Cleft Lip and Palate? No Big Deal

When Liz and Jason Barnette began the adoption process for their daughter Hannah, the challenges of caring for a child with cleft lip and palate seemed, at first, worrisome. But once home with Hannah, they realized that any struggles they face are just minor details in an otherwise joyous life. 

by Liz Barnette

Deciding to start our family through adoption in January of 2010 was the first of many more decisions that would quickly follow.  In the next three months we would decide on an agency, country, and special needs versus healthy referral program. Each decision gave us a sense of peace as we moved forward in the journey to our child. Holt’s Korea waiting child program was the perfect fit for us. We did not want to wait years for a referral and had heard about the numerous children with mild and often correctable conditions who needed a family. In particular, reading blogs from other families who had adopted waiting children encouraged us to choose the waiting child program; over and over, we read stories about children with medical conditions or disabilities who are now flourishing in their forever families.

We filled out our application in March and then sat down together to complete the waiting child medical needs checklist. While all the decisions up to this point had seemed big, this checklist was a daunting task. While necessary to the process, it also felt quite strange. There is no checklist for biological children!

Some conditions were straightforward and others required research. Some conditions one of us would be open to, but the other, not so sure.  Many of the needs we checked ‘yes’ to were mild and correctable. When we got to the cleft lip and palate section, we realized we both felt really drawn to this particular medical need. As a speech pathologist, I have taken coursework in cleft lip and palate and how it influences speech and feeding.  My husband sells medical devices and frequently works with plastic and oral surgeons. Although cleft lip and palate does not self-correct – and can be very involved – we felt like we had sufficient access to the people and resources needed to care for a child with this particular condition.

A few months later, Holt sent an email to families in the waiting child program with information about children who would be added to the photolisting that week. This was the first email that included a child with cleft lip and palate. It seems a little crazy to say this, but we both felt that our child would have a cleft lip and/or palate, even though we were open to various other needs.  We could hardly contain our excitement that this 6-month-old baby girl might be our daughter! Continue reading “Cleft Lip and Palate? No Big Deal”

Spend an Afternoon with Dr. David H. Kim

David Kim heads to Denver

Live in the Denver area? Spend the afternoon with Dr. David H. Kim on November 10th! The first employee hired by Harry Holt when he arrived in Korea in 1956, David Kim helped pioneered the modern era of international adoption. Here’s your chance to ask David questions and learn more about his rich history with Holt.

When: Saturday, November 10, 2012 3:00 PM – 5:00 PM
Where: Logos Central Chapel (Prince of Peace Lutheran Church Building)
2400 S. Colorado Blvd.
Denver, CO 80222

Please RSVP by November 7. Admission is free of charge. An opportunity to give to the Special Needs Adoption Fund will be provided at the event and on the RSVP link. Thank you to Logos Central Chapel for your generous sponsorship!

We look forward to seeing you there!

Click here for more info…

Holly’s Story

UPDATE: So many families have shown interest in Holly that we have closed applications for her! Our China program staff has identified two families equipped to meet Holly’s needs and will select one this week. Thank you to everyone for your immediate and overwhelming response. The China program often receives referrals like Holly’s, which are designated to Holt for a short amount of time before going to another agency for home-finding. Often, we are able to match these children before we ever have to post them on the photolisting. Families who are open to adopting older children will have the most success if they apply to Holt — well before they have a child in mind. This allows our staff to immediately consider your family as a potential match every time we receive a new designated referral, like Holly’s. 

Still interested in adopting an older girl from China? We are still looking for a family for Leanne. Click here to learn more.

DOB: February 4, 2004, China

Holly* was likely less than a day old when she was found – nine years ago – at the gate of a government building in a province on the southeast coast of China. The official who found Holly brought her to the police station, where she was quickly sent to live at the local social welfare institute. Here, she was diagnosed with congenital cataracts, nystagmus of both eyes – a condition that causes uncontrollable eye movement – and weak light perception. She also received an estimated birthday of February 4, 2004 – the date she was found.

Holly was a quiet baby who rarely cried but smiled when caregivers would laugh in her presence. She showed great interest in new objects, holding them close to her eyes so she could see and study them. With the encouragement of her caregivers, she slowly built her courage and learned to walk on her own. By 4 years old, she could walk steadily – relying on light perception – and had no problem going up and down stairs, running, jumping or participating in outdoor activities like hide-and-seek. She could read simple poems and count numerals with her peers. She strived to please and sought praise from her caregivers, to whom she had grown very attached. “In a word,” wrote her social worker at the time, “Holly is an active and lovely baby.”

Three years later, in March of 2011, Holly’s social worker sat down to write an update on Holly, now 7 years old. “Time flies,” she writes. “Now Holly becomes a very beautiful little girl!” Holly likes wearing dresses and “swinging in them.” She enjoys participating in craft workshops – always beginning by carefully observing what materials she has, grouping the materials, and then starting the crafting process. Holly’s motor and intellectual development are evident in how skillfully and meticulously she crafts her pieces.

Holly is now 8, going on 9. Although shy around strangers, Holly has through the years grown more confident and outgoing. Where before she spoke softly, she now expresses herself loud and clear. Holly attends school at the orphanage, and is described as quick to learn new things and to want to do the right thing.

Once a lovely baby, Holly has grown into a truly lovely girl.

This special young lady waits for a family who has access to vision resources, has parented past her age, has a good understanding of older child adoption and institutionalization, and will be patient in helping her transition to a family.

To learn more about Holly, contact Marissa Leuallen at

*name changed

One Wonderful Family for One Amazing Boy

Holt adoptive parents Blake and Michele Haan have adopted seven children – three from the foster care system and four from India. Their youngest son, Micah, is three years old and has a condition called rare facial clefting, which has affected the development of his face. After Micah came home, the Haans put together a video to introduce Micah to the congregation at their church.

“Micah has been with us about 3 weeks now,” writes Michele. “He is an awesome, amazing little boy. He loves people and loves to laugh and have fun, but if people — particularly other children — can’t see past his appearance, they miss out on knowing Micah.”

We found their video so moving and inspiring, we just had to share it:

November is National Adoption Month! This year, Holt will focus our energy and effort on advocating for the children who often need the most help finding families – children with special needs like Micah, older children and boys. Will you join us? Click here to learn how.

Where Are They Now?

Mya with her foster family in Korea
Mya with her foster family in Korea

Mya was born in Korea in July of 2008. To provide her with the most nurturing, attentive care possible, Holt Korea quickly placed her with a loving Holt foster family. Mya’s foster parents were an older couple, and they adored her. In their care, Mya stayed for nearly three years. “They were very loving to her, and she still loves them very much,” write Mya’s adoptive parents, Warren and Heidi Roberts.

Later, Mya went to live for a brief period at Holt’s Ilsan Center – a renowned facility providing rehabilitative care for children and adults with medical and developmental needs. Mya was born with Sotos syndrome, a condition that causes excessive growth in the first few years of life. Because she grew so fast, her motor development struggled to keep pace. In Holt’s care in Korea, Mya received speech and physical therapy to help her overcome her developmental delays.

At Ilsan, the staff also prepared Mya for the transition to her adoptive family, which she joined in November 2011. “Her adjustment and transition went amazingly well,” write her adoptive parents. This, they attribute in no small part to the care she received in her foster family and at the Ilsan Center in Korea.

“She was loving, accepting and happy from the start,” they write. “That probably shows a great deal about her personality, and quite a bit more about the love, acceptance and care she was shown in her early life in Korea.”

Today, Mya is flourishing. She has four older brothers who adore her. She, in turn, relishes being the only girl and the youngest child in her family. “She is super super sweet, compassionate and loving,” write her parents. Although she still has a few motor delays, intellectually – she is advanced.

“All around,” her parents write, “she is amazing.”

You can help care for a child like Mya, click here

Mya at home with her mom



A Change of Heart

A family explains how embracing a child with a heart condition was an act of love, not a leap of faith.

In the dark, early morning of December 9, 2011, my husband and I were waiting in the Pediatric Intensive Care waiting room at Doernbecher Children’s Hospital in Portland, Oregon. Our 23-month-old son, Bryce, adopted five months earlier from China, had been taken to the operating room almost two hours earlier to begin preparations for a technically complex open heart surgery. We were waiting to meet the surgeon who had flown in from Toronto, Canada to perform the surgery along with Doernbecher’s own chief cardiac surgeon. The procedure had not been performed in our state before, and only a handful of surgeons worldwide had experience with it, but it would offer our son the best chance for a hopeful prognosis. As we thought of what the day would bring, what it could mean for our son’s future, we couldn’t help but reflect upon all that had occurred to bring us to this point. How did we get here? We were the family that, six years prior, had never considered the adoption of a child with medical needs. The idea, when it was presented to us, was overwhelming and terrifying. And yet here we were.

Our first child from China, MeiLi, joined our family via the standard process in March of 2007. She joined big sister, Sophia. During the paperwork phase of Mei’s adoption, our wait for her referral, and her first years home, experiences had slowly and almost imperceptibly shaped who we were becoming as individuals and a family. Those changes would shape us in unexpected and glorious ways, and lead us on a path to more precious children — two sons!

When we began the process in 2005 to adopt MeiLi, the majority of referrals were coming through the standard process. We knew very little about adoption availability for children with medical needs. As our wait for referral lengthened, we began to meet other adoptive families who had adopted children labeled “special needs.” Fifteen months after our dossier was logged-in, we submitted a medical forms checklist to Holt in order to pursue a special needs adoption. Our openness to different medical needs was limited, to say the least, and we only indicated openness to one minor need. The special needs program was very different back then. We were not matched in the three months between submitting our checklist and receiving our standard process match. The seed had been planted, however, and we felt drawn towards adopting a child with a medical need one day. Continue reading “A Change of Heart”