The Story Behind the Photo: What Social Workers Actually Do…

With stern faces and plastic inspection gloves, adoption social workers Kris Bales and Kathie Stocker illustrate what prospective families THINK they do — not what they ACTUALLY do.

Social workers. They come into your home with a white glove and a watchful eye. They check under your bed for dust mites. They go through your medicine cabinet. They call your neighbors to inquire how long you wait to mow your lawn. They take note of every imperfection, just looking for a reason not to approve your family for adoption.

Is that about what you had in mind?­­

Well meet Kathie Stocker and Kris Bales, two of Holt’s most devoted — and beloved — social workers. Kathie has worked with Holt for 23 years and Kris for 14. K­athie is often the first person families hoping to adopt from Korea will speak to, while Kris advises families interested in the China program. Both and have guided hundreds of families through their adoption process. At Christmas time, their walls are covered in cards from families and photos of children they’ve helped place. Both will be the first to tell you that the job of a social worker is not to be taken lightly — entrusting a family with a child is no small decision. But they will also tell you that the homestudy process is not about judgment. No family is perfect. And neither are they.

Above all, their passion — and their role — is to find the right family for every child.

Today on the Holt blog, learn more about what Kris and Kathie ACTUALLY do as adoption social workers for Holt.

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Adoptees Travel to Korea on Happy Together Tour

On October 19th, four adoptees will travel to Korea on the Happy Together Tour,  a trip designed to give Korean adoptees with special needs the opportunity to return to their country of birth.  While there, the adoptees will tour Holt-supported programs, take part in popular sightseeing activities, and some may be able to reconnect with caregivers.  “The trip was amazing! A true blessing to experience going with a group of other adoptees,” Holt adoptee Misty Rasmussen says of her trip in 2014.  “To share what each of us adoptees have in common was amazing. It was also a little emotional for me. I didn’t get to meet my birth family like I was hoping, but I still loved i14628267_10153966024447688_831016696_nt and think it’s very beneficial for other adoptees!”

In 2011, adult adoptee and Holt employee Jordan Love also went on the Happy Together Tour, and will be traveling on the tour again next week. Continue reading “Adoptees Travel to Korea on Happy Together Tour”

IKAA Korean Adoptee Conference in Seoul

This past August, Holt’s director of adoptee services, Steve Kalb, attended a gathering in Seoul, Korea with over 700 other Korean adoptees. Together, they made meaningful connections and looked toward the future.

They came from Sweden, the Netherlands, Belgium, Denmark, Italy, France and the United States to celebrate and learn about the one thing they all had in common — that they were all Korean adoptees.

The International Korean Adoptee Associations (IKAA) is an organization that connects Korean adoptees with each other to form community, learn about their roots and make a stand together on adoption-related issues. Each of these countries has their own IKAA group, but every three years, Korean adoptees from all IKAA groups gather together in Seoul, South Korea. Last month was the three-year mark for this gathering, bringing over 700 Korean adoptees to the country of their birth.
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Bella Needs a Family!

Bella’s face is hidden to protect her privacy, but we have many beautiful photos of her on file.

UPDATE: For Bella’s birthday, a generous donor has offered to double her Special Blessings Grant to $6,000 to help her find a home!

In the words of the donor,

“Bella said it best, “I want to be adopted, and I would like to live in the U.S.’ My birthday wish to Bella is for her wish and dreams to come true — so that she may know the love and happiness of the family she deserves while blessing the world with her beautiful smile.”

Read more about this special girl below!



Date of Birth: 9/28/2003 | China

Last October, Holt sent a team of doctors, social workers and other hand-chosen advocates on an ambassador trip to China in order to help advocate for specific children. Their goal was to meet some of the children and gain a better understanding of the child’s needs and evaluate the qualifications that a family would need to be the best fit for the child. After spending four days with 11 children from one of the HIV group homes we support, they came home to help advocate for them. Since then, eight of the children they met have been matched, and five are already home with their families.

One of the children the team met, who has not yet been matched with a family, is *Bella. One of Holt’s ambassadors wrote this about her:

img_2952Bella was voted “Best Smile” among all the kids by the ambassadors, and if you get the chance to see a picture of her beautiful face, you will see that she definitely deserved that title! At our first meeting, she hung close to an adult from her group home until she determined that her surroundings were safe and that she was free to be herself. She soon warmed up to the ambassadors and Holt staff when she started working on a bracelet craft with her friends. She enjoyed coloring, playing games and showing off her awesome ability to do a split. She stated that “animals and snow make me happy” and that “when I grow up I might like to work with animals.” We asked what is one thing she wanted to learn or do and she said, “I want to learn to ride a bike.” Overall, she is fairly quiet and reserved in group settings. She seemed to prefer to be on her own, with an adult or with another little girl, rather than participate with the group as a whole.


Her group home caregivers said that Bella is often insecure and lacks self-confidence. They attributed her insecurity to being at the group home for only two years (as of October 2015) and that she was just starting to find her place among the other children. She also started her HIV medications late, and she was sick when she first arrived at the group home. Due to her illnesses, she had to take time off from school, but teachers reported that she had improved in her classes and with her homework. She had also been taking tuberculosis medications for about a year and was still taking them as of October 2015. But now her tuberculosis has cleared up and she no longer needs the medications.

bella-and-boscoWe heard that she was very tearful and seemed afraid of the Holt staff that visited the group home in April 2015. Although we saw no tears and no fear of strangers during the visit in October, she did seclude herself at times and appeared sad — a sign that she still deals with trauma from her past. When we asked her directly about adoption, her beautiful smile spread across her face. Then she said, “I want to be adopted, and I would like to live in the U.S.” The ambassadors and Holt staff all think she will thrive via adoption and be a blessing to her family, but she will need lots of encouragement and one-on-one attention from her family members.

Please help us share Bella’s story, and contact Jessica Zeeb at if you would like to learn more about Bella.


*name changed


Empowered by Adoption

At the end of the 2016 Holt Heritage Tour to Korea, adoptee Kora Hanson spoke with the tour group about her personal perspective on adoption. Here is what she said:

UnknownAfter hearing some of the adoption stories from the older adoptees, I felt compelled to share my experience with adoption, since I am one of the youngest adoptees here.

My mom is an adoptee herself; both my mom and dad are actively involved with Holt on the Board of Directors and have traveled around the world on Holt missions; I have attended Holt picnics, auctions, and Holt Korea trips since grade school; and more recently I’ve witnessed my mom’s nonprofit organization, Love Beyond the Orphanage. I have grown up with adoption being a daily topic around the house.

With that being said, I have pretty much always viewed my adoption as empowering. As a child, I always had a fun fact to share about myself during show and tell. As an athlete, I stood out not only for my talent but for my distinctive features. And now as a young adult, I feel it is empowering to experience moments like these with other adoptees and their families, watching everyone see Korea and embrace our beautiful culture.

Continue reading “Empowered by Adoption”

Holt’s 60th Celebration in Photos

Two weeks ago, Holt staff from across the U.S. and around the world gathered in Eugene, Oregon to celebrate the 60th anniversary of Holt International. More than 35 child welfare and orphan care experts from 12 countries — including Cambodia, China, Ethiopia, Haiti, India, Korea, Mongolia, Philippines, Thailand, Uganda, Vietnam, and from around the U.S. — came to share wisdom, ideas and inspiration as we continue seeking a world where every child has a loving and secure home.

It was a wonderful week, full of passion, inspiration and hope for creating a better world for children. Here are some highlights from our time together.

Conference images 9

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For waiting kids, it’s all about “reach.”

We need your help!

During the summer, we consistently receive fewer applications than throughout the rest of the year. Maybe it’s because families are going on vacation or their lives are full of activities, but whatever the reason, lower application numbers mean that we are finding homes for fewer children overall. We want to counteract that trend and we need your help.

One of the major ways that we find prospective families for children is through social media, and when working with social media, it’s all about “reach.” This is where you come in.

Photo Release: Further_Marketing_Use Adopted Child's Country of Birth: China Report Month: : 24 Month Adoptive Parent's Info:  Adoptive Father's First & Last Name: Brian Murphy Adoptive Mother's First & Last Name: Jessica Murphy State: IN E-mail address: Adopted Child's Information:  Child's Original Name: Yu Bing Yan Child's New Name: Alaina Murphy Child's DOB: 01/16/2013 Arrival Date: 05/30/2014 Caption for each photo:  AlainaMurphy-01.jpg The Murphy family on vacation in Brown County, Indiana. We love spending time outdoors together. AlainaMurphy-02.jpg Alaina dressed in as a princess for Halloween. AlainaMurphy-03.jpg Alaina and Jessica (Mother) spending time together at the beach. Our family visits the same place in Florida every year! AlainaMurphy-04.jpg Alaina, excited to ride the train at the Cincinnati Zoo. AlainaMurphy-05.jpg Alaina and Brian (Father), together on a beautiful nature trail. AlainaMurphy-06.jpg The Murphy Family on vacation together in Florida. We spent the week swimming and playing together on the beach. AlainaMurphy-07.jpg Alaina dressed as her favorite Disney character, and holding one of her "babies". AlainaMurphy-08.jpg Alaina dressed in her beautiful silk dress for Chinese New Year. We celebrated together with our extended family and ate some delicious food.We often use our Facebook page to advocate for children on our waiting child photolisting. In order for our Facebook campaigns to be successful, however, we rely on people like you to spread children’s stories through sharing, liking and commenting. Facebook thinks it knows what people want to see on their feed, and it figures that out by looking at what is getting the most engagement. So the more shares, likes and comments that our posts get, the more Facebook assists in spreading them around. Basically, the more engagement that a post about a child receives, the better chance we have of finding them a loving and secure home.

Take Suzanna. Like many other children on our waiting child photolisting, we wrote a blog post about Suzanna and then posted it to Facebook. Here is where it gets exciting. People like you started sharing it, liking it and commenting on it, and within the first day, 40,000+ people saw it! That number is still climbing.



Now, that is a lot of people and we get excited about that. But what we are really excited about is that we had 40+ inquiries about adopting Suzanna, and one family is going through the process to adopt her now!

Helping us spread the word about children who need extra advocacy has a real and tangible impact on the lives of the people that we “reach” — and most importantly, on the lives of children who are waiting for a family of their own.



Emily Lund

Adoption Counselor

Holt International
Ready to advocate for children? Hunter, Gabbie and Brady need your help right now:

 Circle Hunter SmallCircle Gabbie SmallCircle Brady Small

Celebrating 60 Years

60th-Anniversary-BLOGThis week, Holt staff from across the U.S. and around the world will gather in Eugene, Oregon to celebrate the 60th anniversary of Holt International and to share wisdom, ideas and inspiration as we continue seeking a world where every child has a loving and secure home.

This coming week, Eugene, Oregon will welcome more than 35 child welfare and orphan care experts from 12 countries — including Mongolia, China, Korea, Cambodia, India, Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam, Ethiopia, Uganda, Haiti and from around the U.S. — each bringing passion, inspiration and hope to create a better world for the children of their country.

What’s the occasion? Throughout this week-long international summit, Holt staff will celebrate Holt International’s 60th anniversary of serving children and families. It was 60 years ago this year that Harry and Bertha Holt, two farmers from a small town in Oregon, decided to adopt eight children orphaned by the Korean War. In doing so, they paved the way for international adoption and began an organization and legacy that today, along with its global partners, serves nearly 100,000 orphaned and vulnerable children across 13 different countries.

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My Life-Altering Journey in South Korea

Adoptee Megan Green just returned from the 2016 Holt Family Tour to Korea, a trip she had dreamed of for many years. The experience and the personal connections she made while in Korea will always remain close to her heart.

I recently had the pleasure of being part of the 2016 Holt Family Tour of my motherland, South Korea. It was a life-changing experience that I will never forget.

For as long as I can remember, I have dreamed of seeing my motherland of South Korea, but I never thought I would see this dream come to fruition. It was always a lofty ambition far off in the distance and nothing more. But as I progressed further into adulthood, that once-quiet yearning deep inside of me became such that it could no longer be ignored. So this year I set a goal to finally see my motherland, no matter what the obstacles may be.

You see, my viewpoint of the tour was unique because I was born with cerebral palsy. I have to use crutches for mobility purposes, which made me a bit apprehensive of this trip. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. Before this tour I had never traveled outside of my home state of Nebraska, let alone outside of the United States.

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A Letter of Gratitude

20160405_171743After her trip to Korea, adoptee Megan Green felt compelled to write a letter to her birth mother. This is what she said.

Dear Birth Mother,

The last two weeks have been the best two weeks of my life thus far. I have been blessed to be part of the 2016 Korea motherland family tour through Holt International.

The conclusion of the tour compelled me to write you a letter. I have written you many letters before, but now as I reflect back on them they all seem cold and distant — something I would write to a stranger. This letter is different than the others in that it is one of gratitude, empathy and understanding.

As you already know, I came into your life on February 21, 1984 at about 3:26 p.m. I was about 2 months and 21 days premature, I weighed a little over two pounds and I was born with cerebral palsy.

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