John, this week’s featured waiting child, has watched two close friends leave the orphanage to join adoptive families in the U.S. Left behind, and wondering when it will be his turn, John has less than four months to find a family. Or he will stay left behind, forever.
by Jessica Palmer, Waiting Child Program Manager
Last summer, Holt’s senior writer, Robin Munro, and I visited southeastern China for the Journey of Hope – a gathering of children with special needs, all hoping to find adoptive families in the U.S. Over the last year, we have shared many of their stories in Waiting Child blogs and featured their photos on the Holt photolisting.
Several of the children we met now have forever families, and a couple of them have already come home!
One little guy I blogged about, Xing Men, really stole my heart – and I am glad to say he is one of the several children who now have families.
When I remember that trip to China, though, another boy always pops into my head. Now 13 years old, this boy doesn’t have much longer to find his forever family. When he turns 14, on November 12th, he will no longer be eligible for international adoption.
John* first grabbed my attention during the Journey of Hope camp performance. Although calm and collected, he seemed a bit shy – introducing himself with his head lowered, his posture stiff. Once the music started, though, he began dancing, moving and jumping to the beat with excellent coordination, eventually flashing a smile. Continue reading “Forever Left Behind”
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.
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.
UPDATE: As of December 2011, Christina has a family! Thank you to everyone who shared her story.
Christina*, this week’s featured waiting child, is 13 years old. All she wants is a loving family. She urgently needs to find one before she turns 14, next March.
by Robin Munro, Senior Writer
I remember 12. Vividly.
The pimples, the braces, the overall awkwardness and misery of puberty. I don’t know about you, but most of my “most embarrassing moments” occurred between the ages of 12 and 15. How intensely you felt everything – the thrill of your crush making eye contact in the hallway, the humiliation of forgetting the notes during your trumpet solo.
During those years, you began to decide who you would be – an athlete, an intellectual, an artist, a movie star.
You didn’t feel like a kid anymore. But you didn’t feel like an adult either.
And though you probably wouldn’t admit it – and likely found it decidedly “uncool” to be seen with them – you still needed your parents. Around this age, they loosened their grip and allowed you to explore, to experiment with your identity. But they also provided an anchor to somewhere safe and familiar and supportive. When some bully spread mean rumors about you or a so-called friend made fun of your outfit, you could always go home to good old mom and dad. They might not know what to say, but they knew how to make you laugh. They knew that grilled cheese and tomato soup always made you feel better. And, through their eyes, you would always be the coolest kid in school – no matter what you wore.
Your parents gave you the courage to face another day in the social war zone known as middle school.
So what if, in the twelfth year of your life, your parents told you they wouldn’t always be there? What if these people who had loved you and raised you from the time you were in diapers told you they might not be able to care for you much longer?
They were just your foster parents. They were getting too old. And their commitment to you was temporary.
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.
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.
After surviving the streets of post-war Korea, Thomas Park Clement was adopted by a loving family. Today, he’s honored around the world.
by Robin Munro, Senior Writer
By his late 40s, Thomas Park Clement was, inarguably, a huge success. As founder and CEO of an established medical device company, he had touched the lives of millions of people. He held 24 U.S. medical patents (now 32), three college degrees, and an appointment to the Advisory Committee on Unification by the South Korean president. He was also a happily married father of two, a trapeze artist and a Tai Kwon Do expert.
No longer was he a “vulnerable tuki” – a half-Korean, half-Caucasian boy, surviving on the streets of Seoul at 5-years-old.
But once, on a humanitarian mission to North Korea, he glimpsed this younger version of himself.
“We were going to dinner, and right next to the front door was a 5-year-old orphan kid. He had no shoes and no socks,” says Thomas. “I thought, ‘that is my protégé.’”
How, he wondered, did I go from where he is to where I am now – training surgeons at the Ministry of Health?
A couple of months ago, I traveled to Southeast Asia to meet children living in Holt-supported foster and institutional care. On the first two days of my trip, I visited children in our foster care program, mostly in rural areas a far distance from the big city. It was heartwarming to see these children surrounded by the love of foster parents, siblings and neighbors, while they wait – and we search – for permanent adoptive families.
In these foster families, orphaned and abandoned children learn to attach and bond – to call someone “mom” and someone else “dad.”
They prepare for the day they will meet their adoptive parents, their forever mom and forever dad.
On the third day, we visited children living in a very different setting. In a green, fence-enclosed oasis in the middle of the big city, we came upon a playground, a basketball court and multiple buildings that act as home to boys who do not have families of their own.
We peeked into the common area of one of the buildings to see about 20 boys sprawled out on the floor. They all wore the same color soccer jersey, and were raucously playing with blocks and other toys. When they noticed us – the strangers spying on them – most of them showed excited interest.
Kim 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…..
What compels veteran adoptive parents to adopt again?
For us, it was a sense of incompletion. Despite our best efforts to proliferate the Earth with children – we had five at the time of our second adoption – we still felt our family wasn’t quite complete. After a year home with our first adopted daughter, Ava, we weren’t even settled yet. But then my wife April found a face – just a face on Holt’s photolisting of a girl in the Journey of Hope China program. She knew, one day, they’d be united.
That’s how strong and immediate the connection can be. It was just a matter of convincing me to adopt again.
After bringing Ava home, we quickly realized that we were getting a little old to manage such a large family – especially with an energetic toddler still in diapers. If we adopted again, we knew the child would have to be a little older.
April showed me the photolisting bio of the 8-year-old cutie she hoped to adopt. I admire my wife’s big heart and, trusting she’d already considered all possible ramifications of introducing another child into the family, I agreed. By now accustomed to a family in constant growth, our kids also mostly took the idea in stride. After the high-energy experience of Ava, however, they were definitely relieved to find out we were planning to adopt an older child.
We’d done it… We had decided to adopt again.
This time, however, the proverbial cart was in front of the proverbial horse. Rather than do the paper chase and then wait to be matched, we’d already matched ourselves with this girl. We felt a real sense of urgency, knowing this little girl in China was awaiting an imminent adoption. We wanted to get to her as quickly as possible. I imagined a giant looming clock with an incessantly ticking second hand.