In his latest contribution to the online adoptee magazine Gazillion Voices, Steve Kalb, Holt’s director of adoptee services, reflects on the “otherness” encountered as an Asian-American growing up with a name like “Steve.”
I recently joined my wife, Shannon, at her company Christmas party. It was a small party at a local brewery with about 40 people attending. We had a room reserved off the main building where employees and their partners were able to eat, drink, and be merry. Early on in the evening, I struck up a conversation with a fellow partier. We discussed careers, motorcycles, and industrial paint (Shannon’s company sells paint.) It was a nice conversation, but not nice enough to ignore the food that was being set up. I graciously thanked him for his time and expressed how much I enjoyed the company, but that I could hear the buffet calling my name. We shook hands and I headed for the table of goodness. As I walked off, I overheard him talking with another coworker. “That’s Shannon’s husband. He works in adoption. His name’s Steve. He doesn’t look like a Steve…”
Over the last couple years, I’ve had more of a desire to learn of my early years and was especially interested after reading Dr. David Kim’s book, “Who Will Answer…” I then had the opportunity to travel to Korea with my daughter and family this past spring and decided I needed to know as much about my early years as I could find. So that was when I searched out Holt’s post adoption services.
Who did you speak with, and how did they help you?
Debby Hanson was my contact and we corresponded several times as I wanted to visit a couple of Holt’s facilities while in Korea. Debby was able to make the arrangements for me to visit Ilsan Center, where I had the wonderful opportunity to meet and hug Molly Holt.
What made your experience meaningful?
For me it is the “coming full circle” of who I am as a first generation Korean adoptee, with the opportunity of making my first return trip to my homeland and reading the autobiography of Dr. Kim, who uncovered so many of my hidden feelings by pointing out the facts of Holt’s early years.
Would you return to Holt’s post adoption services department or recommend to other adoptees for services?
Yes, if anyone isn’t sure where to begin and may have unanswered questions of their early years, or want to see what is in their adoption file, then I would encourage them to make contact with PAS either by email or telephone. They are most helpful and very compassionate to my feelings.
Holt’s post adoption team shares about what they do, and what inspires their commitment to the families and adoptees they serve.
Sunday Silver, Director of Post Adoption Services:
I have served as the director of Post Adoption Services since 2006. Over the past 7 years, I have helped create a post adoption quarterly e-newsletter, presented post adoption webinars and have networked with other agencies to find ways to collaborate in providing services to adoptees and families.
While I have been the director for seven years, I started working at Holt 21 years ago. Even though the bulk of my responsibilities are administrative, nothing has touched me more than working directly with this population of people we serve. Through the years, I have provided counseling and referrals to adoptive parents, adoptees and birth parents who need a listening ear and resources to help them navigate through the different issues adoption brings. It has been my privilege and honor to be a small, albeit temporary, part of their lives as they share their deepest thoughts and pains.
Working at Holt as long as I have, I have had the opportunity to see children I placed as a social worker grow to adulthood. One particular case comes to mind. When I first came to Holt, I coordinated Holt’s pregnancy counseling program and provided counseling to women experiencing unplanned pregnancies. One particular birth mother I worked with early in my career was about 16 years old when I first met her. Her parents were extremely angry when they found out she was pregnant. They brought her to Holt for help. I met with her throughout her pregnancy, helping her decide whether to parent or make an adoption plan. After several sessions with her — and hearing from her parents that they would not help her raise her child — she came to the difficult decision to place her child for adoption. The birth father was not in the picture. She chose her child’s adoptive parents after viewing several family portfolios, and we scheduled a meeting with them. The meeting was difficult at first, but after some time, they began getting acquainted with each other. After the meeting, the birth mother stated that she felt she found the right parents for her unborn child.
After the child was born, I went to the hospital to visit with her and discuss whether she wanted to continue her plan. With tears in her eyes, she nodded her head. We went through the task of signing the paperwork. I asked her if she wanted to see the adoptive parents and she shook her head, saying it would be too hard. So she asked her parents to hand her baby girl over to the adoptive parents, which they did, not realizing how difficult it would also be for them.
If Holt adoptee Jean Powell ever met her birth parents, she would thank them. Here, she shares her reasons why. This story originally appeared on Medium.com.
by Jean Powell, Seattle, Washington
Whatever the present moment contains, accept it as if you had chosen it. Always work with it, not against it. — Eckhart Tolle
Growing up Adopted
If I could somehow write a letter or have any form of contact with my birth parents, I would. Not for the reasons you might think… I have no desire to reconnect to or find my past. I’m completely at peace with whatever decision drove my biological parents to take the route they did.
My motivation for this interaction would be one of gratitude. I would heartfully give them kudos for having the courage to do what some would find shocking… Give their child up.
Adoption is a funny thing. It’s one of those “you didn’t know this about me” facts that makes people take pause when you tell them. I’m inevitably met with the awkward, “So do you know why you were given up for adoption?”
Truthfully, I don’t associate with that statement…To say I was given up implies I was unwanted. I’ve been blessed to feel anything but, and I have my parents to thank for that.
Adoption is difficult, long and deliberate; there are no accidents in this grand design. To know someone has gone through that much because they wanted you is extraordinary.
Think about what a love like that does to a person and the sense of belonging it gives them. If we can intentionally make those in our lives feel that way, how much could we empower those special people? I often thought that would be my challenge, to make sure I deliver that much worth to a future child, to give them the security and confidence they need to venture out and create excellent things in this world.
“I’m proud that my parents chose to not see my limitations, but my potential, and chose me to be part of their family,” shared Holt adoptee and staff member Jordan Love at last weekend’s Holt gala and auction in New Jersey. All proceeds from this event will go to support Holt’s special needs adoption fund. Jordan was adopted from the Ilsan Center in South Korea, and he too has special needs.
Click below to view his speech, and click here to read a story Jordan wrote for a recent issue of Holt International Magazine.
A Holt adoptee comes across a photo taken of her while in Korea, providing insight into her early care and also reminding her that the world is ultimately a hopeful place. This post originally appeared in May 2013 on Michelle Li’s personal blog, michellelitv.com.
by Michelle Li, Madison, Wisconsin
Spring cleaning has surprised me once again. Today, I found an original baby picture. This is the first picture of me on record. As you can see, I had a Korean name and an identification number.
The picture itself is about the size of a passport photo. I didn’t even know I had it. It was tucked away in an envelope and then buried under a bunch of papers in a rarely-used drawer.
Steve Kalb, Holt’s director of adoptee services, is now a regular contributor to the online adoptee magazine Gazillion Voices. Click below to read his first published piece — a commentary that seeks to deepen the adoption conversation, and begin bridging the gap between agencies and adoptee advocates.
Several months ago I was approached by Kevin Vollmers and Shelise Gieseke to contribute to a new online magazine they hoped to launch in the fall. They told me it was going to be a cutting-edge magazine, bringing together leading adoptee voices from across the country. With topics that range from academic research to the latest in Adoptee art, there’s something for everyone. As an agency insider, I felt I may be able to contribute by providing some unique context to a polarizing issue, so I agreed. Through several months of planning and a successful Kickstarter campaign, Kevin and Shelise launched the inaugural issue of Gazillion Voices a couple of weeks ago, to much buzz.
I’m extremely excited that Holt will play a small part in this new magazine. It creates an opportunity for readers to take the adoption conversation to new levels. This presents the chance to move beyond the good/bad binary, into a sophisticated and rich discussion about the complexities that come along with adoption. Below is an excerpt from my piece and a link to the magazine. Although there is free content, including my piece, to access the other articles you’ll need to subscribe.
Neither Steve Kalb nor Holt International earn money through the sale of this magazine.
“Perhaps advocating for adoptee rights and getting paid by an adoption agency aren’t mutually exclusive. Let’s be clear, my rationale sets on a large presupposition that international adoption can be done with sensitivity to culture, race, socio-economics and adoptee rights. To realize the promise of this vision, patience and effort are required and it will come at the expense of our lived experiences. However, I believe if all parties are open to discussion, a new type of adoption can emerge…”Continue to Gazillion Voices magazine
Kyle Witzigman, a Holt adoptee from Vietnam and student at the University of Notre Dame, reflects on his summer as an intern at the Holt International offices in Eugene, Oregon.
Every August 3, my parents and I celebrate Family Day. In 1995, it was the day my adoptive parents signed paperwork in Hanoi, Vietnam, and I officially became a Witzigman. Since I was 18 months old when I moved to the U.S., I only remember one thing about living in Vietnam – sitting on a courtyard bench swing at the orphanage. Exciting right? Continue reading “Holt is My Second Family”
On April 17th, join us for a one-hour interactive video webinar featuring a panel of teenage Adoptees. Watch and listen to our four panelists as they share their experiences and stories about growing up adopted. Throughout the webinar, participants will also have the opportunity to ask questions of our panelists. This special online seminar is one that would be appropriate for the whole family to participate in.