Surviving, Learning, Laughing: Introducing Jane

Through candid (and often funny!) observations and heartwarming personal stories, a Holt adoptive mother shares the challenges and joys of parenting adopted children

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For the past three years, Holt adoptive parent Jane Ballback has shared her adoption stories with families waiting to bring their children home. An adoptive parent for 24 years, Jane speaks at parent training classes led by Holt Social Worker Mike Guinn. Mike offers the formal training. Jane presents the personal experiences relating to the issues being discussed.

“I provide the stories that bring the theories alive and help new parents figure out what they are about to face,” says Jane. “Everyone loves a good story, and mine are real, relatable and memorable. Adoption concepts are rather abstract and hard to explain until you understand how the theories play out in real life.”

Starting today, Jane will share her thoughts and stories on Holt’s blog once a week. The theories and issues discussed will be relevant to new adoptive families as well as families who have had their children home for some time. Our hope is that Jane’s blogs will serve as an educational tool for adoptive parents and also as a catalyst for candid, meaningful discussion.

Feel free to comment on Jane’s blog entries with your own suggestions, questions and personal stories as they relate to the topic being discussed.

Jane’s daughter, Stacee, will also occasionally be joining her mother as a guest blogger.

The following is a message from Jane:

Hello, my name is Jane and I am one of the luckiest women in the world. I have been married forty years to the “boy” I met in high school, I’ve had a fascinating and rewarding career as a Human Resource Consultant and Career Coach, and now that I’m retired I get to do volunteer work for non-profits whose missions are near and dear to my heart.

The best part of this story, though, is that along the way my husband and I adopted three children from Korea, who are now young adults. Being a parent was the hardest job I’ve ever done, and watching them grow and develop has been the experience of a lifetime.

I’ve always been an intensively curious woman and learning to be an adoptive parent was one of my greatest endeavors. Determined to be the best parent I could, I talked to adoption experts, read everything I could find about parenting adoptive children, and when I was “in over my head”, I worked with a gifted child psychologist, who is herself, adopted.

I was, by no means a “perfect” parent. Along the way I stumbled, survived, learned and laughed. The idea for this blog came out of the volunteer work I do for Holt International. For three years now I’ve been working with the Southern California social worker, helping to train parents who are waiting for their new arrival. He does the formal training and introduces the adoption theories and ideas – I provide the stories that bring the theories alive, and help new parents figure out what they are about to face. Everyone loves a good story, and mine are real, relatable and memorable.

I thought my first story would be about my daughter, Stacee who is now twenty years old and a junior in college. I want to introduce Stacee to you because she will periodically be blogging with me. I have often been asked how it is possible to love a child that is not your own. I understand the question — it’s just difficult to answer, so I often tell this story.

I actually did forget once, that I was not my daughter’s “real” mother. When Stacee was three she had a persistent fever and was turning bright red. After a few days of trying to figure this out, my pediatrician told me to drive directly to the Children’s Hospital and get her admitted. He suspected, rightfully so, that she had Kawasoki’s Disease. This is an unusual disease, common among Asians with just these symptoms. It’s a very treatable disease, but time was of the essence and the result of not treating it was the possibility of permanent damage to Stacee’s heart.

As I sat in the admitting department, with this hot, bright red child on my lap, I was distraught to say the least. The nurse began getting a history from me, Continue reading “Surviving, Learning, Laughing: Introducing Jane”

An Angel in Adoption

Holt adoptee Michelle Sherwood receives special recognition for her advocacy of children in need of families

by Robin Munro, Senior Writer

He flips. He cartwheels. He can even do “the worm.” Jayson hams it up for the camera as KSPR News, a station in Springfield, Missouri, films his acrobatic dance moves. “Blood rushes to my head and I like the way it feels,” he says, smiling and trying to catch his breath, his arms casually dangling over the gymnastics bars.

KSPR News has chosen to feature Jayson in a Wednesday’s Child segment, a weekly program designed to help children in foster care find homes. KSPR News anchor – and Holt adoptee – Michelle Sherwood introduces and narrates the segment. She also interviews Jayson during filming.

“If you could have three wishes, what would you wish for?” she asks him.

“To find a family, for me to see my sisters every day, and for me to go to heaven,” he says, before bouncing back to gymnastics practice.

Michelle and her team tailor segments to the children’s interests – they take them to interactive museums, to farms, to the zoo. One baseball-enthusiast received a lesson from the local team. Another got an art lesson. As well as behind-the-scenes work, Michelle participates in many of the segments, shooting hoops or baking cakes, engaging every child.

“We try to bring out the best in these kids,” she says.

Since the program appeared in May, many of the kids featured on Wednesday’s Child have found families. Michelle’s efforts to show children at their best also caught her local representative’s attention. In October, Missouri Congressman Roy Blunt presented her with an Angel in Adoption award for her advocacy on behalf of children who need homes.

On this, Michelle is quite humble. “Although I am thrilled and honored to be accepting a congressional award for my volunteerism,” she wrote on her blog, “it does not even compare to the daily contributions our social workers make.”

Michelle’s efforts, however, are anything but modest. She began lobbying for Wednesday’s Child at KSPR News over a year ago, after learning a disturbing statistic about the community her station serves. Greene County has the highest rates of child abuse and neglect in the state of Missouri, a statistic correlated with the high number of children in the foster care system.

“Why,” she thought, “are we not doing something for these kids to help find them homes?”

As a broadcast journalist, Michelle found a tremendous resource at her fingertips. She discovered Wednesday’s Child, a common vehicle used by news stations across the country to promote adoption, and initiated partnership with The Adoption Exchange – a national child welfare organization that recruits adoptive families for foster children. The segments were an instant success. Continue reading “An Angel in Adoption”

How Will You Celebrate National Adoption Month?

Join the Holt Ambassadors Network

National Adoption Awareness Month – a wonderful time to spread the word about children throughout the world who need loving families – is coming up in November.

Many Holt adoptive families have found a great way to raise awareness about adoption and help more children find families through the Holt Ambassadors Network.

Composed of people who share the Holt story and raise awareness in their communities about the urgent needs of homeless children around the world, Holt Ambassadors get involved by: organizing fundraisers, speaking at churches, schools or civic groups; or volunteering at Holt events…..Join the Holt Ambassadors Network today!

Post Holt’s banners on your facebook page or blog during National Adoption Month

Holt Ambassador stories and updates:

The Wolterstorffs:

“Once our eyes are opened, we can’t pretend we don’t know what to do. God, who weighs our hearts and keeps our souls, knows that we know, and holds us responsible to act.”(Proverbs 24:12)

Speaking out for the orphans of this world is one of my passions. We need to be the voices for these vulnerable children; if we aren’t, then who will be? I try to find ways to help, speak out and gather donations for children whenever I have the opportunity. Being a member of the Holt Ambassadors Network helps me do this.

Most recently, I collected 200 dresses for an orphanage in Ethiopia and was recently given some photos of the children wearing the dresses. To see what the children had worn before and then to see them with those sweet dresses on and those big smiles, it made me want to do so much more.

Even the small things, like gathering dresses, makes a huge difference in the life of a child…and there is still so much more to be done.

With November being adoption awareness month, I encourage you all to find a way to spread the word. Continue reading “How Will You Celebrate National Adoption Month?”

Learn About Molly’s House….Where the Love and Care at Ilsan Begins

A message from Kim Brown, Holt president and CEO:

You likely know about the incredible work taking place at the Ilsan Center in Korea. As a Korean adoptee and father of two adopted children from Korea, Ilsan has a special place in my heart and I praise the Lord for the work that goes on there. But during my most recent visit to the center, I couldn’t help notice the poor physical condition of some of the buildings, especially “Molly’s House,” where Harry and Bertha Holt’s daughter still cares for Ilsan children and residents. These buildings are badly in need of repair.

God has truly blessed us by calling then 19-year-old Molly, more than 50 years ago, to follow in her parent’s faith-filled footsteps. A trained nurse, Molly cares for orphaned children in their very first days at the center, as well as after surgery or during a serious illness. She’ll tell you that she keeps them for as long as needed, “Until these children know that they are loved and wanted.” Over the years, her Christian faith has driven her to minister hope to some of the most needy children in Holt’s care.

Unfortunately, Molly’s house is one of many of Ilsan’s 15 buildings that need repair. During my visit I saw exposed electrical systems, outdated plumbing, crumbling stairs and peeling paint.

To bring our facilities up to recently revised government standards, we’ve launched a five-year renovation campaign for Ilsan and need your help to make these vital repairs.

The following is the story of Min-kee, a 6-year-old resident at Ilsan who was brought into Molly’s care….

Min-kee came into Ilsan’s care at 16 months of age. He started out with a foster family, but when it was determined that he would most likely need ongoing and more in-depth care, he was transferred to Ilsan and into the arms of Molly Holt. Upon arriving at Molly’s House, where all new arrivals are brought, Min-kee had several developmental delays and was not able to walk or feed himself. He had low set ears, a webbed neck and short extremities – traits often associated with Noonan’s disease, a congenital heart defect for which he was later diagnosed.

“When the young children and babies arrive at Ilsan, they start out at my house and the housemothers and myself teach them to sit up, walk and feed themselves,” explains Molly. “Min-kee was quite delayed when he came to Ilsan, but then started functioning really well after awhile. He learned to feed himself and speak.

“Before moving into another house at Ilsan, the children will usually stay at my house for a month or so while we assess their needs. If children continue to struggle or they need more long-term care, they will come back to my house for however long they need.” Continue reading “Learn About Molly’s House….Where the Love and Care at Ilsan Begins”

Sign Up for Next Summer’s Heritage Tours Today

Adoptees discovering their homeland and heritage

by Robin Munro, senior writer

For Shannon Landry – a 16-year-old Nebraskan girl adopted as a baby from China – life so far has mostly revolved around school and soccer, friends and family. Returning to China rarely crossed her mind, though she thought it would be cool, she says, to see where she was born.

But from the time she turned 10, her mother told her that one day, they would go.

That day arrived this past summer, when she embarked on a two-week tour of China. She expected a cool adventure – an adventure that has since become a lifelong journey.

“I just feel like there’s so much more I could learn about me. Before, I never really thought about it,” Shannon says, “but now that I’ve had the experience, I don’t want to lose it.”

Joining 21 other adoptees and their families, Shannon and her mom, Melanie, traveled to China on a Holt heritage tour. The adoptees – all girls from this country of the one-child policy – explored the land of their birth, together. They climbed the Great Wall and toured the Forbidden City. They learned to cook traditional Chinese dishes, studied calligraphy and honed their chopstick skills. On a cruise down the Li River, they saw cormorant fisherman and water buffalo. They traveled to a panda reserve, where some even held these squirmy, soft-furred vegetarians, subdued by honey on the paw. They biked and cruised and climbed through China, ending where they began their adoption journey – at the White Swan Hotel in Guangzhou, the southern city home to the American Consulate, where all adoptive families secure their child’s visa.

But for many of the girls, the most meaningful part of the trip occurred on separate journeys – journeys to their finding places, their orphanages and foster families. Here, they found a connection to their past.

When Shannon visited her orphanage, she broke down in tears. “I got to meet the old [orphanage] director, which was really cool,” she says. “It kind of felt like I had a connection with her.” Shannon spent the morning at the orphanage, holding and playing with the children. She met children with special needs, a characteristic shared by many of those needing adoptive families in China. “That definitely impacted me the most,” she says. “That stood out for me and I think it did for a lot of the girls.”

Holt heritage tours are designed for adoptees and their families to experience the customs, culture and history of their birth country. Central to the tour philosophy is the adoptee’s personal story, and personal journey. To recreate this story, Holt strives to coordinate visits to adoptees’ orphanages and reunions with foster families, whenever possible. Continue reading “Sign Up for Next Summer’s Heritage Tours Today”

The Answer is on the Way

“God placed an abandoned Korean baby in our home so that almost 40 years later she could minister and provide the help we needed most at this time in our lives”

by Mike Query

Matthew 6:7-8 “When you pray, do not use a lot of meaningless words, as the pagans do, who think that their gods will hear them because their prayers are long. Do not be like them. Your Father already knows what you need before you ask him.” GNB

So, we have the above verses, but just how far before the need arises does God provide? In my case, try 35 plus years!

In August of 1970, Jeri and I were blessed by the birth of our third child, Andy. It had been eight years since our second child was born and we weren’t trying to have any more, but God, in his infinite wisdom, knew that in order for us to have a fourth child, we needed Andy. Excuse me, a fourth?

Well, now we had a dilemma. Do we raise Andy with kids that are eight and nine years older, do we have another, or do we adopt? Since Jeri had Rh factor problems with Andy, it was decided that I should man-up, do the right thing and make sure there were no more surprises. Easy for her to say!

After some serious prayer, we were led by the Holy Spirit to pursue adoption. We contacted Holt International in early 1971 and were told that it would take 12 to 24 months for our daughter to arrive. Long story short, six months to the day after our first contact with Holt, she was carried off of an airplane in Eugene, Oregon and placed in our arms. Lee Byung Hee was 26 months old, and we named her Lani Jean. Continue reading “The Answer is on the Way”

Don’t Miss Out — Holt Picnics Underway!

Communities build around shared experiences. Every year, adoptees and their families gather at Holt Annual Picnics to enjoy the company of those who share the unifying experience of adoption. Last year, over 2,100 people attended Holt’s picnics, from Oregon to New Jersey and several states between. We hope you can attend a Holt picnic this year.

For a current schedule, click here.

On July 17th, Holt’s Portland Area Picnic will take place at the site of Holt’s Adoptee Camp — Camp Angelos in Corbett, Oregon. Pack a lunch and come meet Holt’s adoptee camp counselors amid the rugged beauty of the Columbia River Gorge. All adult adoptees from various countries, the camp counselors are eager to share favorite camp memories, answer questions and get to know you and your children. And don’t forget to wear comfortable shoes! You might decide to hike Multnomah Falls or overlook the Gorge at Crown Point en route to or from the picnic.

The following weekend, Holt’s annual Midwest Picnic will take place in Omaha, Nebraska at Cooper Memorial Farm on July 24th. The Korean Presbyterian Church of Omaha will serve a delicious Korean BBQ lunch for all who RSVP. Join in the fun, including face painting, balloon twisting and an interactive Korean culture display.

Holt’s original Eugene picnic — the one that started the tradition — is scheduled for August 7th at Camp Harlow. Holt adoptive Dad, Daniel Freed, a.k.a. “The Amazing Spaghetti,” will once again host a magic and fun show — a wildly popular event last year. The Eugene Korean Presbyterian Church will serve a delicious Korean BBQ lunch for all who RSVP. Directly following the picnic, join hundreds of Holt adoptive families as they travel to Florence, Oregon for the annual Holt Family Campout at Honeyman Park. Contact Debbie Dunham for more information on the campout. We look forward to seeing you soon at a Holt picnic!

Bringing Families Together

Holt’s Special Needs Adoption Fund

Nathan came into Holt’s care with a cephalohematoma, a collection of blood under the scalp usually caused by trauma during birth. He also had developmental delays and partial seizures. When children with special needs are brought into the care of Holt International, it takes a special kind of love and commitment to make sure these children are provided for…it takes a tremendous amount of faith, as well. The loving caretakers need faith to believe that the children will survive and grow. And the children need faith that a permanent family who will love and care for them unconditionally is out there…waiting just for them.

Back in the United States, Andy and Angela Betts longed to hold one of these precious Waiting Children in their arms forever and, relying on their faith, they brought Nathan into their home and hearts.

“From the day we signed our application, we wanted to adopt a child with special needs,” says Angela. “For me, I felt like God was pushing us in that direction and God knew exactly what he was doing when he brought Nathan into our lives.

“Nathan has been home for a year and has grown so much. He has gone from not being able to sit up at 11 months, to walking and running around the house. Nathan has attached to us and formed a bond with each member of his family.”

Holt’s commitment, to do what’s best for every child, means putting extra effort into finding families for children with special needs.  We reduce adoption fees for every child with special needs, and Holt’s Special Needs Adoption Fund helps families who need additional assistance to complete their adoptions.  As a result, hundreds of children who might otherwise have no hope at all now have loving families.

Today Nathan is surrounded by parents and four siblings who love him unconditionally.  The Betts family had faith that Nathan was meant to be a part of their family.  And they had faith in people who give so generously to Holt and to funds like the Special Needs Adoption Fund.  “You will never regret giving this wonderful gift,” says Angela.  “The SNAF grant helped make us a family.”

Help Children with Special Needs Have a Family of Their Own…Donate to the Special Needs Adoption Fund!…..