When the Poliakoff family travels on Holt’s heritage tour to Vietnam, they meet a family whose quiet heroism in the face of poverty inspires them to help build a safe new home for the family and their children.
The second morning of our Holt Vietnam heritage tour, we set out at 9 a.m. from downtown Hanoi in our tour buses to visit families receiving services through Holt’s family strengthening program. I’m not sure that any of us knew what to expect. What we encountered that steamy July morning changed my understanding of Holt’s role, of families living in poverty, and of ways that our American families could make a real and sustaining difference. Continue reading “The Least We Could Do”
We have a few long-standing adoption programs in that region, but two that stand out are our Philippines and Vietnam programs. Although smaller, they both have unique factors that might make them a good option for your family!
At the 2014 Holt Gala and Auction in Portland, Oregon, Holt adoptive mom Andrea stood to speak. She told her story of bringing home her daughter Rini from China — a little girl with severe congenital heart disease — and the struggle to save her life. Here, Andrea again shares the story that captivated an audience of families, adoptees and Holt supporters at the Portland event, as well as her appeal to help save the lives of other children with serious heart disease… children just like Rini. Continue reading “Favorite Five Adoption Stories”
As 16-year-old Van Dai prepares to meet his adoptive family, and his adoptive family prepares to meet him, they share what they’re nervous about, what they’re excited about, and why they are so eager to finally meet one another.
Van Dai is 16 years old. He likes math, soccer and computer games, and is naturally good at things that require problem solving and forethought. He’s a bit shy and introspective, and doesn’t show a broad range of emotion. But when you catch his eye and smile, he will return your smile a thousand-fold. His smile is absolutely radiant.
It’s a hot and humid January afternoon in the south of Vietnam, but cooler where we sit inside on wooden furniture, beneath a blowing fan. In the background, we can hear the sounds of children playing, the occasional squeak of metal swings.
“How are you feeling right now?”
Van Dai’s eyes gleam and glance around the room. He smiles.
Adoptive dad Keith Guess shares about his family’s experience with older child adoption, how it differs from adopting babies, and how Spencer and Leo — two teen brothers from Vietnam — have adjusted to their new home, and their new life, in the U.S.
Susan and I were not thinking about adoption when she saw Leo and Spencer’s photograph on the Holt Facebook page. Something about the picture caught her interest and she forwarded it on to me. Over the coming days, we started discussing if adopting again would be something that would be reasonable for our family. We asked our boys how they would feel about us adopting again. They were all supportive. Our 13-year-old indicated that he would be interested primarily if we would be adopting someone his age.
A bit later, Susan showed me a video of Spencer and Leo racing each other. They are about 11 and 12 years old in the video. As Spencer passes Leo, he turns and grins. Leo responds with a smile. There was something winsome about that moment that made me begin thinking about them as “my sons.” Continue reading “The First of Many Firsts as Family”
As Holt reflects on 40 years since the Vietnam Babylift, Steve Kalb, Holt’s director of adoptee services, interviews Holt adoptee and board member Tara Linh Leaman about her recent travels to Vietnam, the beginnings of a search for her birth family, and her part in Holt’s continuing growth as an organization. Tara is the co-founder of AmerAsians Building Bridges, Inc. (AABB), and currently serves as the program director of Westchester Building Futures, a federally funded initiative that aims to better serve young people aging out of foster care in Westchester County, NY. She is a graduate of Cornell University and Georgetown University Law Center, and lives in the “People’s Republic of Brooklyn.”
SK: Share a little bit about your work with AmerAsians Building Bridges (AABB)? What inspired you to found this organization, and how does it help meet the needs of Vietnamese adoptees?
TL: My comrade, Nguyet Lam, and I co-founded the organization in 2005. Nguyet, like me, is Vietnamese and African American (aka Black Amerasian); but unlike me, grew up in Vietnam with her birth family. We created AABB because we recognized the discrimination Amerasians still face in Vietnam. In an effort to address that reality, AABB provides small educational and business loans to Amerasians in Vietnam, as well as family strengthening and pathways to citizenship classes for Amerasians in the Washington, DC region. In 2010, AABB expanded its mission to include resources for members of the adoption and foster care constellations, specifically in the area of nurturing healthy forms of identity(ies) within transethnic/transracial adoptees, our families and the communities in which we live. Continue reading “Adoptee to Adoptee”
Four government officials from Vietnam visit Holt families and staff in Eugene as part of a final selection process to begin adoptions from Vietnam to the U.S. The two selected agencies will participate in a pilot adoption program for children with special needs.
Sixteen years ago, Hai and Valerie Nguyen traveled to Vietnam to bring home their twin 2-year-old daughters, Mai and Ly. This month, Mai and Ly will turn 18. Both girls love math and science, can solve a Rubik’s Cube in 46 seconds — blindfolded — and have big ambitions to be the first twins in space! They also speak fluent Vietnamese, an amazing feat considering they grew up in Eugene, Oregon and have only traveled to Vietnam twice.
Welcome to our first post in the “Children Who Give” blog series! In the coming weeks and periodically throughout the year, we will feature stories about children who raise funds for Holt, and parents, grandparents and others who raise funds on behalf of the children in their lives. As Mary Li Creasy illustrates so well in the following story about her son, Hunter, children are a gift — a gift that often inspires us to give back. In this story, it is Hunter who was inspired to give back. His love and appreciation for his family inspired him to write an award-winning essay about Holt, to which he then donated his winnings so that we can help more children have families of their own. Thank you Hunter, and thank you Mary Li for sharing this beautiful story!
One year to the day we adopted our daughter, Lily – from China through Holt – we got the call about a 4-year-old boy named “Hung” in Vietnam. Holt thought he would be a good match for our family. We had applied to the special needs program only a few months earlier, knowing we wanted to adopt an older child and also that we did not want to wait the 13 months it took to bring our daughter home from China between 2005 and 2006. We had gone to committee once before, but Holt’s social workers decided another family was a better fit for that child. After that, we felt greatly discouraged and weren’t sure we would ever be matched.
We were shocked to receive the call only a month later about Hung.
With a 10-year-old and 2-and-a-half-year-old at home, 4 seemed on the lowest end of the age spectrum we would consider. And we knew nothing about the Vietnam program. After praying about it and talking it over as a family for a few days, we requested the file.
One look at Hung’s beautiful brown eyes and we were in love.
In September of 2008, fifteen months after we accepted Hung’s referral, the U.S. and Vietnam decided not to renew their Memo of Understanding regarding adoptions and subsequently suspended all international adoption from Vietnam. We managed to endure the next seven months with the help of weekly telephone calls with Holt staff, hundreds of supportive e-mails, and several visits with our online Holt Vietnam friends and Dong Nai waiting parents group. After our case was finally resolved, we traveled to Bien Hoa, Vietnam, where on April 13, 2009, we met and adopted our son Hung, who we named John “Hunter.”