Adoptee to Adoptee

 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.”

TaraSK: 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”

On the 40th Anniversary of the Vietnam Babylift, A Look Back

Forty years ago, on April 5, 1975, Holt evacuated exactly 409 children from Saigon in what has now famously become known as the “Vietnam Babylift.” Holt’s flight – one of several agency-arranged “babylifts” at the end of the war – came two days after President Gerald Ford announced that all Vietnamese children currently identified for adoption to U.S. families would be airlifted out of Vietnam. As it became apparent that Saigon would soon fall to the North, the 409 children in Holt’s care boarded a chartered Pan Am flight to join their adoptive families in the U.S. Between April 2 and April 29, approximately 3,000 children in total were evacuated, joining families in the U.S., Europe, Australia and Canada.

This event was a dramatic moment in Holt’s history and, despite the challenges faced in the aftermath, our commitment to children and families in Vietnam has remained unwavering. Holt was one of the first non-governmental organizations (NGO) to return to Vietnam and re-establish programs in the late 1980s, following the normalization of relations between the U.S. and Vietnam.

Since then, Holt International has continued to work in Vietnam and provide direct services to children and families. Although international adoption to the U.S. was discontinued in 2002 and again in 2008, Holt International maintained our family preservation and sponsorship programs in Vietnam.

Last year, Holt International was one of two U.S. organizations licensed by the government of Vietnam to begin adoption for children with special needs, children older than 5 years old and children who are part of sibling groups — effectively ending a 6-year moratorium on adoption from Vietnam to the U.S. Holt is determined to find families for as many children as possible who qualify for international adoption from Vietnam.

To learn more about children who need families and eligibility requirements to adopt from Vietnam, click here.

In 2000, Holt sponsored a “reunion” of Vietnamese adoptees in Washington D.C. The reunion was attended by more than 200 adoptees from around the country. In November of this year, on the occasion of the 40th anniversary of the end of the war in Vietnam, Holt will again sponsor a reunion in Washington D.C. Activities will include a photo exhibit of historical documents and photos from Holt’s archives from the 1970s as well as the personal collection of Bertha Holt.

Planning for the second reunion is underway and details of the activities and logistics will be available in the next few weeks.

For information about “Reunion-2,” contact Susan Soonkeum Cox at susanc@holtinternational.org.

To learn more about international adoption from Vietnam and the Vietnam Babylift, click here to read an article Holt published in April 2000 for a special Vietnam Adoptee Reunion. (article written by John Aeby, Holt’s late director of communications)