The Story Behind the Photo: Celebrating Each Milestone


While working and greiving through what felt like a very long adoption process, adoptive mom Amy Eatherly learned that there’s cause for celebration with each step.

I can still hear him cheering.

Christmas came on December 10th for us last year. We had been matched with our daughter earlier in the year and our family waited every day for news on our paperwork. Every day, I clung to my phone —willing it to ring with a phone call or beep with an email. We were waiting for something called an “emigrant permit.” It was the first step of the legal process in our Korean adoption. Our entire family, including our 4-year-old son, was waiting and praying for this news every day. When I hung up the phone with our agency on December 10th, I ran to my son, Elijah, and yelled, “EP SUBMISSiON!!! WE GOT EP SUBMISSSSSSSIIIOOONNN!!!” Elijah immediately began running laps around our house chanting, “EP SUBMISSION! EP SUBMISSION! EP SUBMISSION!” It was such a perfect ten-minute celebration. I ran around the house with him and we cheered and ran until we no longer had energy. We caught our breath, made a sign and took a memorable photo. You can see Elijah’s joy for “EP SUBMISSION!” in the picture. He knew that this was the first step to truly bringing his sister home. To us, it was a downhill road from here. We knew our girl would be home in a matter of months.

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Confidence, empowerment and the unexpected lesson from a furry friend

When Ed and Laura Sykora brought their daughter Maci home from Ethiopia, she was shy and timid. Now, she’s a confident and charming 7-year-old. Laura credits an unexpected friend for helping Maci discover her inner voice and feel empowered to handle life’s most difficult questions.

Laura and Ed with their son, Jax, 7, and their daughter, Maci, 7. Both Jax and Maci were adopted from Ethiopia.
Laura and Ed with their son, Jax, 7, and their daughter, Maci, 7. Both Jax and Maci were adopted from Ethiopia.

In my parenting journey, I have learned that I can’t always be there to speak for my children each time they are challenged.  I have learned that my job as a parent is to support and encourage my children and help them develop their problem-solving skills so they are empowered to work through situations.

Three years ago, my husband and I brought home a sweet, sensitive and smiling 4-year-old girl named Maci.

In those first few weeks home, she struggled with her confidence. Quiet and soft-spoken, she didn’t inherently believe that her voice mattered or that what she said was important.

As a mom, I talked to her about how she could feel safe to ask for what she needed and wanted. She could tell her classmates and rowdy brother if they were treating her in a way she didn’t like.

But, though my words were many, I never could have guessed how they would pale in comparison to the power of bringing a new, special family member into our home. Continue reading “Confidence, empowerment and the unexpected lesson from a furry friend”

The Story Behind The Photo: Nelson’s Answered Prayer

As a family experienced in caring for children with all kinds and degrees of special needs, Jacqui and Rodney Moore felt confident that they could care for an older boy with fairly involved spina bifida. But to them, his condition was beside the point. For National Adoption Month, Jacqui shares why her family would have adopted Nelson no matter his gender, age or special needs — becoming the answer to one very long-held prayer. 


Ours has been a journey of breaking down our personal mental barriers and being blessed each time. Fifteen years ago, we were a couple with two executive positions and no children. But then we began to understand how many children in the world need loving families. Since that time, we have adopted four wonderful daughters from China with various disabilities including lupus and leukemia. One of our daughters is an amputee, another is deaf and one has Ushers syndrome — meaning she is deaf and going blind.

These disabilities do not, however, define our daughters. Instead, they are characterized by their beautiful hearts and their love for each other.

When adopting, we did adhere to one guideline – we felt we should adopt children of the same gender. It seemed to make sense that, since our family had grown with little girls, we would only consider adopting daughters into our household…

But then we heard about Nelson*.

Nelson was a sweet, shy 7-year-old boy with a penchant for helping others. He was born with a condition called spina bifida, which literally means “split spine.” The birth defect can vary in severity depending on which part of the spine is split, and most commonly causes mobility and continence issues. Mobility is Nelson’s primary difficulty. Continue reading “The Story Behind The Photo: Nelson’s Answered Prayer”

The Story Behind My Son’s Contagious Smile

JackCruz’s smile is so big and bright, it’s contagious. But when Brooke Murphree and her husband brought him home from Korea two years ago, JackCruz struggled with the loss of his Korean foster family. For National Adoption Month, Brooke shares how she comforted her son through his grief — and watched his trust and joy bloom.

murphreestandingsandOur story begins many, many years ago with a dream of adopting from a far away land. Our hearts led us to Seoul, South Korea, where on October 14, 2014, we received one of the greatest gifts of our lives — our second son. We had longed for this day since we saw his sweet face on our computer screens a year and a half prior.

But the simple fact was that JackCruz had not. He had spent the first two years of his life with a very loving foster family who adored him beyond reason. He was perfectly happy living his life with them and had little idea about how his world would forever change at 10:30 a.m. that beautiful, cool autumn morning. Continue reading “The Story Behind My Son’s Contagious Smile”

The Story Behind the Photo: A Journey Toward Peace and Bonding


For Holt adoptive mom Riann Schell, this photo — taken while bringing her 9-year-old son home from China — is one she cherishes as a big moment in their adoption journey. 

Adoption is often referred to as “a journey.” Maybe because it involves walking roads for which we don’t have a map and scaling walls we didn’t think we have the strength to climb. But a journey, it is. I don’t crave adventure or adrenaline. Heights scare me; change makes my throat constrict. And, yet…

This was not the first time we stood within orphanage walls, waiting for the first glimpse of a face that we had only known in photos. Three times before, we had opened our arms, bringing home an infant, and two toddlers. But this time, a 9-year-old boy would walk into the room, smile bravely and greet us as “mama” and “baba.” As I knelt to wrap my arms around his bundled frame, his chin quivered, his courage wavering. Mine did too.

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The Story Behind the Photo: Before Your Child Comes Home…

Each day of National Adoption Month, join Holt as we go behind the scenes — using images and photos to raise awareness about the continuing need for adoption, sharing the diverse voices of adoptees and families and advocating for children who are waiting for families!


These days, it’s awfully easy to get caught up in the social media sharing frenzy. For adoptive families counting down the moments to when their child comes home, posting updates on Facebook or Instagram or even a personal blog can be a great way to manage the wait, celebrate milestones and keep friends and family informed.

But adoptive families need to be especially careful not to “over-share.” Continue reading “The Story Behind the Photo: Before Your Child Comes Home…”

Hearts Created Equal

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Jennifer and Marc have six children. Three are biological. Three are adopted. And three of their children each have a different special need. But for all six of Jennifer and Marc’s kids, their hopes and dreams are just as big — and just the same.

It’s an unusually warm spring day — the kind of day where, if you’re homeschooled, you work like crazy to get all of your work done in the morning so you can go outside and play. And today, that’s just what the Comer* kids decide to do.

Joyful giggles and shrieks fill the backyard as these six siblings do ninja moves mid-air on the trampoline, kick around the soccer ball and dash through the yard giving piggyback rides.

The fun they are having and love for each other is evident in how they play — but the most beautiful thing about this scene becomes evident when you hear this family’s story. That, because of their special needs, three of these children may have never had the opportunity to be accepted and loved within such a family.

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A Father Speaks for Older Child Adoption

Screen Shot 2016-06-17 at 12.06.41 PMAn adoptive father shares about deciding to pursue older child adoption, his son Eric, and how adopting an older child may be right for you and your family. 

Our 6-month old baby seems to be growing at a healthy rate. In the past 6 months, he’s grown about 5 centimeters. He has a healthy appetite and has gained 10 pounds. Last week his voice cracked and he’s showing the typical signs of pre-adolescence. All normal healthy development signs for a baby…right? Perhaps I should mention that our 6-month old baby is actually a 12-year-old boy whom we adopted from China last November. He is our son, Eric, and we can’t imagine life without him.

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Holt Camp: An Adoptive Mom’s Perspective

Holt adoptive mom Kathy Rafferty shares why sending her kids to Holt Adoptee Camp is one of the best parenting decisions she has made.  

holt1Transformative is how I would describe our family’s experience of Holt Adoptee Camp.   But here’s the thing — at their current ages of 14 and 17, my kids would describe their Holt camp experience in a somewhat different way. What they would tell you is that at Holt camp, they met new friends, had fun counselors who were also adopted, did silly skits and pranks, laughed a lot, did fun activities – and oh – sometimes the food was bad, the cabins hot and every day they had “cabin talks” with their peers and counselors about what it is like to be adopted. Continue reading “Holt Camp: An Adoptive Mom’s Perspective”

Celebrating All The Dads

There’s no one in the world quite like a dad. They make the perfect best friend and protector. They morph into a full-sized snuggle machine or a jungle gym, mood depending. They’re always up for an adventure, whether it’s to the top of a mountain or just to a favorite old spot. They’re full of wisdom, but they’re not above a little roughhousing or playing in the dirt. This Father’s Day, we salute all the dads — biological, adoptive, foster and beyond. We see you out there, doing your dad thing, and frankly, it’s pretty heartwarming. Thank you for your unwavering commitment to children. You make the world a brighter, happier place for children.

Here are just a few of our favorite photos of dads. Visit Holt International on Facebook on June 19 to view more images, share your favorite dad memories and add your own photos to our gallery!2798img_5295  Continue reading “Celebrating All The Dads”