One Wonderful Family for One Amazing Boy

Holt adoptive parents Blake and Michele Haan have adopted seven children – three from the foster care system and four from India. Their youngest son, Micah, is three years old and has a condition called rare facial clefting, which has affected the development of his face. After Micah came home, the Haans put together a video to introduce Micah to the congregation at their church.

“Micah has been with us about 3 weeks now,” writes Michele. “He is an awesome, amazing little boy. He loves people and loves to laugh and have fun, but if people — particularly other children — can’t see past his appearance, they miss out on knowing Micah.”

We found their video so moving and inspiring, we just had to share it:

November is National Adoption Month! This year, Holt will focus our energy and effort on advocating for the children who often need the most help finding families – children with special needs like Micah, older children and boys. Will you join us? Click here to learn how.

MoneyGram presents girls in India with Hope for their Future

MoneyGram Foundation Launch Celebration

Oct 11, 2012 — Susan Cox, Holt’s vice president of policy and external affairs, is currently in India visiting Holt’s programs and partner agencies. Yesterday she helped with a special event in celebration of a $100,000 grant recently awarded to one of our partners. MoneyGram awarded the grant to help 300 girls from underprivileged families who are at risk of dropping out of school. Holt began an educational sponsorship program in India in 2008 to empower girls and promote gender equality. The MoneyGram grant will effectively double the number of girls sponsored through our partner in Bangalore, providing assistance with school tuition as well as books and school uniforms.

The Following is Susan’s account of the joyful MoneyGram celebration:

Susan Cox with girls who will receive educational support through MoneyGram’s generous $100,000 grant.

Bangalore, India — The first girls to arrive for the special event wore blue school uniforms, their hair in long braids, tied with blue ribbons. The teachers led them to their chairs, and they filed in quietly and sat patiently, waiting for the program to begin. Another school arrived later. These girls wore white uniforms with red ties in their hair. Behind the girls, their mothers sat quietly. Behind the mothers were several rows of fathers.

As the program began, Harsh Lambah, regional director for MoneyGram, spoke to the girls and expressed MoneyGram’s commitment to their education, urging them to study hard and make the most of their opportunities. He then presented a check for $100,000 to our partner agency for a 3-year project sponsoring the education of 300 girls in India. The girls and their families are all part of Holt’s family preservation program in India. Each girl also received a 10-dollar voucher for school books.

MoneyGram had produced a video highlighting several of the girls and their mothers talking about what it means to them to have the opportunity to attend school. As the girls appeared on screen, the girls in the audience giggled as each of their classmates appeared.

As I sat on the stage, looking out at all of the girls, I couldn’t help but think of the others girls I had seen during my time in Bangalore.  Girls working beside their mothers and fathers on the street, selling fruits and vegetables, sorting garbage or watching their younger brothers and sisters play in the dirt by the side of the road. The girls in the audience with bright blue and crisp white uniforms will have the opportunity to elevate their lives through education. The parents sitting proudly behind their girls were clearly pleased for this future – a future filled with endless possibilities for their daughters. Continue reading “MoneyGram presents girls in India with Hope for their Future”

With Spirit, Compassion and Tenacity…

Susan Cox, Holt’s vice president of policy and external affairs, is currently in India visiting Holt’s programs and partner agencies. On Wednesday, October 10th, she will help with a special event in celebration of a $100,000 grant recently awarded to one of our partners. MoneyGram awarded the grant to help 300 girls from underprivileged families who are at risk of dropping out of school. Holt began an educational sponsorship program in India in 2008 to empower girls and promote gender equality. The MoneyGram grant will effectively double the number of girls sponsored through our partner in Bangalore, providing assistance with school tuition as well as books and school uniforms.

The executive director of the partner agency Susan visited today in India.
Today, while visiting one of our partner agencies in India, we were joined by a young, enthusiastic group of volunteers – all employees at Thomson Reuters, a business data company headquartered in New York.  They prepared a western lunch for the children, including chicken nuggets, smiley face potatoes, sandwiches and fruit and ice cream. It was great watching them play and interact with the children, and later you could hear the kids laughing and squealing while they played outside.

Hosting corporate volunteers is a good opportunity for the outside community to learn of the important service our partner agencies provide children in India.

About 20 of the children visiting today live with foster families, but come each day to the care center to eat lunch with the staff.  This is convenient and inexpensive for the staff, but also ensures the quality of the food because the children and staff eat the same meal. The children and staff all know each other from this daily check-in, and it is another method of monitoring the care of the children in the foster care program.

There are about a dozen children who live directly in the care of our partner agency. They are children with special needs and require more than a foster family could provide.  Today, a physical therapist worked with several of the children and it was clear the children enjoyed it. Some of the children have adoptive families waiting for them. For those children, the picture of their new family is hanging on the wall above their crib or bed.

One of our partner's many wonderful caregivers.

It is always a gratifying experience to spend time with staff in our overseas programs. They are the ones on the ground in the trenches every day. To directly see the spirit, compassion and tenacity they bring to their work each day is inspiring.  At the partner agency I visited today, the staff is primarily made up of social workers. In listening to them discuss cases and processes, the passion they have for what they do is evident. They expressed grave concern that the adoption process now takes so long. This particular agency has more than 50 Indian families who are waiting for a child!

The agency’s executive director and her staff have smart, sensible ideas about what could and should be done. Being here and meeting with them puts a face to the policies and procedures that need reform.  It makes me more determined that we have to do what we can to help the staff, but most of all, to help the children…

Click here to learn more about our work in India.

Life In India


Former Holt employee, Rebecca Moore and her husband, Jeff, traveled to India this summer to volunteer at one of Holt’s oldest partner agencies—the same agency where their son, Robert, was cared for before coming home to them in 2002.  Three of the Moore family’s children,  Martine and Nephtalie, both adopted from Haiti, and Gabi joined them on their journey.

Read the Moore family’s blog excerpts below…

May 14th, 2012

Who? Why? What? Where? When? – Our journey to India first began two years ago. I was praying for guidance. I felt like I was supposed to be preparing for something, for somewhere. But where? We had been to many places and definitely had a passion for homeless children and empowering families. I prayed and searched and waited. The Holy Spirit showed me the need in Nepal, and the desire of indigenous churches to care for children. Nepal is one of the poorest and least developed countries in the world, where more than half the children are malnourished. There are many homeless children vulnerable to trafficking and exploitation. I began to search for more insight and look for doors to open, doors that would prepare me for Nepal.

It became clear my next step would be to learn how foster care and adoption works in the culture of the Indian Sub-continent. Various doors opened over the next year. God brought to mind one of Holt International’s partners in India, the program where Robert was cared for during the three years before he came to us. It’s a wonderful, 24-year-old program that provides foster care, a small orphanage, domestic and international adoption, care for underweight babies, education for girls, and skill training for women. It was the perfect model for me to learn from. When I contacted them with my plans and asked if I could come to learn from them, they immediately said yes. They had always wanted to import their program to Nepal and were excited about the possibility. I still had to finish a field placement internship for my graduate studies at USC. Although it had never been done before, USC agreed to let me count my time in India as an internship. God was making a way for me to prepare for the work He had for me. Continue reading “Life In India”

Positive Parenting, From Eugene to Bangalore

Last month, representatives from two of our partner organizations in India traveled to Holt’s headquarters in Eugene, Oregon. While in Eugene, the visiting social workers gained an overview of the programs and services offered by local parenting organization and long-time Holt partner, Birth To Three/Parenting Now!. Here, Sylvia – a social worker from Vathsalya Charitable Trust (VCT) in Bangalore – shares about her time at Parenting Now! and how she plans to apply the practices she learned once home in India.

To read more about the training at Birth To Three/Parenting Now! for our visiting social workers, click here.

Sylvia with a child then in care at VCT, now home with a family in the U.S.

The Birth To Three/Parenting Now! experience was truly different for me because this was the first time I was in training for parenting groups. Very basic things like how you welcome a group, use the right words and thank parents for making it to the group made so much sense. Just by recognizing their presence, you actually make them feel they are welcome and important in the group.

We often feel it is not important to acknowledge their presence. I think it sure makes a difference.

During the training, it was an eye-opener for me to learn better ways to manage children’s behavior. When they have their meltdowns, instead of losing our tempers, we can use alternative techniques such as giving them positive attention. We all like to be appreciated; acknowledging positive behavior, in turn, encourages positive behavior. We can provide positive attention by giving children special time and showing approval. Special time is time that you set aside each day  to spend alone with your child. The time should be regular enough for the child to count on it, and centered on the child’s needs or wants.

Or catch children doing something good and show approval, giving a reason why the behavior is important. The purpose of showing approval is to encourage your child to continue a particular behavior. Also at times, we can divert their attention to other things and sometimes even ignore the behavior so as not to reinforce it with attention – be it positive or negative. Continue reading “Positive Parenting, From Eugene to Bangalore”

Partnering for Better Parenting; Holt and Birth To Three Host India Guests

In countries around the world, Holt works with local partners to provide parenting education for the most vulnerable families and children. Earlier this month, Holt invited representatives from two of these partner organizations in India to Holt’s headquarters in Eugene, Oregon. While here, the visiting social workers gained an overview of the programs and services offered by local parenting organization and long-time Holt partner, Birth To Three. Once home in India, they will share what they learned with their staff and begin to apply the practices in their communities —  strengthening Holt’s parent education programming in the region.

by Robin Munro, Senior Writer

Vaishali (left) and Sylvia present during the training in Eugene.

If you were to pack a suitcase for your children, filled with the values and attributes you hope to instill in them, what would you include?

Truthfulness? Confidence? Compassion? Good citizenship?

If you asked this question of parents in India or Uganda or Vietnam, would they want the same for their children?

Last year, Minalee Saks, director of the nonprofit organization Birth To Three, traveled to Pune, India to lead a parenting education workshop organized by Holt. The four-day training drew 19 social workers from six countries, including Vietnam, India, Ethiopia, Uganda, Thailand and the Philippines. Upon returning home to Oregon, Minalee felt resolute about one universal truth, writing in an Op-Ed for the Eugene Register-Guard: “Regardless of cultures, allegiances, experiences, living situations or countries — people love their children and want the best for them.”

During the workshop in Pune, the 19 social workers received training on how to use Birth To Three’s “Make Parenting a Pleasure” (MPAP) curriculum – a group-based program for parents that stresses positive techniques for raising their children. Upon returning home to their respective countries, the social workers began to put Birth To Three’s practices to work – making the act of parenting both more enjoyable, and more effective, for the families and communities they serve.

Among the social workers in attendance were five from Bharatiya Samaj Seva Kendra (BSSK), Holt’s partner organization in Pune – and host for the workshop. After the training, the BSSK social workers found many creative ways to apply Minalee’s parenting curriculum. “Many of its modules are being used during parent preparation workshops as well as with the parents and children from lower socioeconomic groups,” says Vaishali Vahikar, program director of BSSK’s educational sponsorship program and one of the five social workers in attendance. One component they adapted is the metaphorical suitcase exercise, which helps families identify the values they hope to model for their children. Although designed as an activity for parents, Vaishali also saw a benefit in engaging children in the suitcase exercise.

“We ask what they want their parents to put in their suitcase,” Vaishali says. Often, children respond with very specific needs – with small children asking for good food, parents not fighting, teachers treating them kindly, and older children more interested in educational and other support to help them transition to adulthood. Vashaili and her fellow staff then return to the parents and share the needs their children have expressed.

Continue reading “Partnering for Better Parenting; Holt and Birth To Three Host India Guests”

Not Dwelling on the Hard Things

A military wife with a personal connection to India recently came across one of our Waiting Child of the Week blogs. “Even though my heart was sad that he might never walk,” says Beth Anne Shwamberger,” I never felt that he wasn’t meant to be our child.” Here, Beth Anne describes her excitement at being matched with little Hudson, and the open-mind and flexible approach she is taking in preparation for his arrival home. The Schwamberger family has fully embraced Hudson’s physical challenges and eagerly await the time when they can wrap him in their arms.


By Beth Anne Schwamberger

Chris and I have been matched with a 15-month-old boy in India! A lot has happened in the last couple of weeks. It’s been a whirlwind. The good kind of whirlwind that makes wheat fields look gorgeous and makes blossoms fly. The world is just full of more flowers and trees and life because of the whirlwind… I still look back at everything in absolute awe of God and how He has worked.

I am going to go on and on about our precious child. I have fallen in love with this little boy. I think everything about him is exquisite and wonderful, and I want to plaster his picture on billboards, have Chris write in the sky that he’s ours…..and announce it at the Super Bowl! I am so incredibly proud to be his mommy.

Sixteen days ago, Chris and I were thinking it would be years before we could bring a child home. We gritted our teeth and hunkered down for a really long wait. Then, on Thursday, January 12th, I saw a blog post from Holt on one of their “waiting children.” I love to check out these posts, share them on Facebook, and pray for these children to find families. This little boy tugged at my heart right away. I thought, “he would be a perfect fit for us, but he’s in India. We’re not old enough to adopt from India.” Continue reading “Not Dwelling on the Hard Things”

For the Least of These

New York Times best selling author Donna VanLiere recently returned from India with Christian music group NewSong.  “God is here.  Among us,” she says.  “Disguised as an 8-year-old orphan.”

by Donna VanLiere


Years ago, I read that the apostle Thomas made India his mission field. Remember Thomas? He was one of the twelve apostles who made it clear that he would not believe Jesus had risen from the dead until he saw the scars on His nail-pierced hands. Doubt nips hard at the heels of belief. That was Thomas’ problem. In John 14, Jesus was speaking of Heaven and said, “You know the way to the place where I am going.” Thomas, always confused, always doubtful, said, “… We don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?” We can’t be too hard on Thomas. Even the wisest among us doubt and question and scratch our heads.  Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” This is a crucial moment for Thomas. A choice has to be made…believe what Christ says is true, or that he’s either a diabolical liar or clinically insane.

Time marched on and doubt and disbelief still drummed away at Thomas’ mind and nerves. When Christ was crucified, then flung off his grave clothes three days later, the other apostles came to Thomas and said, “Great news! He’s alive!” Thomas shook his head. That’s the nature of doubt. It’s a head-shaking disease.  His reunion with Christ is laid out in John 20. Jesus held out his hands like a magician proving there was nothing up his sleeves.  “Go ahead,” he said. “Touch them. They’re real. Stop doubting and believe.” And Thomas did. The last time the apostles were with Jesus he gave them a simple directive—Go into all the world and spread the gospel. “Go Thomas. Be brave. I am with you always. Remember, I tell you the truth. Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.” According to ancient records, Thomas traveled farther than any other apostle. His life reveals that he came to know Christ best through his missing him. His desire grew stronger and his longing deeper.  He loved and fed the people of India as if feeding God himself and Thomas gave himself for that love, dying at the end of a spear.

I just returned from a 9-day trip to India. My husband Troy and I went there with members of the Christian music group NewSong.  In Bangalore, we visited a care center run by a beautiful, saintly woman named Mary Paul. One night at dinner, NewSong member Eddie Carswell and his wife sat with Mary Paul and she told them that twenty generations ago her great, great, great (do this twenty times) grandfather met the apostle Thomas and Thomas shared the truth with him. I doubt I will ever again meet anyone who can trace their faith journey directly back to one of the apostles!

Ancient documents do not describe Thomas as a dynamic orator like the apostle Paul, but rather, a quiet man who drew people to the gospel of peace through his saintly ways and the message of truth. Twenty generations later, Mary Paul sees God dressed as abandoned children and shares hope and love with them.

You would expect me to write of the misery of the orphans, but that’s impossible to do when writing about the care center Mary Paul runs. The walls are bright, the staff is warm and the children are loved. Very loved. They smile and laugh easily and are quick to wrap their pencil-thin arms around you. A little boy walked up to Troy and I, grinning. “My name’s Vanej,” he said. “I’m nine years old.” NewSong sang a couple of songs for the children and then the children sang for us, little Vanej holding one of the two microphones and singing loudly. Eighteen months earlier, Vanej was on an outing with his parents when he was somehow separated from them. The orphanage advertised in the papers, on TV and radio, looking for his parents. They traveled where Vanej said he lived and put up flyers and talked with people on the streets, with no results. In a country of 1.1 billion people, it’s much like finding a needle in a haystack. Vanej talked of missing his mother and his sister. It was heartbreaking, but he still smiled. Continue reading “For the Least of These”

The Most Hopeful Thing

In 2007, the Smith family brought home Jenni, the first child with HIV adopted from India. Today, their daughter is a bright, busy, healthy toddler thriving in the love of her parents. In sharing their story with Holt, they tell the truth about this particularly stigmatizing special need – a truth that is much more hopeful than many might expect.*

Any advice or HIV information in this article should be discussed with a medical professional specializing in the treatment of HIV/AIDS.

When Dr. Ken Alexander first met Jenni, she was “laying on the bed, just floppy like a ragdoll.” At 11 months old, she was the size of a newborn.  She was listless and dehydrated and suffering from chronic diarrhea.  She could not lift herself to sit up.

Standing by Jenni’s side were her new adoptive parents, Sarah and Mark Smith. Turning to the Smiths, Dr. Alexander said, “I know there’s nothing you want to do more than pack her in cotton and take her home and love her, but it will take at least ten days before she can go home.”

After a four-flight, 32-hour journey to bring their daughter home from India, the Smiths were relieved to place her in the care of Dr. Alexander, chief of pediatric infectious diseases at the University of Chicago Comer Children’s Hospital.

Ten days apart would be manageable – especially given Jenni’s hopeful outlook.

Continue reading “The Most Hopeful Thing”

From Oregon to India to Vietnam

coordinated efforts to serve children and families span around the globe

In the spring issue of Holt magazine, Minalee Saks, executive director of Birth to Three, described a workshop she led last February – in India. Birth to Three is a non-profit organization in Eugene, Oregon that provides parenting education and support for families of young children. Organized by Holt, the workshop drew 19 social workers from six countries for a four-day training in Birth to Three’s “Make Parenting a Pleasure” curriculum.

At the end of the workshop, the participants returned home to put Minalee’s practices to work – making the act of parenting both more enjoyable, and more effective, for families from Ethiopia and Uganda to the Philippines and Vietnam.

In Vietnam, the two social workers that participated are making quick progress.

With the lessons still fresh in her mind, Holt social worker Nguyen Thu Ngan led a one-day training session for fellow social workers and staff in Vietnam. In turn, the Holt-Vietnam staff will soon begin training families we serve throughout the country – beginning with 50 struggling families we support in the north, near Hanoi. The children of these families are all in preschool, and all at risk of neglect or separation from their parents. Through basic support services, we are helping these families give their children a safe, stable home. And now, thanks to Minalee Saks and Birth to Three, we can help them become better parents for their children as well.

Read about Minalee’s time in India….