Reflecting On Holt at 60

Holt President and CEO Phil Littleton shares the first in a series of posts reflecting on our evolution as an organization in the six decades since the first children came home through international adoption. In this post, Phil explores Holt’s shift in recent years from serving children primarily through adoption to serving tens of thousands more children every year through family strengthening and preservation programs — enabling children to grow and thrive in the loving care of their birth families.

A mother and daughter pose for a photo.This is an extraordinary year in Holt’s history as an organization. This year, we celebrate 60 years of service to orphaned and vulnerable children and families in countries around the world.

Looking back, I feel so proud of Holt’s journey as an organization. In 1956, our founders pioneered the modern practice of international adoption — overcoming legal and cultural barriers to unite orphaned children born overseas with loving adoptive families in the U.S. They believed that every child deserves to grow up in a home of his or her own. And by adopting children born of a different race and nationality, they redefined the notion of family.

Today, we still share the vision of our founders. We still believe that love transcends barriers of race, religion and nationality. And we still seek a world where every child has a stable, loving home. But as Holt has grown over the years, we have also progressed as an organization — developing a core philosophy around which we have built robust, child-focused programs that meet the needs of over 83,000 children annually in 13 countries across the globe.

About 85 percent of the children we serve are not on track for adoption. In fact, every year, Holt serves tens of thousands more children through family strengthening and preservation programs than we do through adoption. We believe, first and foremost, that whenever possible children should grow up in the loving care of their birth families. Through the years, this fundamental belief has led our organization to become a global leader in family preservation — providing the tools and resources that empower families to grow stable, self-reliant and equipped to independently care for their children. Continue reading “Reflecting On Holt at 60”

Reasons for Hope This Easter

easter-email2-Header-600-WideOn Easter, we celebrate Jesus as God’s gift to the world. Through Him there is light, life and ultimate hope! So what better reason or season than Easter to give a tangible form of hope to children and families all around the world?


When you give educational support, lifesaving food, blankets and shoes, or the materials to plant a sustainable garden, you give the gift of survival, stability and hope to the children and families who truly need it most.



Giving a Gift of Hope to a family in need is also a great way to talk with your own children about hope and the joy that comes from giving.

Celebrate Easter by giving a Gift of Hope today! 

Or, if you’ve already given, share this post on social media and encourage your friends to give Hope this Easter! 

Supported Feeding

image4While doing a SAFE feeding training in China, Holt and the SPOON Foundation helped orphanage staff practice feeding techniques on a little girl named Ru*.

Ru has cerebral palsy and is about 9 years old. Trainers and caregivers huddled around her as she let them practice safe feeding methods on her. To keep her body supported in a safe feeding position, participants stuffed pillows and towels around her body and head, during which she remained incredibly tolerant — and even liked it!

“What I like best about the feeding portion of this training,” says Aloura, “is how it gives caregivers the technical expertise to engage and interact with these children who are otherwise difficult to engage with if you haven’t had prior training or experience.”

Aloura laughs as she describes how Ru’s face completely changed as soon as she was raised up to a sitting position. “Her face was so funny! You could tell that there was a sage little soul in there,” Aloura says. “She just had a little smile and was happily looking around — it was so sweet. She was just so happy the whole time because of the attention she was getting.”

During this training, Ru acted as a model to help her caregivers practice SAFE feeding. But she was also there as a representative of all of the other children in her care center who will now grow healthy and strong as they are fed properly with the nutrients they need to thrive.

*Name changed

Daycare Gives Saleem the Nutrition He Needs


When Holt International’s Child Nutrition Program did a training at Vathsalya Charitable Trust (VCT), one of Holt’s longest-standing partner agencies in India, *Saleem’s life and health were dramatically changed for the better.

Saleem was 2-and-a-half years old in 2014 when he first came through the doors of Vathsalya Charitable Trust (VCT), one of Holt’s legacy partners in Bangalore, India that focuses on family strengthening. Saleem has special needs due to seizures that he experienced shortly after birth. The asphyxia during the seizures caused him to be visually impaired and to have cerebral palsey. Saleem belongs to a middle-class family and is his parents’ firstborn child. His father works for a software firm and his mother as a consultant at a slimming center. They were devastated and sad when they learned that their child had these challenges and did everything that they possibly could to help him. They spent hundreds of thousands of rupees and visited and consulted with many doctors with the hope that Saleem would be alright. But this was all in vain. The young couple wondered how they would juggle looking after Saleem with managing their careers. That’s when they found out about VCT’s daycare program. They were more than happy and relieved to find a daycare for their little boy.

When he was first admitted, Saleem was very cranky and did not like being carried. He cringed and cried when anyone stroked his face and his body was stiff and he would not open his mouth during feeding. But during this time, the staff at VCT received training on nutrition and feeding practices from Holt and the SPOON Foundation. Beth, SPOON’s occupational therapist, instantly fell in love with Saleem and wanted to do all she could to help him. She instructed the caregivers about sitting Saleem up in a highchair and helping him get used to being fed in a sitting position. Beth also demonstrated and taught the caregivers how to massage his face and the insides of his mouth in preparation for feeding.

When Saleem was first strapped in and made to sit on a chair, he definitely didn’t like it and he cried when they tried to massage his face and mouth — gritting his teeth and refusing to open his mouth. But this was all because sitting up and being fed differently was an entirely new process for him and it would take some getting used to. It took some time for Saleem, but eventually he began to cooperate.

Throughout the process of working with Saleem and his family, we learned that at home his mother would add a lot of sugar to his food so he would eat. We had to educate the mother that it was a bad idea to add sugar as it would lead to a lot of other problems. In the beginning, he would gag all the food out as he did not like the bland food. But as the days passed, he got accustomed to the food that was less sugary and more nutritious.

It has been over a year since Saleem first came to VCT and started a life of better nutrition and feeding — and there have been tremendous changes in him! Now he loves sitting in his chair, opens his mouth when he is fed, doesn’t gag and eats well. He loves it when people comfort him and stroke his face. He is able to recognize voices and responds when spoken to with a smile or gurgle of glee. He receives occupational and physical therapy to help relax his muscles and make him more flexible and special educators are teaching him to be more aware of his surroundings and recognize different sounds. He loves music and enjoys listening to songs and rhymes. He is also very attached to his caregiver and enjoys being with her. Saleem is thriving physically and emotionally as he receives the care he needs to be healthy.

Joyce Ranjan | VCT’s Educational Coordinator

Want to help other children around the world like Saleem? Give to Holt International’s Child Nutrition Program.

* Name changed

Stigma and the Unwed Mom

Why does the distinction between children who have lost their parents through relinquishment or through family death or abandonment matter? It matters because if we hope to create a world where every child has a loving, secure home, then we need to understand how and why women choose to relinquish their children — and work to remedy those reasons.


Take that word and roll it around.

Can you feel the pain it carries? The questions it leaves unanswered?

It’s sharp and clinical.

What it hides is the pain — the pain of the woman losing her child; the pain of the child losing his or her family.

It also masks the complex and surprising reasons why a woman may choose to relinquish her child.

Saanvi* was 24 years old when she became pregnant with her son. At the time, she had already earned a master’s degree in computer science. She liked reading, dancing and cooking. She’d known the father of her child since she was a child herself, and they loved each other very much.

However, Saanvi and her boyfriend weren’t married, and the weight of their pregnancy hung heavy on her heart. She knew her options were limited in India. Continue reading “Stigma and the Unwed Mom”

Top 15 Stories of 2015

The year 2015 was an excellent year in stories on the Holt blog — so much so that we expanded our Top 10 list to a Top 15 of the year!

In 2015, Holt’s creative lead, Billie Loewen, and I traveled to India, where we witnessed the incredible impact of Holt’s child nutrition program, gained new understanding on how Holt’s local partners are helping some of their country’s most vulnerable children and families, and met profoundly inspiring young women who refuse to accept the gender inequities that are far too common in their native India. In 2015, China announced major changes to their one-child policy — inspiring an essay by Chinese adoptee Lillian Schmaltz — and significantly expanded options for single applicants such as Vicky Baker, whose story of opening her heart and home to a son was among the most viewed of the year. Perhaps what’s most exciting this year is that a number of submissions from adoptees topped the list. In fact, the top four most viewed blog posts of 2015 came from Holt adoptees! 

Without further ado, we are so excited to share Holt’s Top 15 Most Viewed Blogs of 2015, including five adoptee stories, five adoptive family stories and five stories about efforts to strengthen families and uplift orphaned and vulnerable children in our programs around the world. — Robin Munro, Managing Editor Continue reading “Top 15 Stories of 2015”

How Nutrition Changes Lives

Holt International’s Child Nutrition Program has seen amazing success since it began 3 years ago in India, China and Vietnam. But even more amazing are the stories of individual children whose lives and health have dramatically changed with better nutrition and feeding methods. 

Ajay* is a sweet young boy whose potential and personality were long unrealized. He lives in a care center in Pune, India and has cerebral palsy in addition to other physical and mental disabilities. He is almost 4 years old, but appears small and skinny for his age — a result of malnutrition. Ajay’s days are pretty uneventful: he lies in his crib and when he is fed, also while lying down, he is barely able to choke down his food.

Ayush with his care giver-2
Ajay, being fed by his caregiver.

But one day was different. On this day, he sat up in a chair for one of the first times ever. Although he can’t speak, the expression on his face and the light in his eyes seemed to clearly shout: “Hello world, here I am!”

Continue reading “How Nutrition Changes Lives”

On Cyber Monday, create a brighter world for children and give gifts with lasting impact

Kick off Cyber Monday a day early with the best deals you’ll find online all day! We’ve rounded up a few of our favorite Gifts of Hope — items that bring comfort, warmth, safety and nourishment to orphaned and vulnerable children, and also make perfect gifts for everyone on your holiday shopping list.

When you give a Gift of Hope in honor of a friend, coworker or loved one, we will send a festive card to let them know you gave a gift in their name!

The items below are proven to make a tremendous, lasting impact in the lives of children facing incredible hardship or crises.

Blankets-and-Clothes-375x652 Feeding-Kit-375x652 Orphanage-375x652 Vaccines-375x652 Continue reading “On Cyber Monday, create a brighter world for children and give gifts with lasting impact”

How do you recognize the true meaning of Christmas?


How do you bring the true spirit of Christmas into your holiday celebrations?

Do you teach your children or grandchildren about sharing with those less fortunate? Do you volunteer at a soup kitchen? Or participate in local food drives?

Giving a gift to someone in need — someone you’ve never met — is always a beautiful expression of God’s love and compassion, and an excellent way to teach children about gratitude, generosity and kindness.

This Christmas, have you considered giving a gift to a child in one of Holt’s programs as a way to recognize the true meaning of the holiday? We know, as a friend of Holt, that you have a strong heart for orphaned and vulnerable children. And this year, we are making it easy to share the abundance of the holidays with a child in need.

With each gift of $25 given online today — or no later than November 30 — you can help provide a holiday meal, a special gift and a merry celebration to a child who may not know the joy of Christmas without you.

Invite your children or grandchildren to get involved as well — teaching them about love and compassion for others, and that as members of a global community, we should reach out and lift up our neighbors when they need our support.

Thank you for your kindness and compassion. Together, we can teach our children the true meaning of Christmas, while sending love and joy to children in greatest need.



The Heart Warriors

As Holt’s China team works to find families for a growing number of children with complex heart disease, a partnership develops with Little Hearts Medical — a groundbreaking, U.S.-based organization of cardiac surgeons, cardiologists and adoptive families who are working to ensure children receive the medical interventions they need early on, and while still in China.

Max Preston came home to his family in June 2015 and is now receiving the cardiac care he needs to thrive!

In June 2014, when hopeful adoptive parents Heather and Vince Preston received a referral from Holt’s China program, they were prepared for a child with a heart condition. They had expressed their openness to this special need when applying, and they knew the need was great.

But neither of them were medical doctors. And they knew that “heart condition” could mean a broad spectrum of things — from a minor hole that would close on its own to a chronic, life-threatening disease that would require round-the-clock care. Before accepting the referral, they needed more information. And they needed advice from someone experienced — someone who knew what she was talking about. Someone like Andrea.

But as Heather soon discovered, there’s no one quite “like” Andrea.

“At the time, I was excited to speak with her,” Heather says of Andrea, who often mentors Holt families who are considering an adoption of a child with complex heart disease (CHD). “But I did not realize how valuable this conversation would be.”

A mother of six with five children adopted through Holt — four of whom have CHD — Andrea also serves as executive director of Little Hearts Medical, an organization that brings life-saving cardiac care to orphaned children and children from poor families in China. Needless to say, she’s a busy woman. But not too busy to take Heather’s call.

Heather and Vince Preston with their two boys, both adopted from China.

While the Prestons barreled down the highway en route to a family camping trip, Andrea sat on the phone with Heather for two straight hours — answering their questions, from a parent’s perspective, about the referral they received from Holt. Although the child’s medical file had already been assessed by a pediatric cardiologist, the information contained a lot of medical jargon and confusing information. “Throughout the two-hour drive, Andrea talked with us about [our soon-to-be son] Max’s particular flavor of CHD based upon the file review,” Heather says. Continue reading “The Heart Warriors”