Update, March 14, 2013:  Holt is thrilled to report that Willow has a family!  Thank you for your support and prayers.



Update, March 11, 2013:  Thank you to everyone who shared Willow’s story! As of March 11, 2013, our waiting child committee has identified a potential family for Willow. At this time, we will not be sending her file to any additional families. 

 URGENT UPDATE ON WILLOW (February 21): For the last 3 years, Willow’s story and beautiful photos have graced our blog and Facebook page. We had hoped that in that time an adoptive family would come forward for her, and provide her with the loving home she needs and deserves. But, still, she waits. We at Holt recognize that adopting an older child isn’t for everyone, but we still hold onto hope – still pray – that a family can be found for sweet Willow.

Just a few hours ago, we were informed that Willow has exactly 1 month to find a family in the United States. If a family can’t be found for her by March 21st, she will have to leave her foster family and return to a government-run orphanage. We can’t let this happen! If Willow returns to the orphanage, finding an adoptive family for her will prove almost impossible.

We have just one month, and we need your help! Please share Willow’s story and photos with your family and friends, on your blog and Facebook page, and at your church! We know that a family is out there for Willow, but we are running out of time – Willow is running out of time. So please do all you can!

Adoption eligibility requirements for Willow may be flexible regarding parent age limit and number of children in home.  Willow will need specialized attention upon coming home, so we are seeking an adoptive family with 0-1 children younger than Willow currently in the home.   A family that has parented past her age is also recommended.  There is a $5000 Special Blessings grant available for the adoption fees. Please contact Erin Anderson at erina@holtinternational.org if your family is interested in adopting Willow.


In 2011Jessica Palmer, director of services for Southeast Asia, traveled to Southeast Asia to meet children living in Holt-supported foster and institutional care.  Here, she reflects on her visit with Willow*, whose referral is posted as G10_8 on Holt’s Southeast Asia photolisting.

Date of Birth: October 13, 2002

The smell of incense wafts from the front porch of Willow’s foster home – a small, wooden house that sits beside a river. The incense is especially important this afternoon, as the thunderstorm that came through this morning has caused some flooding in nearby areas.  The incense keeps the mosquitoes away.

For over six years, Willow has lived in this house, patiently waiting for her forever family. In a house nearby, a close friend of Willow’s once also waited.  But she has since left to join her adoptive family.  When a post-placement photo came in, Willow eagerly asked to see it, no doubt missing her friend.

And wondering, when it will be her turn.

Found as a newborn in a rice field, Willow spent the first 4 years of her life in an institution.  She knew nothing else.  So when, in July 2006, she went to live with a foster family, her adjustment was not exactly smooth sailing. But time has  passed, and the change in Willow is visible.  She is thriving as a member of this family and has learned productive ways of handling frustration, such as walking away from a situation.   As we sit on her front porch, we talk with Willow and her foster mother about her friends at school and in the neighborhood, how much she helps her foster mother around the house, and about her most recent interest – jigsaw puzzles.

As we hear more and more about Willow’s personality, I begin to notice pieces of myself in her foster mother’s descriptions.  When Willow finishes a jigsaw puzzle, she loses interest and doesn’t want to do the puzzle again – she’s already solved it!  Sometimes she needs to be reminded to make the bed.  She is quite helpful to other people and is a very patient girl.

In September 2012, Willow met with a psychiatrist for a regular follow up visit.  The psychiatrist determined that Willow is doing well both in school and at home.  Willow also regularly meets with a speech therapist and is now able to clearly recite short stories. Her foster continually encourages Willow to tell longer stories, with more complex sentences, and Willow is improving in this area.   Willow always works hard in school and gets along well with other children.

Willow in August 2013.

Willow and I are so similar in personality, and so different in circumstances.  I wonder what I would think if I were in her shoes – what hopes and dreams I would have for my future.  Would I ever go from foster child, my information posted on a photolisting for over a year, to the permanent daughter of a loving adoptive family?  If I were her, I wouldn’t give up on that hope.

As we walk down the porch steps, away from the incense and back down the muddy path to our vehicle, I see Willow, quietly blowing bubbles and watching as they float to the ground.

For more information about Willow, contact Erin Anderson at erina@holtinernational.org.

*name changed

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.

Adult Adoptees Kick Off the International Forum at the National Press Club

From left to right: Holt adoptees Dominic Pangborn from Korea; Kim Hanson from Korea; Glenn Morey from Korea; moderator of panel, Michelle Li from Korea. At the microphone: Tara Lihn Leaman from Vietnam; Adam Conner from Korea; Amber Stime from Ethiopia; Nu Wexler from Vietnam, and Holt President and Ceo Kim Brown from Korea.
A press conference at the National Press Club kicked off the International Forum in Washington D.C. this afternoon.


“We are celebrating 55 years of children and adoptive parents coming together into real families across the globe,” said Adoptees for Children member and Holt adoptee, Glenn Morey. “But the real focus of this weekend is how to move forward with 55 years of real-life perspective from those of us who are adoptees.”

Susan Soonkeum Cox, Holt vice president of policy and external affairs, and Kim Brown, Holt president and CEO, were also in attendance.

“One of the concerns that I have about the way international adoption and adoptees are presented is that adoptees never seem to grow up,” says Susan. “We are always frozen in time and always referred to as the ‘little children’ and babies….but adoption is a lifelong experience.”

To illustrate this concept, nine adoptees from various countries and backgrounds stood before members of the press, adoptive families and fellow adoptees and shared their adoption stories, experiences and personal perspectives.

“I think it’s great to be here and share our stories. I think for many people adoption is talked about in the context of being a choice. It’s the choice of birth parents to give up children and it’s a choice of adoptive parents to adopt,” explained Holt adoptee Adam Conner, “but for the children, it’s just something you inherit. It’s a reality that you are born with, just like anything else that your are born with. I think this is difficult for individuals to understand.   [Adoption] for the child is not a choice…it’s a wonderful gift.”

To watch a video of the National Press Club conference and hear more adoptee perspective, click here




Intercountry Adoption — Moving Forward From a 55-Year Perspective

The international forum kicks off this Thursday, April 14th, in Washington D.C.!

As we speak, participants from around the world are gathering in our nation’s capitol to celebrate 55 years of intercountry adoption.  Sponsored by Holt International and Adoptees for Children, the conference will be held at the Hyatt Regency Hotel on Capitol Hill, April 14-16, 2011.

Saturday’s presenters will be adoption professionals who are also adult adoptees. “This will be 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,” says Susan Soonkeum Cox, vice president of policy and external affairs at Holt International.

The forum will conclude with a gala dinner and program Saturday evening, where the Honorable Marjorie Margolies will serve as host and renowned comedian Alison Larkin, author of The English American, will provide entertainment.

It’s not too late to register online! If you’ll be in the D.C. area this coming weekend, please join us for this historic event. Adoptees, adoptive families, child welfare professionals and government officials from around the world will be participating in this unprecedented gathering. Join all the festivities, Saturday‘s panels, or the gala dinner only.

Follow Holt adoptee and news anchor Michelle Li as she live blogs from the forum!

My First Post! And… already, a Name Change

Holt adoptee Michelle Li introduces herself and shares about her relationship with Holt International.  Michelle will be sharing her experiences on the blog frequently, so check back to read her latest entry!  “I hope I can make some of my adoption stories relevant for your family,” she says.

by Michelle Li


Michelle with her parents Charles and Sharon and husband, Jim. Hawaii, 2008.

I am so thrilled to be writing for Holt’s blog. It’s funny because I write for a living, but when I was given the opportunity to write for Holt, I called up my family as if I had won a major journalism award. It’s that exciting, people!

I like to think of Holt as the “mothership.” Over the last three decades, a number of people from Holt made a tremendous impact on my life. I’m sure many of them don’t even know it. And, truthfully, I couldn’t remember all of their names anyway. But, what I do know is that without Holt, I would not be where I am today. And, as an adoptee, I’m sure many of you can relate.

Some dedicated Holt blog readers may know me as Michelle Sherwood. It’s MY name—a name I used my entire life and as recently as the main anchor at a television station in Southwest Missouri. I’ve connected with a lot of adoptive families on the blogosphere throughout the years. The best was when I went to Seoul in 2009 and shot video of a baby staying at a Holt orphanage. The minute I posted it to my blog, it hit a Holt forum, and next thing you know, his mother in the U.S. introduced herself online and asked for more pics!


These days, I go by the name Michelle Li. And, I’m still a news anchor, but now I’m working in North Carolina. The name Li is actually my biological mother’s maiden name, and I’m still not entirely comfortable with the switch. I’ll save that story for another day, but the short version is that it was a necessary evil to survive in a cutthroat industry. And, the truth is, I know other adoptees who’ve taken the same action for the same reason.

I hope I can make some of my adoption stories relevant for your family. I won’t lay it all out on the table now, but I have had an interesting experience with my birth family, and the relationship is constantly evolving.

Not only have I met my birth family, I’ve also built a real relationship with them over the last 13 years or so. My Korean family is intact. I didn’t grow up with siblings, but I am very connected to my three Korean sisters. I also have a biological aunt in California and have visited her twice in two years. And ironically, I learned about this “imo” around the same time my (adoptive) favorite aunt passed away.

And just when I thought the language and cultural barrier had taken its toll, my second oldest sister, Hyun Jeong, announced she was going to marry an American from Wisconsin. That is what I call a game-changer.

It changed everything about how I saw anything related to my Korean family, and I’ll be glad to share it with you soon enough. It involves my husband and I traveling to Korea, having a traditional Korean wedding, and talking about living with my sister when and if she moves to the states. Yeah, you could say a lot has changed.

Next week, Michelle will be blogging from the International Forum in Washington D.C.! This meaningful forum seeks to build on 55 years of international adoption experience, moving forward to strengthen the collective intercountry adoption community.

Watch for Michelle’s blogs next week!

Read more about Michelle, here

Learn More About Adopting from Africa! Join a Holt Informational Webinar on April 7th!

Are you, or is someone you know, considering international adoption? Whether you’re interested in China, Ethiopia or another country, Holt’s webinars are a great place to start. Gain valuable info and insights from Holt staff and previous adoptive families, and ask your questions throughout these online seminars — all from the comfort and convenience of your own home.

On April 7th, we look forward to sharing about Holt’s fastest growing adoption program. Learn about the children awaiting adoption in Ethiopia and Uganda, timeframes to complete the process, steps involved, travel, costs, and more. Hear from a family who recently adopted from Ethiopia and ask questions throughout the presentation.

Register today for the webinar on April 7th, adopting from Africa!

Or, click here to see a list of all upcoming webinars…

Meet Jack — He’s a Delight, and This Week’s Waiting Child

by Robin Munro, Senior Writer

From China. Date of Birth: June 1, 2003

Jack* is a child with a gentle soul.  As his teachers say, he is “a delight.”

I met Jack last summer in a northern province of China, where he was abandoned at birth eight years ago.  A sweet boy with a warm and open smile, he enjoyed playing with the other children we came to visit — two other high-energy boys, and a beautiful little girl with CP.  An easygoing kid, Jack amicably horsed around with the boys, all rolling around in giant tubes.  When one of the other boys knocked over Jack’s toy with a giant bear, he took it in stride – smiling and engaging the boy in more playful roughhousing.

When the little girl with CP began to practice walking as part of her physical therapy, Jack decided to help.  He guided her along the bars, and comforted her when she fell and began to cry.

Jack has poor hearing and unclear speech, the results of an ear deformity.  Despite these limitations, he has learned to communicate well with others, always answering his teachers’ questions in class.  But he has also learned to communicate in perhaps more important ways – in kindness and thoughtful gestures, in comforting and helping younger children, and in the subtle social cues of playing with other boys his age.

Jack will turn 8 in June.  He has spent a year on Holt’s waiting child photolisting, and still, he continues to wait for a loving family.  Jack has grown and developed well in the care of his foster parents, but what he needs now is a permanent family – a family to love and appreciate what a delightful boy he is, and support him throughout his life.

Interested families should be able to provide any medical care or therapies Jack will need, and have experience parenting past his age.

To learn more about Jack, contact Erin Mower at erinm@holtinternational.org.

* name changed


There’s Always More Love to Give

PHOTOS BY REBECCA S. GRATZ/THE WORLD-HERALD Sarah Kolb, one of Sandy and Ed's three biological daughters, leans over to check out Lucas’ book from China.

Recently, we at Holt celebrated the 14th birthday of Lucas Kolb — a boy adopted from China in just the knick of time!  When he turned 14, he would no longer be eligible for adoption. Although they already had four adopted sons at home, Ed and Sandy Kolb of Nebraska found they still had more love to give. With the deadline looming, the Kolbs opened their hearts to not just one, but two older boys.  Lucas, and Christian, age 11.

“Adopting children is what I’ve been prepared to do my whole life,” Sandy Kolb recently told a reporter at the Omaha World-Herald. “You’re not going to stop at just one. Your life positively changes after you adopt and the child’s does too.”

Read the full article, “There’s Always More Love to Give,” in today’s Omaha World-Herald.

To learn more about adopting older children and children with special needs from China, click here.

REBECCA S. GRATZ/THE WORLD-HERALD Stefan, 13, of Romania (from left), Charlie, 7, of China and Christian, 11, of China play together.

Surviving, Learning, Laughing

by Jane Ballback

Of the three of my adopted children, Stacee has always been the most curious and connected to her Asian roots. She began a very creative exploration process of what it meant to be Asian when she entered junior high. If you know anything about adolescent development, this is not at all surprising. Every adolescent begins to ask herself, who am I and where do I fit? This was much easier for Stacee to do in junior high, because her elementary school had very few Asian children. We are fortunate to live in Southern California where there is every ethnicity possible and every mixture as well. We however, live on an island that is primarily populated by Caucasians. Fortunately the junior high and high school my children attended drew from a larger pool of young people.

As I was picking Stacee up from school about a month after she started junior high, I saw her standing with a group of six girlfriends. What was so interesting about this picture was that every girl was Asian. When I pointed that out to Stacee, she actually had not been conscious of the fact. None of the girls was Korean but they all were different nationalities of Asians. This began an interesting journey for my daughter that I could not have created for her had I tried!

As she grew to know the girls, she began to form strong friendships — many of which still exist today. Because there were so few children on the island where we live, Stacee began to spend a great deal of time with these new friends and their families. She became so close to a few of them, that she took trips with the families.

When she spent time with her new Asian friends and families, she would come home and tell me how they would do things differently than our family did. I was always fine with that, and listened intently while she would tell me her stories. She was always amazed at how the entire family went everywhere together, particularly over the weekends. It’s not that our family didn’t do a great deal together, but we did not do every activity together for days on end. Since many of these new friends were recent immigrants, what Stacee was also experiencing was life with immigrants who had not been acculturated into the “American” way of life. I thought these experiences were very valuable as well. She did not ask me or my husband to do anything different than we were doing, with one exception. We bought a rice cooker and we had white rice in our kitchen cooking at all times. I found this fascinating and endearing.

I also found it very interesting that Stacee’s best high school girlfriend, Thuvy, and her first steady boyfriend, Kurt, were Vietnamese. Thuvy spent a great deal of time at our house, traveled with us many times, and even lived with us over a summer. This also gave Stacee what she had always wanted, a sister. Kurt also spent a great deal of time with us and I enjoyed him very much. They are still part of our lives, and when Thuvy read my blog she sent me a lovely e-mail saying, you are always my “second mama,” as well. Stacee remained very close to both Thuvy and Kurt throughout high school, but she also began to expand her friends to multiple ethnicities.

I’m so glad that Stacee found this very creative way to explore her culture and her roots. It is such a joy to have children — and now their friends — who have no issue with anyone’s color, creed, or ethnicity. In that way our world is becoming a better place.

Readers, Please tell me how your children have gone through their cultural exploration.

I’d love to hear from you.

Connect with Jane.  Go to http://www.mysecondmama.com to read more blogs from Jane.

Click here to read post-adoption blogs

What’s Missing from Su-bin’s photo?




Date of Birth: June, 13, 2009 (19 months old), Korea

by Ashli Keyser, managing editor

Something is missing.

I look at Su-bin’s picture on the Waiting Child photolisting, and I know something’s missing. He’s a cute little guy with black, spiky hair, soft features, adorable, plump lips and sweet, inquisitive eyes. Just an all around lovable 2-year-old little boy. But something is missing. I momentarily look above Su-bin’s photo. I find my answer. Across another child’s photo, written in bold red letters are the words, “I have a family!” I thank God that this precious child has a family, and I wait for the day when those words will be written across Su-bin’s photo, too. That’s what’s missing from his photo. Four little words that mean so much.

“I can’t imagine why Su-bin doesn’t have a family yet,” says Erin Mower, Holt’s Waiting Child program assistant. “He’s just so sweet.” Erin met Su-bin on her trip to Korea in December. She interacted with him and fell in love.

Su-bin has been on the Waiting Child photolisting for two years. “When he was first released for adoption, we didn’t know a lot about his health,” says Erin. “ There were a lot of unknowns. We have more information now so, hopefully, we can find him a family soon.”

Erin is not the only one steadfastly advocating for Su-bin’s adoption.

“When I arrived to assess Su-bin, his physical therapist ran out to me,” remembers Erin. “She said ‘you have to find Su-bin a family! He’s made so much progress!’ I could tell his physical therapist thought he was really special.”

Su-bin’s foster family describes him as “a lovely little boy.” His December well baby check assessed him to be at a 10-11 month developmental level. He is able to walk with support, wave bye-bye and say a few words. He was just recently transferred to Holt’s Ilsan Center where Molly Holt, the center’s director, and attentive caretakers will love him until he goes home to a family.

Even Molly has a lot to say about Su-bin. “He’s very lively and cute,” she tells me, with a smile on her face. “When he arrived at Ilsan all the caretakers wanted to be the one to care for him. He will find a family soon.”

For two years Su-bin’s waited on the photolisting. It’s time to add those missing words to his photo. It’s time to add a mother, a father and, perhaps, a brother or sister. In the next few months, I hope to see the words “I have a family!” written across Su-bin’s photo.

Will you help Holt find what’s missing in Su-bin’s life?

Maybe, just maybe, you’re what’s missing.

There is a $5,000 Special Blessings grant from Holt for this adoption, as well as reduced fees.

Click here to learn more about Su-bin. And contact Erin Mower for more information erinm@holtinternational.org