The Story Behind the Photo: 86 and Counting


At the beginning of November, to kick off National Adoption Month, we shared a collage of all the children on our waiting child photolisting — just a small glimpse of the hundreds of children who we are seeking families for at any given time. We hoped it would kindle a passion in our supporters to help advocate for children who need loving families of their own. And it did!

You shared our waiting child stories. You reposted our advocacy blogs. You helped us tell the story behind each and every photo that we featured on social media during National Adoption Month.

The photo above represents the number of children from our photolisting that we have — thanks in part to your advocacy — matched with families so far in 2016. The black and white blocks represent the children who now are, or soon will be, part of a loving and secure family. The ones in color represent the children who we still need your help advocating for.

In total this year, Holt has matched 86 children from the photolisting — and another 200+ directly with a family! This is something to celebrate!

But we seek a world where every child has a loving and secure home. And until that day comes, we intend to keep working hard to advocate for the children left behind — and we ask you to join us.

One of the best ways that you can support our advocacy efforts is through sharing the stories we post about waiting children. That can be anything from pressing “like” or “share” on Facebook to leading an informational meeting in your community. Creativity is encouraged and we look forward to hearing what you come up with!

Thank you again for your heart and compassion for children who need families. Allied with you, we can achieve anything!
learn help advocate

Changing the Face of Thalassemia

Even 10 years ago, children living in orphanage care in China with treatable conditions like thalassemia were considered so difficult to place with adoptive families, many caregivers wouldn’t try to find families for these children — nor secure the medical care they needed. Through advocacy and education efforts, international adoption is changing the face of special needs. But the fight to ensure that every child receives the love, care and family they deserve is far from over. Continue reading “Changing the Face of Thalassemia”

The story behind my son’s waiting child photo

Like many families, Kelly Mayfield Meineke first saw her son August on Holt’s waiting child photolisting. But it would take months and some divine intervention from Holt’s China team for them to come together as a family.

Kelly is the author of Mine In China, a guide to adopting a child from China, and also blogs at

This image of August was used on Holt’s waiting child photolisting to help find his family.

My husband and I adopted from China for the first time in 2013. An adorable little boy, Leo, came home to my husband, our four children and myself, in time to celebrate his 2nd birthday.

We knew before we left China with our son that we would be going back — though not immediately. After some adjustment time and a move to another state, we planned to start the adoption process again in May 2015.

In the months leading up to the start of our second adoption, I spent time advocating for children from Holt’s waiting child photolisting — which is the advocacy platform where we found our first son. In January 2015, I noticed a little guy had been added: “Soren.” He was completely adorable. He had a complex leg malformation, but I knew it wouldn’t be long before he found a family. Within two weeks “Soren” had “I have a family!” on his photolisting picture and I thought no more about him. Continue reading “The story behind my son’s waiting child photo”

The Story Behind the Photo: The Homecoming

Last year, California mom Amber Kanallakan and her husband adopted their son Oliver from China — a little boy with limb difference. They were featured on the cover of Holt’s 2015 annual adoption magazine. We’ve also shared some of Amber’s blogs about their adoption process and her advice about fundraising for adoption. Now, she shares about another part of their journey to Oliver — their homecoming.

Friends and family gathered at the airport to welcome Oliver home from China. Photo by Jacki Potorke Photography

During our adoption process, I often dreamed of the moment we’d walk through the double doors of the airport foyer, holding our long-awaited and already dearly loved son, and introduce him to our people.

Considering the sleep deprivation, hunger pains and overwhelming emotions, I’m impressed my brain has held onto the details of our actual homecoming like it has. Continue reading “The Story Behind the Photo: The Homecoming”

The Story Behind the Photo: The Perfect Family for Troy


When families first start looking into adoption, often the question comes up,

“Do we have what it takes?”

This is an important question, no doubt, and whether a family is up to the task of caring for an adopted child is always a question that must be carefully considered — by both our staff, and by families themselves. But sometimes, we’ve found that parents who likely do have what it takes still feel like they are insufficient and pass up on the opportunity to be a family for a child who truly needs one. If you have love and commitment to offer a child, and have any question about whether your family might be a good fit, don’t hesitate to reach out to us! Continue reading “The Story Behind the Photo: The Perfect Family for Troy”

The Story Behind the Photo: Dancing On Pointe

Growing up in China, Qiulan Henderson wondered if she maybe wasn’t beautiful or smart enough to be adopted. She wondered if she would ever feel trust or love, or ever believe in herself. But when a family in Oregon saw the beautiful soul inside 10-year-old Qiulan, and welcomed her into their home, she began to learn the truth about family, about love, and about herself. Below, Quilan shares her experience of joining a family through international adoption — what she feared, what she lost, and what she became as she opened her heart to healing and love.  

yue_qiu_lan_photoWhen I look at the picture of me in China, I remember myself and I feel hopeless; I have no hope for my future. I don’t know how I will get trust and love, and ever believe in myself. That photo was a fake happy, but I did have some light to see me through.

When I look at the photo of me in America, I see how much my life has changed in a good way. Holt helped me to turn my life around to find the love and trust, and there is always healing in your heart where ever you go. Life isn’t perfect, but I feel like an inspirational girl — happy, fresh and free. Before I was like a pair of flat, old ballet shoes.  Holt turned my life around, and now I am on pointe. Continue reading “The Story Behind the Photo: Dancing On Pointe”

The Story Behind the Photo: Advocating for Boys

Krystal Ribble is an adoptive mom of one son from Grenada, the Executive Director of Equality for Adopted Children in Washington, D.C. and a college minister at Belmont Heights Church Nashville. Her blog is full advocacy for orphaned and abandoned children, adoptees and adoptive families. Here, she writes about how we can advocate for adopted sons and meet them where they are.

Krystal, hugging her 5-year-old son.

When we think of the vulnerability of orphans, we tend to think of the girls who are in need of families first. We see them for their fragility and feel the need to protect them.

As a mom to a little boy who was once an orphan, my view has shifted slightly. I would never have thought about his little spirit and soul as fragile. The only thing about him that felt fragile when I first held him was his little three year old body. Everything else about him felt ready to take on this big world with gusto and determination. Continue reading “The Story Behind the Photo: Advocating for Boys”

Jodie Needs a Family!

jodie-sittingLast week, we wrote a blog post about how important pictures are for children on our waiting child photolisting. Often, families fall in love with a picture first, and a child’s story second. However, for the safety of some of the children, we aren’t able to show their beautiful faces, which puts them at a significant disadvantage. But if we can get the right family to notice — and to see that there’s more than meets the eye — we can find a family for children like Jodie.

This National Adoption Month we are sharing the story behind the picture, and one such story is Jodie’s.

jodie-feedingNo, her face isn’t pixelated in real life. She is a young lady with a contagious smile and a caring heart. Her caregivers told a story about when a new child came to the orphanage and was very sad and homesick, Jodie sat with the child, comforted them and helped them adjust. She cares deeply about others and even helps feed some of the younger ones.

She has dreams to travel around the world and wants to be a flight attendant in order to do so. She knows that flight attendants sometimes have to resolve conflict with passengers so she has been practicing how to mediate when some of her roommates are arguing with each other. Some of her favorite activities are riding a skateboard, singing and dancing.

If you could see her face, you would be able to get a better sense of who she is. But for her own privacy, you can’t — at least not in a public forum like the Holt blog. That is because Jodie is HIV positive. With medication, the virus is under control and meeting her, you wouldn’t know that she’s a carrier. But because of the huge social stigma in China against those with HIV, showing her face could seriously impact her future in a negative way.

jodie-editedJodie is 13, and next May, she will turn 14 and age out. Which means that her opportunity for a loving and secure family will disappear, and she will have to head out into a world that doesn’t accept her.

It doesn’t have to be that way, though! Somewhere, there is a family that is a good fit for Jodie that can provide the love that she needs, and the opportunities that she deserves. She needs a family that is willing to parent a child with HIV, and has the resources to help her reach her potential and achieve whatever she wants to achieve.

Could you or someone you know be the right family for Jodie? For more information about Jodie and access to the great pictures that we have on file of her beautiful smile please contact Jessica Zeeb at

Date of Birth: 5/16/2003 | China

*name changed

Confidence, empowerment and the unexpected lesson from a furry friend

When Ed and Laura Sykora brought their daughter Maci home from Ethiopia, she was shy and timid. Now, she’s a confident and charming 7-year-old. Laura credits an unexpected friend for helping Maci discover her inner voice and feel empowered to handle life’s most difficult questions.

Laura and Ed with their son, Jax, 7, and their daughter, Maci, 7. Both Jax and Maci were adopted from Ethiopia.
Laura and Ed with their son, Jax, 7, and their daughter, Maci, 7. Both Jax and Maci were adopted from Ethiopia.

In my parenting journey, I have learned that I can’t always be there to speak for my children each time they are challenged.  I have learned that my job as a parent is to support and encourage my children and help them develop their problem-solving skills so they are empowered to work through situations.

Three years ago, my husband and I brought home a sweet, sensitive and smiling 4-year-old girl named Maci.

In those first few weeks home, she struggled with her confidence. Quiet and soft-spoken, she didn’t inherently believe that her voice mattered or that what she said was important.

As a mom, I talked to her about how she could feel safe to ask for what she needed and wanted. She could tell her classmates and rowdy brother if they were treating her in a way she didn’t like.

But, though my words were many, I never could have guessed how they would pale in comparison to the power of bringing a new, special family member into our home. Continue reading “Confidence, empowerment and the unexpected lesson from a furry friend”

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.

Continue reading “The Story Behind the Photo: What Social Workers Actually Do…”