear they were all preparing themselves for the days to come. We all parted ways and our family left for the town of Yuanling in the Hunan Province to see Annabel’s orphanage and meet her foster mother.

js_YuanlingFirstFoster Continue reading “Holt China Tour Blog: Annabel Meets Her Foster Mom”

Ethiopia Families Reunite in Tennessee and Oregon

Two Very Special Ethiopian Reunions

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Last month, Holt families who adopted children from the same care center in Ethiopia met at a resort in Tennessee for their second annual adoptive family reunion.  “When we adopted our daughter, Maci, from Ethiopia, she was 4, and we knew that her friendships were very important to her,” Holt adoptive parent and Holt staff member Laura Sykora says. “We knew we needed to do all we could to help her maintain those friendships.”

Fortunately, the Sykoras found many adoptive families who felt the same way. “Everyone wanted to keep those connections,” Laura says.

So, during the last week of June, 13 families, including 25 Ethiopian born children, met at a resort in Nashville for a weekend of fun and memories. “The children’s faces lit up as all the families started to arrive,” Laura says.  “Attendance close to doubled the previous year’s numbers.”

Plans are already underway for next year’s reunions. “As parents, we have developed a connection of friendship as we have drawn together sharing experiences and providing each other with support,” Laura says.

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Reunion with Miruk Alemu

A month later, another special Ethiopian reunion took place, this time in Oregon.

Miruk Alemu, Holt Ethiopia’s director of adoption and sponsorship, spent a full week in Oregon, kicking off her trip with a family gathering at a Portland area park. Fifteen Ethiopian adoptees and their families attended. Some traveled more than four hours to see Miruk and participate in the festivities. Since joining Holt in 2009, Miruk, has worked on nearly every adoption case, and has aided families through their process in Ethiopia. She said the time at the park, reconnecting to the children, was extremely special for her. “I can’t believe how much they have all grown,” Miruk said.

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Along with the reunion, Miruk also spent the week at the Holt office in Eugene, meeting with members of the Holt team and participating in trainings.

 

Interested in connecting with other adoptive families this summer?  Click here to learn more about Holt picnics and find a picnic near you! 

 

For Deaf Students in Ethiopia, the First Day of School is a Major Milestone

Around the world, the extra cost to send children back to school is often an overwhelming amount for parents. Books, school supplies, shoes and uniforms all add up — and on top of already expensive school fees. However, for one special school in Ethiopia, you can help provide children with the supplies they need and ensure the first day of school is marked with joy and celebration.

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In 2009, Holt came to Shinshicho — first renovating a local clinic, and then partnering with the community to build a full maternal-child hospital to serve the region’s nearly 250,000 people. In recent years, Holt also developed programs to strengthen families at risk of separation from their children. Through our work in the community, Holt heard about the need for a school for deaf children and decided to help. A Shinshicho resident donated the land and space, and we worked with the community to build a school for deaf children. Anticipating only 50 students on the first day, we were shocked when more than 200 children showed up to learn. This year, more than 500 students will attend Yesus Mena School for deaf children.

There’s a universal kind of magic in the first day of school.

The potion is simple: mix one new outfit with two cups of optimism for what a new school year may hold — one from the child, one from the parent. Add a fresh-faced teacher and 50 sets of new notebooks and school bags. Blend it all together with a dose of excitement and a pinch of nerves. Add a new best friend and a handful of lunch-time giggles. Drink it up, knowing this school year will be the best one yet. Continue reading “For Deaf Students in Ethiopia, the First Day of School is a Major Milestone”

Thank You for Supporting the Special Needs Adoption Fund!

babyIn February, we reached out to all of our friends, child sponsors, adoptive families and more to raise money for the Special Needs Adoption Fund, which provides financial aid and grants to eligible families waiting to bring their child home. Your gifts are already working miracles in the lives of children and families. Since the beginning of the year, you’ve helped more than 39 families receive SNAF grants.

For over two decades, Holt supporters like you have helped children come home through the Special Needs Adoption Fund. Since 1994, over 600 families have received SNAF grants — giving them the critical support they need to adopt a child with a special medical or developmental condition.

But every year, the need grows bigger and bigger. Most of the children Holt now places with families have some form of special need — and in 2014, over half had moderate to major needs. As many of these children will face expensive medical procedures once home, the financial burden on families is often unbearable.

Your gift to the Special Needs Adoption Fund eases that burden — making a child’s dream of a family come true.

Last year alone, Holt awarded 37 SNAF grants totaling $91,300. This year, we will need to raise the same amount to ensure we can support every family who needs help funding their adoption. But so far, our 2015 SNAF campaign has raised just $42,346 of our $100,000 goal.

Would you consider giving again?

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Continue reading “Thank You for Supporting the Special Needs Adoption Fund!”

She Could Have Been Just a Number…

ViviShe could have been just a number. Just another kid in an orphanage. Just another kid with special needs.

When Holt matched Vivienne with her family three years ago, she was about to receive surgery for her cleft lip and palate — a common condition among children living in orphanage care in China. At the time, she was in care at Peace House, Holt’s medical foster home in Beijing.

“It was hard being so far away, wondering if all was well,” her mom, Catherine, reflects.

Fortunately, Holt’s staff in China regularly sent updates about Vivienne’s progress —including medical records, photos and video. “We knew she was safe and well cared for,” says Catherine. Continue reading “She Could Have Been Just a Number…”

The Single Best Decision

As options expand for single applicants hoping to adopt internationally, one single mom shares her story of opening her heart and home to a son from China.

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“You know what, Mom?”

“What Timothy…”

“I LOVE YOU!”

“I love you, too.”

This is a game my son and I play almost every day. And those are words that I thought I would never hear. I am single and in my 40’s, but ever since I could remember I had always wanted to be a mom. I was confused as to why God would place such a longing in my heart, but not have me married and having children. Then, a few years ago, God turned my heart toward adoption. At first I rebelled. Was I out of my mind? Being single and a busy career woman, I had my hands full managing my job, my home, volunteer work and a personal life. And, to be honest, I was a little selfish about giving it up. How in the world did I think I would be able to add a child to this…all by myself.

But once the seed of possibility was planted, the longing only got stronger. I talked with my pastor, my closest friends, my family (all of them live out of town), and carefully surveyed my support systems. As it turns out, I have several friends in my church family who have adopted, so I talked to them. Then, I took the plunge and called Holt International.

Fifteen months, a completed home study and a dossier later, I was traveling to China with my aunt to meet my 2-year-old son, Timothy, and bring him home. The trip to get my son was a wonderful experience and well supported by Holt staff. But the real adventures began when we arrived home.

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My aunt stayed for a few days to help with my adjustment to motherhood, but she was tired and jet-lagged, too, and really needed to get back to her life. I could not have survived those initial weeks had it not been for the support of my closest friends and my church family. Before I went to China, they had arranged a ‘baby shower’ that included not just the usual gifts for a small child, but an organizational chart of meals, errand runners, diaper bringers and prayer support for the first several months after our return. My friends, respecting our initial need for bonding time, stood at the ready to provide the emotional support and encouragement that I needed to begin my motherhood experience. They would send emails, call, drop by briefly with a meal or help me recover from a meltdown. And, when we ventured out to a park, they would meet us there to play ‘separately, together.’ Continue reading “The Single Best Decision”