Born in Thailand, Raised in Wisconsin, Loved Everywhere

Holt adoptive parents Kyle Geissler and Robin Stephens bring their 5 and 6-year-olds sons on a trip to Thailand — giving them an early opportunity to explore their identity, celebrate their heritage and reconnect with the foster families who cared for them before they came home. Read and share their story in honor of National Foster Care Month!

The decision to build our family through adoption was an easy one.  We wanted to be parents and biological kids weren’t possible for us.

Navigating the choices that followed was not as easy.  Ultimately, we chose Holt’s Thailand program.  We liked that Holt’s partner organization in Thailand, Holt Sahathai Foundation (HSF), focuses primarily on family strengthening and preservation — keeping children in their birth families whenever possible — and that the children in their program are mostly cared for by foster families.  We liked that Holt’s Thailand program is small and methodical, and that adoptions from Thailand are tightly regulated by the Thai government to minimize the chance of corruption.  We also had a few Thai friends and felt comfortable with the idea of bringing Thai culture into our family.

Seven years and two incredible boys later, the choices that face us make those initial decisions seem easy. In addition to the many issues that all parents face, we are also trying to help our kids feel positive about themselves as Asian Americans, born in Thailand and adopted and raised in the Midwest by white parents.

Continue reading “Born in Thailand, Raised in Wisconsin, Loved Everywhere”

No Fairytale Ending

Courtney Young, an adoptee and member of Holt’s marketing and development team, met her birth mother during her first trip to Korea with Holt. Here, she discusses family, culture and the complexities of adoption.

Courtney Young (center) with her biological aunt (far left), grandfather, mother and another aunt.

My niece’s recent obsession is playing princess. She’s 4, inspired by a recent trip to Disney World and the movie “Frozen,” and she reenacts the climatic fairytale over and over again. We all indulge her and it’s probably the sweetest thing I’ve ever seen.

When I was 4, I would pretend to live in fairytales too. It was more along the lines of “Anastasia” — a little girl relinquished by her birth parents who later discovers that she belonged to a royal family. One day, if I ever reunited with my birth parents, I thought they too would be some kind of royalty or something. Of course, in my head I knew that wasn’t true, but the imagination has to start somewhere, and I had a pretty solid base for my fantasy.

Continue reading “No Fairytale Ending”

The Joke’s on Me: How My Name Became a Punch Line

In his latest contribution to the online adoptee magazine Gazillion Voices, Steve Kalb, Holt’s director of adoptee services, reflects on the “otherness” encountered as an Asian-American  growing up with a name like “Steve.”

I recently joined my wife, Shannon, at her company Christmas party. It was a small party at a local brewery with about 40 people attending. We had a room reserved off the main building where employees and their partners were able to eat, drink, and be merry. Early on in the evening, I struck up a conversation with a fellow partier. We discussed careers, motorcycles, and industrial paint (Shannon’s company sells paint.) It was a nice conversation, but not nice enough to ignore the food that was being set up. I graciously thanked him for his time and expressed how much I enjoyed the company, but that I could hear the buffet calling my name. We shook hands and I headed for the table of goodness. As I walked off, I overheard him talking with another coworker. “That’s Shannon’s husband. He works in adoption. His name’s Steve. He doesn’t look like a Steve…”

Click here to read Steve’s full article in Gazillion Voices.

For information about Holt’s post-adoption and adoptee services, click here.

Transracial Adoption and Growing Up White

By Holt’s vice president of policy and external affairs, Susan Soonkeum-Cox.

The recent NPR report, “Growing up White—Transracial Adoptee Learned to be Black” is an illuminating story of the complexities and challenges of transracial adoption.  This is certainly not a new topic, or an easy one, but it is a critical reminder for everyone involved in transracial, domestic or international adoption, not to minimize the importance of race and identity as a life-long part of the adoption journey.

When Holt first placed children from Korea with adoptive families in the U.S. in the 1950’s, it was during the era of physically matching children and parents.  This ‘matching’ made it possible for the adoption to be secret, hidden, as if the child was physically born to their adoptive parents.  Adoption of Korean children into white families split wide open the notion of secrecy. It was impossible for adoptive parents to pretend that their Korean children were born to them.

The wisdom of the day was for parents to ‘Americanize’ their child as quickly as possible.  “Fitting in” was given priority over understanding or maintaining connection to race, culture and nationality. Continue reading “Transracial Adoption and Growing Up White”

The Joy of Xin

When Kristi Mathia and her husband read a waiting child story about an older boy from China, they knew he would be their son. They also knew that adopting an older child might have some challenges. While they were prepared for the challenges, they weren’t expecting the abundant rewards.

Child Hand Off Day.  That was the name given to the monumental day we would meet our youngest son, the child who we had prayed for, chased an endless paper trail for and — most of all — loved and cherished. We had thought and dreamt about what this day would be like. We were told that most children cry painfully. Not our little guy.  He ran to us with open arms and full of joy.  I was blessed to be the first to walk into the room where he was waiting.  He hugged me and called me “Mama.”  Next, my husband lifted our son up in an embrace while being called “Baba” (Daddy) and our oldest son was called “Gah Gah” (Brother) while being hugged.

After such a wonderful union, we started the incredible adventure of becoming a family of four. We arrived home from China in November of 2012 and we just celebrated our one-year anniversary as Xin’s (Sheen) Mom and Dad.  He was 9-and-a-half years old when he joined our family, and he has enriched our lives in countless ways. Continue reading “The Joy of Xin”

What It Means To Be in the Holt Family

Adoptee and family testimonials about Holt’s post adoption services.

A Q&A with Holt adoptee Kim Lindebaum

Why did you contact Holt’s post adoption services department (PAS)?

Over the last couple years, I’ve had more of a desire to learn of my early years and was especially interested after reading Dr. David Kim’s book, “Who Will Answer…”  I then had the opportunity to travel to Korea with my daughter and family this past spring and decided I needed to know as much about my early years as I could find. So that was when I searched out Holt’s post adoption services.

 Who did you speak with, and how did they help you?

Debby Hanson was my contact and we corresponded several times as I wanted to visit a couple of Holt’s facilities while in Korea.  Debby was able to make the arrangements for me to visit Ilsan Center, where I had the wonderful opportunity to meet and hug Molly Holt.

What made your experience meaningful?

For me it is the “coming full circle” of who I am as a first generation Korean adoptee, with the opportunity of making my first return trip to my homeland and reading the autobiography of Dr. Kim, who uncovered so many of my hidden feelings by pointing out the facts of Holt’s early years.

Would you return to Holt’s post adoption services department or recommend to other adoptees for services?

Yes, if anyone isn’t sure where to begin and may have unanswered questions of their early years, or want to see what is in their adoption file, then I would encourage them to make contact with PAS either by email or telephone. They are most helpful and very compassionate to my feelings.

Continue reading “What It Means To Be in the Holt Family”

Post Adoption Services: Who We Are, What We Do

Holt’s post adoption team shares about what they do, and what inspires their commitment to the families and adoptees they serve.

Sunday Silver, Director of Post Adoption Services:

I have served as the director of Post Adoption Services since 2006. Over the past 7 years, I have helped create a post adoption quarterly e-newsletter, presented post adoption webinars and have networked with other agencies to find ways to collaborate in providing services to adoptees and families.

While I have been the director for seven years, I started working at Holt 21 years ago. Even though the bulk of my responsibilities are administrative, nothing has touched me more than working directly with this population of people we serve.  Through the years, I have provided counseling and referrals to adoptive parents, adoptees and birth parents who need a listening ear and resources to help them navigate through the different issues adoption brings. It has been my privilege and honor to be a small, albeit temporary, part of their lives as they share their deepest thoughts and pains.

Working at Holt as long as I have, I have had the opportunity to see children I placed as a social worker grow to adulthood.  One particular case comes to mind.  When I first came to Holt, I coordinated Holt’s pregnancy counseling program and provided counseling to women experiencing unplanned pregnancies.  One particular birth mother I worked with early in my career was about 16 years old when I first met her.  Her parents were extremely angry when they found out she was pregnant.  They brought her to Holt for help.  I met with her throughout her pregnancy, helping her decide whether to parent or make an adoption plan.  After several sessions with her — and hearing from her parents that they would not help her raise her child — she came to the difficult decision to place her child for adoption.  The birth father was not in the picture.  She chose her child’s adoptive parents after viewing several family portfolios, and we scheduled a meeting with them.  The meeting was difficult at first, but after some time, they began getting acquainted with each other.  After the meeting, the birth mother stated that she felt she found the right parents for her unborn child.

After the child was born, I went to the hospital to visit with her and discuss whether she wanted to continue her plan.  With tears in her eyes, she nodded her head.  We went through the task of signing the paperwork.  I asked her if she wanted to see the adoptive parents and she shook her head, saying it would be too hard.  So she asked her parents to hand her baby girl over to the adoptive parents, which they did, not realizing how difficult it would also be for them.

Continue reading “Post Adoption Services: Who We Are, What We Do”

This November, Tell Your Friends… Adoption Rocks!

The colorful autumn leaves, the scent of pumpkin pie in the air, and trick-or-treaters knocking at your door — all wonderful indications that November is just around the corner.

And while all of these sights, sounds and smells evoke wonderful feelings during this festive season, we at Holt recognize the month of November for another important reason. This month, we all rally together to celebrate adoption and renew our dedication to advocating for orphaned, abandoned and vulnerable children!

That’s right, November is National Adoption Month!

Here at Holt, raising awareness about children who need families is a year-round effort. But this month, especially, we can do more…and we hope you will join us!

Here’s the plan:

During this year’s awareness campaign, we will be sharing wonderful family and adoptee stories on the Holt blog and social media pages. We will also post stories about children waiting for families, and helpful information about everything from affording adoption to post-adoption services for families and adoptees. As an adoptive parent, you can encourage others to consider adoption by sharing your own story. Or if you’re considering adoption — what a wonderful month to begin your journey!

Continue reading “This November, Tell Your Friends… Adoption Rocks!”

Holt’s CA Branch Heads South

Summer in California is a time of bliss — relaxing on the beach, strolling the boardwalks and soaking up the sunshine. For the Holt headquarters in California, this last summer was a time of transition, welcoming new friends, and bidding farewell to some old ones. In an effort to better serve Holt families — and future Holt families — the branch moved their offices from Sacramento to Agoura Hills, a city in Los Angeles county.

Continue reading “Holt’s CA Branch Heads South”

May I Have This Dance?


Have you ever felt like you are dancing the tango and your teen is dancing hip-hop? Register for Holt’s two-part webinar series on adolescent attachment to get your moves in the groove!

THE FIRST DANCE:
“The Unique Perspectives of Adolescent Attachment”
Will be live on November 6, 2013 4:00 PST

This presentation will discuss:

  • Multiple layers of adolescent attachment
  • Gender differences
  • Conflicting developmental tasks
  • Impacts of complex developmental trauma

Get your name on our dance card by clicking here to register.

Continue reading “May I Have This Dance?”