Hoping, Preparing, Waiting for Adoption

Returning from the 2015 Holt Ambassador trip to China, Liz Larson reflects on the activities she and her team led there to educate HIV+ children about adoption before traveling home to advocate for them.

Last week I had the privilege of traveling to Nanning, China with the Holt Ambassador team where we focused on advocating for HIV+ children who wait for families. We spent the week getting to know 10 children affected by HIV, learning more about the stigma that HIV carries in China, and considering how to advocate for the kids to find families once we returned to the U.S.

Each member of our team came up with an idea for an activity to do with the kids in order to help get to know them in spite of our language differences. We played soccer and badminton, did puzzles, drew pictures, made friendship bracelets, looked at cool stuff with magnifying glasses and took walks. It was beautiful to watch the kids come out of their shells and show off their personalities. As the kids opened up, we took time after lunch one day to educate them about what adoption means.

Katelyn asks a question about school in America after reading her adoption prep booklet three times the night before.

Continue reading “Hoping, Preparing, Waiting for Adoption”

A Priceless Opportunity to Travel with Holt

In early 2011, Holt introduced a pilot adoption program for older children in the Philippines. Ambassadors — many of them social workers, adoptive parents or staff — traveled to the Philippines to meet a group of older children waiting to be adopted. After getting to know the children, the ambassadors returned to the United States and got to work seeking families for them in their communities. Below, previous Holt ambassador and Holt adoptive mom Kari Bargstadt-Wilson shares about her experience on Holt’s 2012 trip to the Philippines. 

Holt is now recruiting ambassadors from the western U.S. for the 2015 Philippines Ambassador Trip to be held May 3-10, 2015. For more information, contact Danielle Peebles at daniellep@holtinternational.org.

Let me introduce myself.  My name is Kari… I’m a physical therapist, mother of six, cook to eight, wife to one and a Holt ambassador to 15 beautiful Filipino teenagers.  In 2012, my husband and I talked about taking a much-needed anniversary trip — for the first time without our children — for our 16th year of marriage.   When our friend asked me if we were interested in Holt’s Philippines Ambassador trip, I never would have guessed that I could talk my husband into it, but I did.  So we packed up and left our six kids in order to vacation for 10 days with 15 teenagers!  My husband would have to admit that it was a life-altering trip.

Kari (right) and a couple of her fellow ambassadors observe kids on the 2012 trip as they work on an art project.
Saying goodbye to our children, spending our “anniversary” vacation money to go, and traveling half way around the world to give a few strange kids some hugs = PRICELESS!  That is how I feel about the trip we took. Continue reading “A Priceless Opportunity to Travel with Holt”

Philippines ICAB Board Members Visit Holt International in Eugene

Ameera Chronister, home eight weeks from the Philippines, visits with Dr. Castillo (left) and Dr. Ortega of the ICAB board.

A few weeks ago, Holt received two special guests from the Philippines at our headquarters in Eugene, Oregon. Professors Susana Ortega and Maria Lyra del Castillo both serve on the Inter-country Adoption Board (ICAB), which functions as the central adoption authority in the Philippines. Holt works closely with the ICAB board to place children from the Philippines with families in the U.S., and this visit provided Dr. Ortega and Dr. Castillo with an opportunity to learn more about Holt International and meet directly with our staff in the U.S.

Although this was Dr. Ortega’s first visit to Holt, Dr. Castillo remembers visiting our offices and meeting Bertha “Grandma” Holt in the 1970s.

“What I felt really excited about when I visited in the past was that I saw how many older kids were being placed in homes. [Holt] was really a pioneer in that area,” Dr. Castillo shared with our staff at a special reception for our guests.

Through the years, Holt has developed unique recruitment efforts to find families for older children and children with special needs in the Philippines. In 2011, Holt led our inaugural Philippines Ambassador trip in which volunteer ambassadors traveled to meet a small group of older children. Alongside Holt staff and social workers, the ambassadors got to know the children and then returned to the United States excited to share the children’s stories with prospective adoptive families. After incredible success placing children through this program, Holt led our third annual ambassador trip in 2013.

“With the summer hosting and ambassadors, we have placed many older kids,” Dr. Castillo said. “We are really blessed.”

During the reception, both Dr. Ortega and Dr. Castillo also shared about recent changes to the ICAB board’s oversight of the Philippines international adoption process. One significant change occurred years ago when ICAB began recruiting board members from different professional fields.

“With the multidisciplinary board, people are coming from different sectors,” said Dr. Castillo, who as a professor of social work comes from the academic field.

While Dr. Castillo has served on the ICAB board for the past 20 years, Dr. Ortega joined as a consultant in 2009 and now serves on the placement committee that matches families with children. “Different people come together once a week to discuss the cases, including a doctor, a lawyer, an NGO representative, a psychologist and a social worker,” explained Dr. Ortega, who as a professor of psychology voices the psychologist’s perspective in the matching process. “We want to make the best possible choice of adoptive parents for our children.”

Although the process to adopt from the Philippines tends to be long, Dr. Castillo attributes the somewhat longer process to the great care ICAB takes when making such life-changing decisions on behalf of children. “They are very careful when they match families in the Philippines,” Dr. Castillo said. “I appreciate the input from different disciplines, and it is great for me to see the improvements.”

Continue reading “Philippines ICAB Board Members Visit Holt International in Eugene”

Philippines Gift Team


What do you do to get ready for Christmas? We know it’s only September, but stay with us here.

Do you deck the halls with tinsel and bows? Drink hot cocoa by a hot fire? Brave the malls and department stores in search of the perfect gifts?

What if there was another way to get in the holiday spirit — a way to spread the joy of Christmas to those who need it most?

As a Holt sponsor to a child in the Philippines, we want to personally invite you to travel with us this December on our first annual gift team trip to the Philippines!

From December 3-11, we will enjoy a Christmas show with single mothers in Manila, take gifts to children in Cebu, and spread holiday cheer to college-aged scholars we support in Paranque. We will also see the sights, celebrate KBF’s 39th anniversary and still have plenty of time to play with the children!

The gift team trip is a unique opportunity to see Holt’s programs in action — the same programs you support through your Holt sponsorship. You will meet families in our family strengthening program, learn more about our work, and see with your own eyes how you are making a difference in the life of a child!

The deadline to register for this special trip is fast approaching. Click here to register online by October 15, or contact Sabrina Biggers at 541-505-5525 or sabrinab@holtinternational.org for more information.

We look forward to traveling with you this December!

Travel Dates: 12/3/14-12/11/14
Registration Deadline: 10/15/13
Estimated cost: Approximately $4,300 – $4,600 per person. The range in cost represents air travel; hotel accommodations; domestic flights and ground transportation within the Philippines; most meals and a non-refundable required project fee of $750 per person.
*Although we cannot guarantee that you will be able to meet your sponsored child while in country, we will do our best to arrange a meeting. If you are interested in traveling with us on the Philippines Gift Team, contact Sabrina Biggers today!

Beyond Blessed

Adoptive parents Chad and Becky Hinze share their experience adopting 12-year-old Paolo Miguel just days after Typhoon Haiyan hit the Philipinnes, and bringing him home to join their family. Paulo joined his family through the Philippines Ambassador Program.

How many people can say that flying into the Philippines just five hours before the most horrific storm in history hit — and living in an orphanage for the five days after — was the absolute best experience of their lives?

We can!

Continue reading “Beyond Blessed”

Growing Together

A story recently published in The Catholic Spirit, the official newspaper of the Diocese of Metuchen, features one Holt adoptive father who helped advocate for older children in the Philippines during last year’s Philippines Ambassador Program.

Growing Together

Couple advocate adoption after enriching experiences

By Chris Donahue

TEWKSBURY, N.J. — Last fall, Holt, a Christian-based international organization that facilitates adoption of children from 11 countries, needed help. Tony Formica was one individual who decided to become an ambassador for Holt, which had helped him become a father. Thirteen years earlier, the member of Our Lady of Lourdes Parish, Whitehouse Station, together with his wife, Caroline, had adopted his first child, Lia, through Holt. Then, through the organization, the Formicas adopted Joe, 11, Lucy, 7, and Anthony, 6 and on Jan. 18 they welcomed Maria.

All of the children were born in different cities or regions in China. The first three were adopted before their second birthday; Anthony was three and Maria, four.

Tony Formica and his wife, Caroline, sit with their children, from left, Anthony, Lia, Lucy and Joe in their home in Tewksbury, N.J. Another daughter was adopted by the family Jan. 18.



Continue reading “Growing Together”

Philippines Ambassador Update

 In October, seven Americans traveled to the Philippines for a week with Holt’s third annual Philippines Ambassador trip. Holt started this pilot adoption program in 2011 as a way to increase home-finding efforts for 13 older children and sibling groups living in Holt’s care. The ambassadors, chosen by Holt, spent a week bonding with the children, then returned to the U.S. to help the children find their forever families. Holt’s Jessica Palmer, Director of SE Asia Adoption Services, led the trip and reflects on the group’s experience here.

A group photo of the U.S. ambassadors with the 13 children in the 2014 program.

I was the first of the group to arrive in the Philippines. I waited up as long as I could for the rest of the ambassadors to arrive late at night, and when I didn’t think I could stay up any longer, there they were, arriving safely from New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Our first day was supposed to be a fairly easy one — to catch up on rest and jetlag since we wouldn’t meet the children in the ambassador program until the following day. I should have known that making stops at two of Holt’s partner, Kaisahang Buhay Foundation’s, most powerful programs might not make for an easy day though!

The first stop was KBF’s Nazareth Home, a house where single, expectant mothers live with other women in similar situations, receive the prenatal care they need, and grapple with the decision of what to do with their unborn child. One of the girls, who seemed to be a sort of informal spokeswoman for the group, shared her story with us, unable to fight back tears. She explained how she had been going to college until she became pregnant and didn’t know what to do. She found KBF’s single mothers’ program. She has regained hope, happiness, her spirituality, and is planning to move in with her parents and her newborn child.

The ambassadors meet with scholars in the ILEA program.

Our second stop was the Independent Living and Educational Assistance program (ILEA), where a group of scholars receive assistance from KBF to help them finish high school and go on to college while they live independently. Continue reading “Philippines Ambassador Update”

Korea Gift Team 2013

Adoptive mom Robin Bridgeman joins 21 other individuals on Holt’s Korea Gift Team trip for a week. The gift team participants will bring gifts and joy to the children and other residents in Holt’s care in Korea. Robin’s husband and two young children also traveled with the Gift Team. Her children are both adoptees from Korea.

Monday, December 2, 2013
Seoul, Korea

The 45th Holt Foster Mother Recognition Ceremony and Foster Mother Christmas Celebration

Robin Bridgeman’s son Jake is in kindergarten. He loves Angry Birds, playing with Hot Wheels and NASCAR driver is Kyle Busch. Here, Jake waits for the foster mothers to arrive for their
honoring party during Holt’s Korea Gift Team trip.

One of the blessings of going on the Holt Gift Team trip is being able to attend the Holt Foster Mothers’ luncheon, recognition ceremony and Christmas celebration. The ceremony honors foster mothers who have been serving for five, ten, 15 — even 20 years and more.  As part of the program, one of the foster mothers who had been caring for children for 15 years spoke lovingly about her experience, and shared about several of the children who had touched her life. It was moving to be able to hear her story, as she shared the love she had for the children in her care and also the sadness she felt in saying goodbye to children she loved so deeply. Continue reading “Korea Gift Team 2013”

Philippines Ambassadors 2013

The 2012 ambassadors in the Philippines with last year’s group of older children.

It’s both a week of fun, and a week of important work. As seven Americans packed their bags for a seven-day trip to the Philippines, a group of 13 children from the Southeast Asian country — children overdue for permanent, loving families — buzzed with growing excitement. This is the third annual Philippines Ambassador trip, a pilot adoption program Holt started in 2011 for older children in the Philippines. American ambassadors, chosen by Holt, travel together for a week of activities, field trips and fun with the group of 5-14 year olds waiting for adoptive families. Then, the ambassadors return to the U.S. to help the children find their forever homes.

The ambassadors will blog about the kids, the experience, and the Philippines. Through the ambassadors’ words, we will learn more about each child’s background, hobbies, likes and dislikes, and his or her dreams for the future. In turn, we will share the children’s stories with our friends, families and communities to help every child in the program have a forever family. However, before we meet the kids, Holt would like to introduce the seven compassionate Americans preparing to embark as ambassadors.

Continue reading “Philippines Ambassadors 2013”

Say, Cheese!

Hurray for summer! And that means great summertime adventures and pictures! So get out there and take some pictures. Who knows, your photo just might make it to the cover of the 2014 Holt calendar!

In fact, let’s do that!

Submit your best photos for the cover of Holt’s next calendar! The theme is “A Year of Smiles.” Deadline is September 2, 2013. Submit you photos online by clicking here.

When we select photos, we look for action, a story and personality. Because your photo could be on the cover, it’s important that the subject is in focus. The winning photo will appear on the cover of the 2014 Holt International calendar and multiple copies will be available for your obvious boasting rights.

So get out there you campers and water-sliders, you sparkler wavers and sprinkler sprinters! Seize the summer and make it epic!