Watch Instant Family on DVD and help Redbox & WACAP
Last fall, the movie Instant Family was released in theaters. Inspired by the writer/director’s own experience as a parent who adopted a sibling group from foster care, the story was a surprisingly honest and unflinching look at the foster care system, both hilarious and heartbreaking.
As we move closer to the April 1st merger of WACAP (World Association of Children and Parents) into the Holt family, we grow increasingly excited about our expanding role in offering solutions for children in foster care, both in Oregon and Washington. We are joining forces to continue our shared mission and quickly finding new ways to share our mission with broader audiences.
In China, the most pressing child welfare issue is arguably no longer how to care for children without families — but what to do about children experiencing abuse and neglect within their families. As child welfare officials in China work to address this problem, Holt is providing guidance and support — advocating for systemic change that will ultimately affect hundreds of thousands of children.
by Robin Munro, Managing Editor
A few weeks ago, we shared the story of a little girl in China who we called “Hong.” Alongside the story we posted a picture of Hong, chubby-cheeked and smiling, her shiny black hair swept across her forehead. The story was about foster care — how in her foster mother’s care, Hong overcame a bad skin infection that caused her face to become red and swollen. Her foster mother took her to the doctor and ensured she received the medicine she needed. She mothered Hong back to health, with nourishing food and attentive, loving care. Praised for her devoted care, Hong’s foster mother brushed it off. “It’s nothing to be a show-off about,” she said. “I just do what a mom would do for her child.”
Twenty years ago, foster care was an alien concept in China. If their parents died or were unable to support them, children would customarily be taken in by relatives. For children who truly had nowhere else to go, China provided housing and care through an extensive network of social welfare institutes spread out across the country. These orphanages provided a last resort for orphaned and abandoned children, and before the 1990s, few children came into care.
Then, in the late 1980s, China instituted a one-child-per-family policy — resulting in one very unfortunate and unintended outcome. Facing extreme consequences if they failed to comply, parents began to abandon their children, primarily those who would not in time be able to support the family.
By the time Holt began working in China — in the early 1990s — China’s social welfare institutes were in a state of crisis. With children coming in at a rate of sometimes five per day — most of them infant girls — caregivers became overwhelmed. To properly care for the growing number of children in care, China’s orphanages needed a solution more immediate than adoption.
By this late date, Holt had already developed an alternative model of care for children — a model that would give children the attentive, nurturing care that, despite their best efforts, orphanage caregivers simply don’t have the time or resources to provide. In South Korea, India, Thailand, the Philippines and other countries, Holt had already introduced this model with great success. After some convincing, the Chinese government began partnering with Holt to develop foster care for the country’s orphaned and abandoned children. Today, thousands of children in China live with foster families while they wait to join permanent adoptive families in China or overseas. Thousands of children are being nurtured back to health, achieving critical developmental milestones, and thriving in their foster parents’ care.
While moving, the story of little Hong is also very common in China today.
When you provide a gift to a Holt foster family through Holt’s Gifts of Hope catalog, you can help frail and sick children have a fighting chance at life!
“Mom, I don’t feel well this morning.”
When you were a child, you most likely uttered this phrase on more than one occasion. You would wake up feeling hot and clammy. Your stomach would hurt, and your nose would be running. With loving care, your mother would give you a big hug and set you on the sofa. While she made you chicken soup, she would let you watch your favorite movie and get the rest you needed.
We need loving family members in our life to care for us when we are sick. At Holt, we feel blessed to have so many wonderful foster families to provide love and support to the children in our care.
Little *Hong from China was weak and sick with a skin infection when she first entered her foster mother, *Jing’s, care. Hong had lost her appetite and rapidly began losing weight. She desperately needed medical attention. Jing made sure Hong saw the best doctors and was given the medicine she needed. Soon, Hong’s infection began to clear up. Jing also made Hong a variety of nutritious foods, and after a while Hong began to gain weight.
Holt President and CEO Phil Littleton just returned from a trip to Holt’s programs for children and families in Ethiopia. Here, he blogs about his visit to a few of our partnering care centers in country.
Tuesday, Oct 15 — Today, we will be visiting three orphanages supported by Holt. You never really quite know what to expect when you enter an orphanage. Will the children be older? Are there many infants, recently abandoned? Are the children sick, or in good health?
I asked Holt’s country representative, Tamarat, if these were good orphanages that we would be visiting. He said, “Yes, very good orphanages, but still an orphanage.” That comment stuck in my mind. It is so true — an orphanage can be well run and provide good care, but it’s still an orphanage.
Children do not belong in orphanages… That is not where they should grow up.
Unfortunately, in our broken world, orphanages are a way of life in many countries. At Holt, we believe in trying every day to get kids out of orphanages — in finding a way to get children back with their birth families. In the meantime, we strive to place them in the loving care of a family in their community, through foster care. And when reuniting a child with their extended birth family is not possible, we turn to international adoption.
On this day, I met a little 3-year-old named Mashukan. When I walked into the room, she put her arms out to me as if to say, ‘Please pick me up.’ Once in my arms, she just wanted me to take her wherever she pointed. So I did.
She was one of the healthy ones — a beautiful little girl, needing someone to pick her up out of the crib. My thought was, ‘We have to find a way to get this little girl into a home.’
By the end of the day, we visited three very good orphanages, and I am proud of our work and dedicated staff and partners here in Ethiopia. But I’m also reminded that, at the end of the day… it’s still an orphanage.
A Holt adoptive family meets their daughter’s foster family in China — filling in another chapter of her adoption story, another piece of the puzzle. A version of this story originally appeared in the April 2012 issue of Adoption Today.
by Jennifer L. Padgett
In March 2011, we received our travel date to fly back to China to adopt our second daughter. The wait was finally over! However, I had a dull ache in my heart, and her name was *Jillian, who we adopted from China in 2008. I wasn’t obsessively concerned about leaving behind our boys – biological sons *Jon, age 12, and *Jack, age 8 – as they stayed home when we traveled to China the first time. Now, though, Jillian had begun to regress by showing signs of clinginess, nail biting, and a quivering bottom lip – behaviors running rampant in this five-year-old’s demeanor.
Not long after receiving our travel dates for China, I was sitting on the edge of my bed, tying my shoes, when Jillian crawled into my lap. Facing me, she wrapped her arms tightly around my neck and, with intense articulation, pleaded, “Mommy, I can’t let you go. You have only been my mom for three years, and I cannot live without you while you are in China getting my new sister.” Then . . . the gut-wrenching sobs came.
Somehow, I knew that part of Jillian’s journey was to travel back to “Her China” — the nickname she often called her birth country. Our daughter has always been very inquisitive about her past—her foster family, the orphanage, her birth parents, and Chinese culture in general. The confirmation came when I found out that Jillian’s Chinese social worker was in the states. I contacted him, requesting that he ask Jillian’s foster family back in China if they would like to meet us. He agreed, and when I received a resounding “yes” from these surrogate parents, I knew that the “three” of us would be traveling back to China. My husband and I would adopt our new daughter, and together with Jillian we would personally thank Jillian’s foster family for taking such good care of her! Continue reading “Another Piece of the Puzzle”
May is National Foster Care Month! In celebration, we bring you two stories — the first from the Larson family, whose a little girl overcame the challenges of early malnutrition while in the loving care of her foster family in Vietnam. In the second story, Holt adoptive mom Debbie Dunham shares how foster families serve as a “bridge of love” to children awaiting adoption in Korea. Enjoy!
A Home Full of Love For Sophie
by Linda and Steve Larson
When we were in the process of adopting our second daughter, Sophie Lan, we learned that she had been in both the orphanage and a couple different foster families. The last one she was with, in our eyes, made such a difference in shaping Sophie’s future and who she is today.
It was February 4, 2001 – the day we were to go to the Danang Rehabilitation Center for Malnourished Orphans to see and hold our Sophie for the first time. It was an amazing feeling to see this little girl of 21 months old for the first time. We were able to hold her and introduce her to her new big sister, Sadie. We also got to feed her and try to get her to drink some water. She looked at us with those big, deep brown and curious eyes…very seriously…afraid to crack a smile…afraid of what was going to change in her life…again. We had to leave her there that day and come back the next for the adoption ceremony at the Department of Justice. It was so very hard to say goodbye – even if just for a day.
During our time in Vietnam, we were fortunate to have our Holt representative take us to meet our daughter’s foster family. As we approached the front door and took off our shoes, they respectfully invited us into their home with such kindness. The look in the mother, the father and the son’s eyes told us that their home was filled with love. This was the home where our daughter Sophie learned to be a fun-loving girl with the personality of a comedian. Here, she also overcame many of the challenges and delays she developed in early life.
When Sophie came into care, she was seriously malnourished and had iron-deficiency anemia. She was smaller in size than others her age, had moderate motor skill delays, and could not sit unsupported. She could not bear her body weight on her legs. Her language skills were also delayed.
In her foster family’s care, Sophie thrived. They fed her at the same times every day with food abundant in vitamins. They assisted Sophie in learning to bear weight on her legs, and helped to develop her motor and language skills – teaching her to identify and name different objects. They also played with her and took her for walks. They interacted with her like she was their own child – taking every measure to ensure her healthy development.