Holt at 60: The Growth of Post-Adoption Services

Yesterday on the Holt blog, Holt President and CEO Phil Littleton explored Holt’s gradual shift over the years from serving children primarily through adoption to serving tens of thousands more children every year through family strengthening and preservation programs. Today, Phil shares how Holt’s pre- and post-adoption services for adoptees, birth parents and adoptive families have grown and evolved — becoming one of the cornerstones of our organization. Read part one of this blog series here, and part three here

This year, as Holt celebrates 60 years of serving children and families, we look back on all that we have learned and all the ways that we have grown and changed as an organization.

When international adoption began in earnest in the mid-1950s, it was entirely new territory. From the child welfare professionals who placed the first children, to the first families to adopt children from overseas, to the first generation of international adoptees, there truly was no real precedent for this model of building — and blending — family.

Needless to say, the concept — and need — for post-adoption services was not known in 1956. But as the first generation of Korean adoptees began to come of age, they naturally began to ask questions and to show an interest in exploring their past. In the years since, our post-adoption services have grown into one of the cornerstones of our organization — and our robust offerings continue to set us apart today.

Adoptees Enjoying Their Time At Holt's Adoptee Camp.
Today, Holt Adoptee Camp has grown into a robust program serving between 350-400 youth adoptees every summer at four locations across the country.

Continue reading “Holt at 60: The Growth of Post-Adoption Services”

Top 3 Reasons to Attend Empowered to Connect

Erin Merrihew is an adoptive and biological mother to six children in Nebraska. After attending the Empowered to Connect conference last year, she shares the top 3 reasons why any parents or advocates of adopted and fostered children should attend.

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Pictured: Two of Erin’s six children.

Number 1: You’ll learn lots of practical, hands-on tips.

I had read “The Connected Child” by Karyn Purvis, but I still couldn’t wrap my mind around the TBRI principles and I still wasn’t convinced this was best for my kids. I have two adopted children, one of which had an unusual 12-month “honeymoon” period where the adjustment to our family and life went swimmingly. After about a year, things started to get incredibly hard and I hit a desperate stage. I knew there was something to “The Connected Child” wisdom, and felt that possibly the problem was in my understanding of it. When I received an email that the ETC would be available in Omaha, I signed up and drove almost five hours hoping to gain some tools to bring back home. Karyn’s lessons were excellent and built on the concepts laid out in her book. The video clips of Karyn and her therapists working with children were an essential part of helping me to see and understand the value of TBRI methods. I didn’t get it until I could see it in action. TBRI is absolutely NOT about letting a child who is throwing a fit get their way. It is, among many things, knowing the need behind the behavior and giving them an appropriate voice to have that need met. Continue reading “Top 3 Reasons to Attend Empowered to Connect”

National Adoption Month 2015

National Adoption Month 2015 has come to a close, but the myths we’ve dispelled and the truths we’ve uncovered about adoption will stay relevant all year.

Here’s a recap of all the stories we featured, and all the children who we asked you to advocate for. Hopefully by next November, with your help, all the waiting children you advocated for this year will have the family they long for and deserve.

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Continue reading “National Adoption Month 2015”

MYTH: Birth parents aren’t important in international adoption

Holt’s Director of Post Adoption Services, Sunday Silver, counsels hundreds of adoptive parents each year, and one of the most common myths she works to dispel is that birth parents won’t be involved in an international adoption. As she discusses below, birth parents will always be an important part of every adoptee’s life.

Holt Staff-Sunday Silver

The prospective adoptive parents came to the social worker’s office to begin their home study interviews. Their social worker began with introductions and discussion on what country programs might be the best fit for them. She mentions several country options, including domestic adoption. When the social worker began discussing the process to adopt domestically, the parents were insistent that they only wanted an international adoption. They worried about what a relationship with a birth mother or father might look like. The adoptive mother stated that she could never understand how anyone could give up a child and would have a hard time meeting with a woman who would do so. They felt it was best to adopt internationally so they wouldn’t have to “deal with the birth mother.”

This story is a culmination of many situations I have encountered over the years. While it may seem insensitive in writing, this scenario is fairly common, especially when I first started working with adoptive parents in the mid ‘90s. Since then, things have changed and adoptive parents are better at acknowledging the importance of the birth parents in their child’s life. However, I am still surprised at how many prospective adoptive parents still adopt internationally thinking they can avoid “dealing with birth parents.” Continue reading “MYTH: Birth parents aren’t important in international adoption”

MYTH: All adoption agencies are the same

Are all adoption agencies the same? Holt’s senior director of adoption services Susie Doig weighs in.

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Over the six decades Holt has been helping children find families for children, we’ve received a lot of calls from people just starting to explore international adoption.

Most of these calls focus on gathering information about fees, adoption process time frames and the profiles of children waiting for adoptive families.  These are good questions, and important ones to have answered, as parents compare programs and agencies.  But some prospective adoptive parents dig deeper to ask why children are available for adoption, what steps Holt is taking to ensure children can remain with their birth families or be adopted in their birth country, and what our long term commitment is to the children and families we serve.   Continue reading “MYTH: All adoption agencies are the same”

Top Ten Holt Magazine Stories of 2014

Earlier this week, we shared our top ten stories from the Holt blog in 2014. Here, we share our top ten most-viewed stories from Holt International Magazine. Some of these stories also appeared in the two print issues we produced this year — our spring sponsor issue and summer graduate issue. Others appeared in our two online-only magazines of 2014, which we posted last February and just a few weeks ago in December.

While our online magazine is gaining more readers with every issue, we are still working to build an audience for this new platform. We love to read your comments and see when you like, share, repost and tweet our stories. These also give us a strong indication of the stories you find most inspiring or helpful and most enjoy reading. We are always striving to strengthen the quality of our content and produce a magazine of value to our readers. If you have suggestions for stories or ideas about how we could improve Holt International Magazine, please email Holt’s managing editor, Robin Munro, at robinmunro@holtinternational.org.

We hope you enjoy re-reading or discovering for the first time these gems from 2014! Not surprisingly, many of our most popular stories from this year were written by adoptees or adoptive parents themselves. We want to thank each and every contributor to our magazine for sharing your heartfelt and often very personal stories. This magazine would not be what it is without you!

Without further ado, here they are… Our top ten magazine stories of 2014!

1. One Family, Two Very Different Adoptions

In this popular post adoption story from our winter 2014 issue, one Holt adoptive mom discusses how she and her husband learned to parent their two children differently, based on their unique needs.

“I felt nervous, excited and confident we could bond with our second child as easily as we did with our first. Our 16-month-old daughter quickly proved me wrong.  My blessed, beautiful daughter is strong willed, extroverted, sometimes anxious and certain she can manage things better than the rest of us.  She’s going to make an awesome leader as she matures, but gosh, what a handful to parent!”

Continue reading “Top Ten Holt Magazine Stories of 2014”

Meeting My Sponsored Child

On Monday, July 28, Holt adoptee Christina Lilya returned to the United States after the trip of a lifetime — a trip that took her back to the country where she was born, and where she sponsors a sweet and beautiful 4-year-old little girl, Min-Ji.

Born in Korea, Christina was adopted to a family in the United States when she was 10 months old. Now 28 years old, Christina wanted to learn more about her culture and history. She reached out to Molly Holt — the daughter of Holt’s founders, Harry and Bertha Holt — who has served children at Ilsan Town in Korea for more than 50 years. Christina made plans to travel with a friend, hopeful she could meet her sponsored child in Korea, who she has helpedto support with a monthly $34 gift for a year.

Christina says her trip was a blessing — learning about where she is from, and some of the rich traditions she would like to teach her own children some day.

Christina was lucky enough to meet Min-Ji, who lives at the Jeonju Baby Home, about a six-hour drive from Ilsan. Molly took Christina to meet Min-Ji, and they arrived with clothes, toys and books to donate.

“Seeing the children’s faces as I was unpacking the bag was enough to bring me to my knees crying,” Christina says. Christina says that meeting Min-Ji was life-changing. Though Min-Ji was a bit shy at first, Christina says she quickly climbed into her lap and they spent the afternoon communicating through giggles, hugs and snuggles.

“Seeing my donations at work was hugely impactful for me,” Christina says. Min-Ji isn’t on track to be adopted like many of the children at Jeonju, but lives at the care center because both her parents have special needs and need help caring for their daughter.

Check out the adorable photos from their first meeting! If you would like to sponsor a child through Holt, click here to view the profiles of children who need sponsors.

Because Children Don’t Come with a Rulebook

As all new and veteran parents know, children don’t come with rulebooks. There is no universal guide for parents — only tips, techniques and advice passed down through generations or published based on new science or shared experiences. The Internet brought a new trove of parenting information — blogs and support forums, stories and photos, and platforms to celebrate special moments with the rest of the Google-sphere. Still, parenting can feel at times overwhelmingly difficult. Undoubtedly, at some point, all parents will face challenges they never imagined. For parents of adopted children, it can be more difficult to find support systems, information and advice tailored to the specific needs of an adoptive family. What works for a biological child may be the exact opposite of what will help an adopted child. So, who can adoptive parents turn to for sound advice and information when parenting feels hard?

Holt’s clinical services director, Abbie Smith, and her team of therapists can help. Continue reading “Because Children Don’t Come with a Rulebook”

Parents in Process Training

As the overwhelming majority of children now coming home are older or have a special medical need, what children need from parents is much more complex. In response, Holt has expanded our parent education curriculum to help parents be successful and help children thrive in their families.


It’s dinnertime. It was a long day of work, and you just want to get a meal on the table and take a break. However, your daughter has a different idea. She’s on the floor, throwing a full-on tantrum complete with screams, tears and even a few thrown toys — and it’s all over a pair of socks.

A pair of socks your daughter picked out, because she wanted to wear socks.

A pair of socks you already offered to help her put on.

You take a deep breath, and prepare to address her needs. Continue reading “Parents in Process Training”