Adoptees and Adoption Advocates Become One Voice for Children in Washington D.C.

by Brian Campbell, Creative Services Director

On the first official day of discussions at the International Forum in Washington D.C., adoptees and adoption advocates —laughing and chatting — created a loud bustle in every room they entered. Some connected with each other for the first time, others reconnected with old friends.

More than just a look back into the 55-year history of international adoption, the discussions served as a tremendous resource for

adoptees and the adoption community — a wonderful opportunity to share experiences and look to the future of international adoption and how to best serve children.

When the welcome plenary began, chatting and laughing gave way to intense silence and devoted attention. Speakers shared stats

and figures that represented everyone in the room in one way or another. The attendees listened closely, taking notes and nodding as

Senator Jim McDermott speaks to International Forum attendees

topics about the importance of post adoption services and ongoing support for adopted children were discussed.

After the morning session concluded, a parade of forum attendees made their way from the hotel, down the street to the Russell Senate building and into the Kennedy Caucus room, where Senator Jim McDermott prepared to speak to the guests. An advocate for children and adoption for several decades, McDermott — between voting in the Senate —dashed across the street, eager to speak to the forum group about an issue for which he is passionate.

The Kennedy Caucus room has served as the setting for many significant events, trials and political gatherings that helped to move forward policy and legislation.  And on this important day — in a room alive with history and the voices of people moving forward with one goal in mind — over 200 adoptees and adoption advocates spoke out and became one voice for children, moving forward together to do what’s best for every child.

Adult Adoptees Kick Off the International Forum at the National Press Club

From left to right: Holt adoptees Dominic Pangborn from Korea; Kim Hanson from Korea; Glenn Morey from Korea; moderator of panel, Michelle Li from Korea. At the microphone: Tara Lihn Leaman from Vietnam; Adam Conner from Korea; Amber Stime from Ethiopia; Nu Wexler from Vietnam, and Holt President and Ceo Kim Brown from Korea.
A press conference at the National Press Club kicked off the International Forum in Washington D.C. this afternoon.

 

“We are celebrating 55 years of children and adoptive parents coming together into real families across the globe,” said Adoptees for Children member and Holt adoptee, Glenn Morey. “But the real focus of this weekend is how to move forward with 55 years of real-life perspective from those of us who are adoptees.”

Susan Soonkeum Cox, Holt vice president of policy and external affairs, and Kim Brown, Holt president and CEO, were also in attendance.

“One of the concerns that I have about the way international adoption and adoptees are presented is that adoptees never seem to grow up,” says Susan. “We are always frozen in time and always referred to as the ‘little children’ and babies….but adoption is a lifelong experience.”

To illustrate this concept, nine adoptees from various countries and backgrounds stood before members of the press, adoptive families and fellow adoptees and shared their adoption stories, experiences and personal perspectives.

“I think it’s great to be here and share our stories. I think for many people adoption is talked about in the context of being a choice. It’s the choice of birth parents to give up children and it’s a choice of adoptive parents to adopt,” explained Holt adoptee Adam Conner, “but for the children, it’s just something you inherit. It’s a reality that you are born with, just like anything else that your are born with. I think this is difficult for individuals to understand.   [Adoption] for the child is not a choice…it’s a wonderful gift.”

To watch a video of the National Press Club conference and hear more adoptee perspective, click here

 

 

 

Intercountry Adoption — Moving Forward From a 55-Year Perspective

The international forum kicks off this Thursday, April 14th, in Washington D.C.!

As we speak, participants from around the world are gathering in our nation’s capitol to celebrate 55 years of intercountry adoption.  Sponsored by Holt International and Adoptees for Children, the conference will be held at the Hyatt Regency Hotel on Capitol Hill, April 14-16, 2011.

Saturday’s presenters will be adoption professionals who are also adult adoptees. “This will be the first significant conference to highlight the unique personal perspective of adoption professionals who also happen to be adult adoptees.  Too often the influence and voices of those who have lived the experience are not represented,” says Susan Soonkeum Cox, vice president of policy and external affairs at Holt International.

The forum will conclude with a gala dinner and program Saturday evening, where the Honorable Marjorie Margolies will serve as host and renowned comedian Alison Larkin, author of The English American, will provide entertainment.

It’s not too late to register online! If you’ll be in the D.C. area this coming weekend, please join us for this historic event. Adoptees, adoptive families, child welfare professionals and government officials from around the world will be participating in this unprecedented gathering. Join all the festivities, Saturday‘s panels, or the gala dinner only.

Follow Holt adoptee and news anchor Michelle Li as she live blogs from the forum!

Help Repair the Ilsan Center for the Children! –Join Us at the Omaha Event on March 19th

This morning on Omaha Morning Blend, a local talk show, Celeste Snodgrass, Holt’s Midwest branch director, discussed Holt International’s upcoming gala and dinner auction. Adoptive parent Juliet Brown and her son, Gavin, joined Celeste during the interview.

“This event is going to help renovate the buildings at the Ilsan center in Korea,” said Celeste. “They have fallen into disrepair…the children need a safe place to live.”

The Omaha event will commemorate Holt International’s 55th anniversary of serving homeless children — a legacy of love that began at the Ilsan center. Since Holt’s beginning, many children with special needs at the Ilsan center have gone home to wonderful, permanent families.

Molly Holt, director of the Ilsan Center and daughter of Harry and Bertha Holt, will be the honored guest at this year’s auction in Omaha.

Click here to see a video of Celeste Snodgrass, Juliet Brown, and her son, Gavin, on Omaha Morning Blend….

Click here to RSVP to the Omaha event or contact Sandi Mehl at sandim@holtinternational.org

Holt Forum Speaker Profiled in The Washington Times

Juntunen family on holiday.

Several years ago, while volunteering at an orphanage in Haiti, Craig Juntunen’s heart was captured.  Her name was Esperancia.  “I can’t explain it at all, other than to say she instantly captured my heart.  I called and told my wife that we were about to become parents,” he told a reporter for the Washington Times. Today, Craig and his wife Kathi are parents to three children adopted from Haiti — Quinn, “Espie” and Amelec.

A father for the first time, Craig felt inspired to write a book about his experience. It’s called Both Ends Burning. Moved to advocate for safer, more efficient and more cost-effective adoption practices, he later founded a nonprofit — also called Both Ends Burning.

“We have a moral obligation to fix this immediately and allow them to come home to loving families,” he says of the children who continue to languish in orphanages.  “There is no shortage of families wanting to adopt and there is no shortage of orphans.  Adults have a responsibility create an efficient and reasonable system to allow these children to flourish.”

On April 15th, Craig Juntunen will speak at the Holt Forum in Washington D.C., a historic gathering of adoptees, families, policymakers and adoption professionals working to “move forward from a 55-year perspective.”

To learn more about this exciting event, click here.

To read the full article on Craig Juntunen in the Washington Times, click here.

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?”

Say Yes to Making a Difference in the Life of a Child!

You Are Invited to Holt’s Annual Gala and Dinner Auction in Portland, Oregon

Holt’s dinner and auction event in Portland, Oregon is coming up on October 16th.  The event will benefit homeless and at-risk children in Vietnam and will be held at Montgomery Park at 5:30 p.m.

There are more than a thousand children and families in Holt’s Vietnam program.  Our services in Vietnam help keep birth families together, reunite children with their birth families, and support children in foster care.  Our work in Vietnam also provides services to single mothers, nutrition programs, medical services and adoption.

Click the image to RSVP today!

“The word “yes” is a powerful word. My husband Jay and I said “yes” when we were asked to volunteer in 1996 for the Holt Portland auction,” says Char Woodworth, event chair for this year’s auction. “Working on the auction, working closely with wonderful, dedicated friends and Holt staff, and then seeing the event come together as a wonderful party to help children, what a gift! Working for Holt gives our lives purpose, meaning and fulfillment. You will have a wonderful time at the Portland event – remember to say “yes’ to making a difference in the life of a child!”

Come, join the fun at this year’s dinner and auction in Portland….and help children in Holt’s care in Vietnam.  Click here for more information and to RSVP to the event.

To volunteer on a committee, donate auction items, host a table, or be a Gala sponsor, please contact events@holtinternational.org

Can’t attend the event?…..make a difference by sponsoring a child in Vietnam.

Helping the Children who Wait

University of Oregon graduate Ally Tritten is currently in Thailand working with Holt Sahathai Foundation (HSF) as an intern with IE3 Global Internships. Ally, a family and human services major, will work for HSF for six months, helping to find homes for 200 children with special needs. The children are currently in government-run child institutions in Thailand; some of them will eventually be placed into Holt’s Waiting Child program.

“I am really excited for this trip,” says Ally. “I look forward to learning more about Holt International, their work in Thailand, and to be able to provide services to children.”

Holt established a partnership with HSF in 1975. HSF serves a large number of vulnerable children through a variety of programs including adoption, pregnancy counseling, foster care, educational sponsorships and outreach services for children in hospitals and orphanages. Many of these programs help birth families stay together through counseling and assistance.

The following is an update from Ally about her first week in Thailand:

September 15th, 2010.

Bangkok, Thailand – Well, it’s been just over a week since I arrived here in Bangkok, and I already love every minute of it. I’ve been quite busy these last 10 days, meeting the staff at HSF and orienting to the diverse range of services HSF, as a highly recognized child welfare agency, offers. I have had the amazing opportunity to observe meetings with adoptive families and participate in a home visit, where I helped assess the potential of a family to bring their child back into their home. I also visited Pakkret’s Babies Home – one of the orphanages in Bangkok – where I, along with Pi Malee and Pi Tuk, two HSF social workers, helped identify the children in HSF’s special needs project.

We then went on a trip to explore an agricultural, self-sufficient center. This center is used as a model for maintaining a steady income through ones own resources and property. The goal of this project is to keep rural communities intact and prevent overpopulation in the big cities throughout Thailand, as well as maintaining close relationships with friends, family and community members. It was a fascinating experience in every aspect.

On that same day, Pi Malee, Pi Tuk and I visited the neighboring village occupied by HSF foster families, and we enjoyed observing the love and energy that surrounded each child being cared for. Continue reading “Helping the Children who Wait”

Holt Adoptee Camps

A mother’s perspective

When my nine-year-old declared there was “no way” he would go to Holt Adoptee camp for a whole week, I was disappointed. I was sure it would be a good experience, but he didn’t want to sleep away from home. I considered the usual parental options: persuasion, bribery and coercion! Fortunately, I soon discovered Holt’s day camp. Not only was this one-day camp much more acceptable to my eldest, but because the age range was from 5-16, his younger siblings could participate too. And parents were welcome!

The kids and I arrived at Camp Angelos promptly at 9 am, and Harry immediately spotted a friend from home on the basketball court. Before I could even apply sunscreen, he was off, disappearing into a crowd of black-haired, rough and tumble boys. Five-year-old Betty darted across the lawn to the playground. Theo, who is 8 and quite shy in new situations, walked with me to the registration table. Camp leaders Michael and Steve greeted us with friendly smiles and gathered the parents and kids into a big circle for some icebreakers. It was refreshing to be in a group of families similar to our own: kids of all complexions, with parents who resembled them very little, performing motherly and fatherly duties – encouraging, cuddling, slipping away for potty breaks as needed. Many of the kids were reserved at first, but the staff’s enthusiasm was contagious.

Steve invited the younger day campers to team up with a group of older, week-long campers – veterans now, with three days of Holt camp under their belts!  And all the day campers, except one, followed their new teenage mentors onto the lawn for games and icebreakers. Theo stuck to me like Velcro, and I was grateful that the staff and other parents were totally accepting. He participated gamely in the adoptive parent workshop, writing a list of words that described his parents and another that described him (“Mom? How do you spell ‘good climber’?”).  But when one of the camp counselors invited him personally to join in a game of freeze tag, this was too tempting, and I didn’t see him again until lunch!

While the kids played and participated in age-appropriate workshops about race and adoption, the parents were invited to consider adoption from our children’s point of view. We heard from teen and adult adoptees and had the chance to listen, ask questions, and share our own experiences with race and racism. I took home an uncomfortable truth: all of our minority kids, regardless of country of origin, experience racism on a regular basis. Both positive and negative stereotypes, as well as nosy and inappropriate questions about where our kids are from or “what” exactly they are, are upsetting to our children. Adoptive parents often want to minimize these encounters, but we need to acknowledge them. Continue reading “Holt Adoptee Camps”

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!