Season of Love, Gifts of Hope: Whoever Welcomes a Little Child

Mrs. Suja Pillai, a 41-year-old foster mother from Pune, India has loved and encouraged 65 children in the last 13 years. Some children have stayed with her for only a few months. Some she has nurtured for several years. She often cares for two children at the same time. One of 26 families currently participating in Bharatiya Samaj Seva Kendra’s (BSSK) foster care program, Suja cannot imagine her life without the children.

BSSK introduced foster care in 1982 as a way to provide loving, temporary care for children. Being a foster mother requires a lot of time, work and love. When foster parents join BSSK’s program, they participate in a 5-day training to learn how to safely and effectively care for children. Foster parents learn a range of skills, including how to bathe children, boil bottles and prepare food. Regularly scheduled foster parent meetings follow the initial training. In addition to providing training and guidance to foster parents, BSSK helps to offset some of the costs involved by providing a small subsidy for each child, plus money for supplies, clothes and transportation to doctor’s appointments.

Although this support helps with the actual cost of supporting each child, the love and affection each foster parent contributes is priceless.  Suja smiles when asked why she became a foster mother. “Initially I had financial problems and wanted to work from home. Now, I love it and cannot live without the children!” she says.

Suja is now considered one of the most experienced foster mothers in the program, offering guidance and support to some of the less experienced foster parents. She has the formal title of “Head Foster Mother” in the area, which makes her responsible for coordinating 16 foster homes, organizing the distribution of supplies, performing home visits and arranging local transport for doctor visits.

Holding up the photograph of a smartly dressed little girl, she says: “The hardest part of being a foster mother is being able to let go. One child stayed with me for three years before she was adopted internationally.” There are tears in her eyes as she talks about the child she has not seen in ten years. “I don’t know what her life is like now, but I will always know I had some influence.” She smiles through her tears. “That is what being a foster mother is about.”

Surviving, Learning, Laughing: The Good Enough Child

Adoptive parent Jane Ballback discusses internationally adopted children’s need for perfectionism

As you read the title of this blog, you are probably thinking, what in the world is she going to talk about? Adoptive parents might be offended by this title, implying that somehow adoption was a “second-best” option. That is not what this blog is about, but it is a serious topic.

This title, “The Good Enough Child” is actually a book I read several years ago by Brad E. Sachs. It’s an outstanding book and I learned a great deal from it. The subtitle, How To Have An Imperfect Family and Be Perfectly Satisfied, says it all.

How did we get to the point in our culture and society where we needed to have a book like this? How did we get so obsessed with being perfect? There are a lot of answers to this question. Parents who are older, better educated and wealthier than ever before, are raising the bar on the whole issue of parenthood. Parents are generally more likely to have been taught that they have an enormous impact on their child’s future success. And while that’s true, as usual it’s how you go about it that is so important. Many parents feel like if their child does not go to the right school, play the right sport, or evidence some unusual talent or skill, then they will not have a successful life. When I first heard the term “competitive parenting”, I wanted to drop out of the race as fast as I could.

I am one of those parents who believe that I’ve had a huge impact on my children’s lives, but I did it in a way that kept us all sane and centered. The reason this is so important for adoptive parents is that most adoptive children feel an enormous need to be perfect without any encouragement from us. In Patty Cogen’s brilliant book, Raising Your Internationally Adopted Child, she writes, “Internationally adopted children feel more strongly and dramatically than other children the pressure to be good and do what is right because deep down they still fear that they did something wrong that resulted in their relinquishment.” Because young children believe that adults cannot make a mistake, this leads them to believe they did something wrong, or they would not have been relinquished.

I saw perfectionism in all three of my children, but this story is about Stacee. Her perfectionism showed up first as she was playing board games as a small child. In the game of Sorry, she would often get to the game first and shuffle the cards so she would have the best ones first. I waited for that behavior to extinguish itself, and it did.

Her need for perfectionism then showed up every time she did something she had never done before. Prior to kindergarten she told me, in a very serious voice, “Mom, I need to learn how to read before I get to school.” No amount of me telling her that wasn’t so did any good. Her answer to that was to take a series of books called Bernstein Bears, and read every one of them until she had them completely understood. Along the way she did teach herself how to read, so she met her goal. Continue reading “Surviving, Learning, Laughing: The Good Enough Child”

I’ve Just Seen A Face — Danielle, This Week’s Waiting Child

by Robin Munro, Senior Writer

Born in Africa, DOB: January 15, 2003

I saw her face, and I just knew.  That’s my child.

This is a story told time and again by adoptive families.  They see a face, just a face, and they know.  This is a special child.  This is my child.

In an article for Holt’s winter 2011 magazine, adoptive father Sean Yarger explains how he and his wife knew that the girl then identified as G09-211, now Gemma, was their daughter. “(My wife) had found a face – just a face on the photolisting that she knew she’d be united with at some point in the future,” writes Yarger.  “That’s how strong and immediate the connection can be.”

Recently, while browsing through the photos of children still waiting for families, I too came upon a face – just a face, radiant and joyful – and I knew, this is one special girl.

Eight-year-old Danielle’s child reports read like those of a girl with a different background – a girl treasured by a loving family, showered with affection, supported in all her endeavors.  She is “outgoing and loves people,” shows affection with ease, and is considered “a very social, friendly and receptive child.” She attends the top class at her care center, communicates well in both English and Lungara – her native language – and is always available to help other children with their homework.  She “writes really well at school and her teachers are proud of her.”  Every report is glowing.  Every one reinforcing the last.

But Danielle has no champion at home.  No father to beam with pride when she succeeds.  No mother to comfort her when she fails.   No family to guide her way.

Danielle is her own hero.

And “home” to Danielle is an orphanage – the only home she’s known from the time a probation officer brought her in at 3-months-old, dressed in rags, found abandoned at a local bar.  When she arrived, she had skin rashes all over her body and cried from the pain of scratching them. With treatment, she recovered well.  Five months later, she was admitted to the hospital with severe malaria.

Given time to heal, and nurturing care from attentive caregivers, Danielle began to blossom.  Her report at 14 months states that  “she looks well and is growing steadily.”  Years pass without incident, with steady growth.  Her asthma occasionally acts up.  But mostly, she’s focused on the business of growing  — “growing strong and beautiful,” as her report describes Danielle at age 7.

Danielle, now 8, is already strong and beautiful.  You can see it in her captivating brown eyes and big, confident smile.  This is the face of a girl who loves, and knows she deserves to be loved.  A girl whose favorite activity is skipping.  Who likes to read books, tell stories and sing.  Who loves to draw, color and paint.  A girl who is “always seeking how to get involved and seeks responsibility.”  A hard-working girl, helpful and neat, whose “bed is the most organized at the center.”

A girl with a face – just a face on the photolisting, waiting for a family.

Help Danielle, the Waiting Child of the Week, go viral! Forward this to friends and family. Share every week at church or a community group. And repost to your own blog, Facebook page and company site. With the simple press of a button, you can change Danielle’s life forever!

Contact Holt’s Waiting Child program for more information about Danielle.

Happy 14th Birthday, Lucas!

A boy recently adopted by a Nebraska family turns 14, the cut-off age for adoption from China.
by Robin Munro, Senior Writer

Lucas (right) with brothers Christian and Stefan, about to board a plane to Hong Kong on their journey home to Nebraska.

I have such exciting news to share!  On February 1st, Yu Qing* – the boy featured in the summer 2010 Holt magazine – celebrated his 14th birthday with his adoptive parents, Ed and Sandy Kolb, and five new brothers, also adopted.

On the Kolb family blog, Sandy explains the significance of this particular birthday for Yu Qing (who now goes by Lucas):

February First marked another celebration day…Lucas’ 14th birthday!   In his honor, God proclaimed a “Snow Day” in Omaha and so, school was cancelled…(so we told him!) We spent the better part of the day in PJ’s, watching movies, eating, playing games and eating some more!
It was especially sweet to celebrate this birthday with Lucas since at age 14 in China he would have aged out of being eligible for international adoption!  He became our son, by God’s grace, in the nick of time!!
In some ways we are still getting to know each other, in other ways it is as if Lucas has always been a part of our family.

It’s always exciting when a child finds a family.  But actually having met and personally advocated for the child makes it that much more meaningful.  When I met Lucas this past summer at the Journey of Hope camp in southern China, I was struck by what a polite, thoughtful and intelligent boy he was.  A shy 13-year-old, he avoided eye contact and kept his hands neatly folded in his lap – likely to hide the fact he’s missing fingers.  He told us he hoped to one day become a doctor, a feat nearly impossible for a boy with a physical abnormality and no family name – both traits considered “unlucky” in this traditionally Confucian culture.  As an orphan in China, his educational opportunities would be limited.  When he reached adulthood, finding employment – especially as a doctor – would be even more challenging.  With our friendly gestures drawing only the slightest of smiles, Lucas seemed painfully aware of these social stigmas, and the obstacles they would create for him.

Lucas (right) with brother Christian and another new family member (resting on his shoulder).

Here today, as we interviewed children to advocate for their adoption, Lucas seemed not so much excited, but actually burdened by the gravity of the opportunity before him – the opportunity to join a family, as well as a society that doesn’t discriminate based on your family name or disabilities.  At 13, he had only six months to find a family before aging out.

But then something extraordinary happened.  The Kolbs opened their hearts to Lucas. He was home by Christmas Eve.

In looking at the photos of Lucas on the Kolbs’ private family blog, it’s heartening to see such genuinely happy, confident smiles on his face.  Within the first week with his new family, he grows visibly more at ease – and, once informed that his new family will not judge him for missing fingers, he becomes less self-conscious about his hand.  He seems so happy.  And relieved.  His 13-year wait for a permanent family is over.

No longer a looming deadline, turning 14 is now cause for celebration!

Lucas’ story is a triumphant one.  But so many children – especially older children and children with special needs – continue to wait for permanent, loving families.  Like Lucas, many of them are on the verge of turning 14 and becoming ineligible for adoption. All children deserve a loving family – as well as every opportunity to work hard and achieve their dreams!

Click here to visit Holt’s Waiting Child photolisting and read more about the children who wait.

* Name has been changed

Happy Chinese New Year! Read a story from the Rees Family who adopted from the China Child of Promise program!

Happy Lunar New Year! Today, February 3rd, China ushers in the Year of the Rabbit – a year of good fortune for those born in Rabbit years, and a very exciting year in China adoptions!

Never before have Chinese boys and girls, toddler through school-age, had so many opportunities to have loving, adoptive families – particularly older children, and children with correctable/treatable physical conditions or moderate to serious special needs.

To learn more, register for Holt’s upcoming webinar, “Adopting from China,” on the 10th or 24th.

• Learn the different China adoption “tracks,” and flexibilities in their eligibility guidelines.

Discover China’s Waiting Children – including a new category of children described by the China Center of Adoption Affairs (CCAA) as “Special Focus” children.

• Learn how Holt works closely with families to match children in the China Child of Promise option, and. . .

• Hear from a family who has completed the China Child of Promise option.

• Get info about preparation and post-placement resources for families adopting older children and children with special needs.

• Ask questions, and get started on the track that is the best fit for your family.

With more than 700 children matched through the China Child of Promise option, Holt International is leading the charge to find homes for children from China!

The following is an excerpt from the Rees family’s blog about Jazyme, their dearly loved China Child of Promise:

Rick and I spend time with Jazmyne…a lot of time! We work with her a lot, but certainly cannot take all of the credit for how smart she really is. And, of course, the twist of fate — such an ironic twist — is that she was adopted through the special needs process for simply having an extra toe on each foot! Jazmyne is a Holt International China Child of Promise who definitely made good on her “Promise!”

Because Rick and I both work in special needs education fields, we felt we had the skills to help any child, with any disability, live up to their fullest potential! Never in our wildest dreams did we even entertain any thoughts that our child would be exceptional!

Jazmyne has seven doctor’s kits and proclaims: “I’m going to be a doctor when I grow up!” While in China, she spent a lot of time with the Qian Jiang orphanage doctor, both in the doctor’s clinic and her home. The doctor even went so far as to travel with Jazmyne to meet us on Jazzy’s “Gotcha Day.” She traveled with Jazzy to make sure that we knew that, in her professional opinion, Jazmyne was not “special needs” at all, but, in fact, “gifted!”

The good doctor was absolutely correct in her opinion! I have no idea if Jazmyne will keep on the course of wanting to be a doctor, but I can tell you something for certain even now: Whatever she chooses to do in life, she will be successful!

Our Jazmyne Rose: abandoned at a bus station at 10 months old, living in an orphanage for over a year, adopted by foreigners, 3 months later having an operation to correct her feet, all while learning a new language.  Today, Jazmyne excels in preschool and is the star of her dance class, gymnastics and skiing classes.

Thank you, God, for the incredible gift of our beloved Jazzy Rose!

Click here to read the Rees family’s blog, and view an adorable dance recital video of Jazzy Rose!

Holt needs families interested in adopting children with correctable/treatable physical conditions. Click here to learn more about the China Child of Promise program, Holt’s expedited process for children with correctable/treatable physical conditions

Don’t Let the Day Go By

Please Help find Grace a Family

By Ashli Keyser, managing editor

I remember, 2 years ago, a group of six Holt employees sitting around a table when the name “Journey of Hope” entered the conversation. As we discussed this new and promising program — made up of older, mostly healthy children from a southern province in China — twenty-five individual child folders, packed with photos, medical history and biographies were passed around the table.

When a folder made its way around to John Aeby, Holt’s late director of communications, he set it on the table and opened it slowly. Staring back at him, with a shy, unsure smile, was 7-year-old Grace. What a beautiful child,” John said softly. “What a joy it will be to help find her a family,” he continued, with a quiet sigh that seemed to express a sense of responsibility for Grace, and for all the Journey of Hope children.

Months before John’s sudden and unexpected passing in September of 2009, he would spend hours preparing for the launch of the Journey of Hope program, pouring his heart into every word he wrote, and every video he edited. As he worked diligently for all the Journey of Hope children, he would continue to keep a special place in his heart for Grace. “I wish we could find her a family,” he would often tell me.

From the moment he stepped into the office every day, John’s purpose was clear: Help find families for children, and pray for them continually.

“Oh, how he loved the children,” his wife Clarice told me recently. “He seemed somehow to feel God’s pain at their loss and felt privileged to have a small part in helping to relieve it.” John would often tape children’s photos above his computer, “to remember why I am here,” he would say. He even handed out photos of children in care to Holt staff. “Make it your responsibility to pray for this child today,” John would tell them. “Don’t let the day go by without praying for this child.”

Two weeks ago, I clicked on Holt’s Journey of Hope photolisting and slowly scanned through the page. Amazed and grateful to see how many Journey of Hope children had been blessed with families since 2009, I also felt sadness to see Grace still on the photolisting, two years later. I quickly remembered John’s words, his wish for this little girl to have a family. I wondered why no one had brought this beautiful child into their home.

Reading Grace’s description, it’s hard to fathom.

Grace’s foster family describes her as clever, shy and kind – the girl with the loving heart, who walks around her foster home singing. Grace’s favorite activities include helping out with the younger children, sliding at the park and playing with dolls. She regularly attends school, although is said to be somewhat delayed in fine motor skills.

Loved by the adults in her life, Grace often shies away from strangers and needs a family able to help her through grief and loss. With a few small neoplasms on her ear, Grace also needs a family who can provide her with the medical care she may need.

I would love to find Grace a family for John. But more importantly, I want Grace to know the love of a permanent family. For her to walk around singing in a home of her own — singing to a family of her own.

“Don’t let the day go by,” John would say. I encourage you to remember John’s words, and remember Grace throughout the day. Don’t let the day go by without praying for her. Don’t let the day go by without reposting her story to your Facebook page, blogs and other social networking sites.

Together, we can find Grace a family, and make her one less child on that Journey of Hope photolisting. John spent so much time helping children find families, the least I can do — the least we can do — right now, is help this one child find a family of her own. For John….but most importantly, for Grace.

For more information about Grace, contact Erin Mower at

Surviving, Learning, Laughing: Is This Lady Crazy?…She’s Adopting Twins and She’s Nearly 40 Years Old

Through candid (and often funny!) observations and heartwarming personal stories, a Holt adoptive mother shares the challenges and joys of parenting adopted children. Read more of Jane’s post adoption blogs by clicking here.

by Jane Ballback

My friends were too polite to say that to me, but I am often asked why I adopted twins? There are several good reasons for that. The idea first came from the social worker who knew I wanted more than one child. She probably got the idea because I am a twin myself. I was, and remain very grateful for this suggestion.

When I first began to think about adoption, I only thought about adopting one child. I figured I could handle that. As I was beginning the adoption process my own mother died. As usual my twin sister and I comforted each other a great deal as we went through the process of loss and grieving. That’s when I began to think about how incredibly alone this one adopted child would be — especially since our family was small, older, and mostly childless.

I never regretted the decision to adopt twins. The first night my husband and I brought the boys home we were greatly overwhelmed and not sure if we were up to the task. It was my “twin experience” that helped us through that first night.

By the time we got the boys home after picking them up at the Los Angeles International Airport, it was 10 p.m. and they were of course tired, bewildered, and anxious. They had been relinquished by their birth mother, spent time with their foster mothers, and then put on a plane with two new strangers for a very long flight. When we got them home, we did everything we knew how to do…we fed them, changed them and tried to rock them to sleep. Nothing was working, they cried and cried. My husband and I looked at each other at midnight and said, “Do you think we will ever sleep again?”   Continue reading “Surviving, Learning, Laughing: Is This Lady Crazy?…She’s Adopting Twins and She’s Nearly 40 Years Old”

You Never Adopt Just Once – A Family’s Story

Three and a half years ago, Michele and Ladell Kellenberger felt heart-tugged to adopt a child.  They chose Holt, then China, then the special needs program — the China Child of Promise.  With each decision, they came closer to the little girl from a rural village in northern Shaanxi province who would become their daughter.  Mia.  Shortly thereafter, the felt another a tug in their hearts.  This time, for Zoe.

“I had felt God laying it on my heart for quite awhile. It was something I wanted to do,” Michele recently told a New Century Press reporter of her initial decision to adopt.  When told in China, “You never do it once,” they didn’t understand.  Now they do.

Click here to read the Kellenbergers’ story, including a detailed account of the China adoption process through Holt.

To learn more about the three ways to adopt from China, click here.

Auction Events in Eugene and Omaha to Celebrate Holt International’s 55th Anniversary

The upcoming Eugene and Omaha auction events will commemorate Holt International’s 55th anniversary of serving homeless children – a legacy of love that began at the Ilsan Center in Korea. Since Holt’s beginning, many children with special needs at Ilsan have gone home to wonderful, permanent families. This year, all proceeds from the auctions in Eugene and Omaha will be designated to update the Ilsan Center and provide ongoing, quality care for the children and other residents. Molly Holt, Ilsan director and daughter of Harry and Bertha Holt, will be the honored guest at this year’s Omaha auction on March 19th.

The Eugene auction and dinner on February 5th will feature the following auction items:

*Hawaiian Bed & Breakfast for a Week

*Use of an LTD Bus for Three Hours

*Schooner Landing Resort for a Week

*Sweet Cheeks Winery Party

*Chinese Calligraphy by David Kim

*Korean Dinner for Six

*Chinese Scroll presented to Grandma Holt on her 95th Birthday by the Chinese government

*Pick Your Paradise from Bali, Italy or South Africa

*Opportunity to attend the 2011 Masters Excursion

*Beautiful artwork and jewelry, Restaurants, ethnic items, wine, and so much more!

Click here for more information and to RSVP or contact Sandi Mehl at

With Cholera Threat Still Imminent, Holt Empowers Haitian Families to Protect Themselves

Families in the coastal town of Montrouis learn to treat cholera symptoms using Oral Rehydration Solution.

In the year following the 7.0 magnitude earthquake that rocked the island nation of Haiti, killing over 230,000 and leaving one million homeless, little has changed.  Only five percent of debris and rubble has been cleared from the streets, and over 800,000 people continue to live in temporary camps – half of which are children.

In fact, circumstances have grown increasingly dire.

First, cholera – a disease not seen for over 60 years – spread throughout Haiti’s cramped and unsanitary tent camps, killing over 3,600 people.  Hurricane Tomas quickly followed, intensifying the outbreak.  Then in December, after election results suggested fraud, political rioting erupted in the streets of Port-au-Prince.

With each new crisis, Holt has coordinated efforts with staff on the ground to protect the children and families in our care.  As cholera spread through a nearby region, the staff at the Holt Fontana Village were able to successfully isolate the children from the disease.  For the 234 families in our family preservation program, Holt stepped up prevention efforts – offering weekly wellness trainings to discuss health and hygiene.

“In every session, we talk about prevention, prevention, prevention,” explains Mansour Masse, Holt’s country director in Haiti.

Of the 665 children in the program, only four fell ill from cholera.  And because Holt staff educated families on when to seek assistance, these children received timely and appropriate medical care for this deadly disease.

All four children have since recovered.

But the worst isn’t over yet.  The Pan American Health Organization estimates another 400,000 Haitians may get cholera over the next year.

With the threat of cholera still imminent, Holt went a step further in November and December, teaching families how to make Oral Rehydration Solution as children become symptomatic.  “Cholera causes severe dehydration due to diarrhea and vomiting,” explains Sarah Halfman, Holt’s program director for Haiti.  “That is what is most dangerous about the disease and is the primary cause of death in nearly all cases.”  The rehydration salts do just that – they rehydrate the body from all the fluids lost, effectively protecting cholera sufferers before the disease grows deadly.

As every one of the 234 families participated in these sessions, every family is now equipped with both the knowledge and resources to directly treat the symptoms of cholera.

Holt is taking every action in our power to prevent more children from falling ill.

But we need to do more.

We need to build anew.

“More than 50 families are without appropriate facilities,” says Halfman of the families enrolled in family preservation.  “With cholera having a foothold in every department in Haiti, it is critical that we assist the families to build latrines.”

In the coming year, Holt also hopes to build a well baby clinic to provide care critical to the optimal growth and development of the children we support, as well as a day care center to ease the burden on families struggling to rebuild their lives.

To help support our efforts in Haiti, click here.

To learn more about our ongoing work in this region, click here.