Through personalized advocacy, Holt’s new Philippines Special Needs Project will help find loving, permanent families for older children, sibling groups and children with medical, developmental or emotional needs.
Working in countries around the world for over 65 years, we have seen the profiles of children eligible for international adoption change. There used to be many infants and children with no known health conditions waiting for a family through international adoption. But today, this has shifted. Now, due to greater efforts on the part of country governments and advocacy organizations, more children are able to join domestic adoptive families. This gives them the opportunity to grow up in the country and culture of their birth. We celebrate this!
We also celebrate the fact that as a result of this shift, children who were often overlooked — children who are older, part of a sibling group or have increased medical, developmental or emotional needs — are now able to join the loving families they deserve. These are the children who often remain behind in orphanages when younger children with fewer needs are adopted. They are still waiting for families. For many of them, international adoption is their last, best hope of joining one.
To help these children join loving, permanent families, we have started programs called special needs projects (SNP) to provide increased support and advocacy for these children. No matter their age or set of needs, every child deserves a loving family to care for them!
Starting an SNP in the Philippines!
We began with the Thailand SNP, and now we are thrilled to announce a special needs project in the Philippines!
These projects are among Holt’s most innovative and personalized adoption programs. They are the only programs where Holt social workers in the U.S. can travel to visit the children in person! By visiting these children face to face, our social workers can better advocate for them. They can learn about their personalities and interests, and assess any medical, developmental, cognitive or emotional needs they may have. This helps social workers best determine the kind of family they will thrive in.
A team of social workers and Holt staff just visited the Philippines in February of this year for their first assessment visit. They met with 80 children who live in 16 different care centers around the country.
The Philippines special needs project team gathered photos of the orphanages and homes that the children live in. They also spoke with a variety of people who work with the children, including teachers, caregivers, nurses and social workers. With a comprehensive portrait of the child’s life, personality and environment, they are well positioned to advocate for them and represent them to prospective adoptive families.
And when prospective families reach out to Holt, we now have a wealth of information and photos to share! Often, we can even direct them to a staff member who traveled to the Philippines and interacted with the child. They can then give their impressions and perspective on the child’s needs! In the world of international adoption, this kind of interactive approach is transformative for children and families alike.
While the team is there, they also get to have real conversations with the children. They get to talk to them about adoption and their wishes for the future, involving them in the matching process.
The Benefit of Conversations about Adoption with Children
Celeste Snodgrass, Holt’s director of clinical services, was part of the team that visited the Philippines in February. She participated in many of these conversations — including how they feel about the possibility of adoption.
“We discussed the topic of adoption often. The majority of children have seen friends be placed with adoptive families,” Celeste says. “When asked what they would wish for if they had three wishes, most children said their first wish would be for an adoptive family. Many children said they pray every night for an adoptive family.”
The children the team met in the Philippines tended to be older, between 11 and 18 years old. For these youth, a dialogue about adoption is especially important.
“When asked what they would wish for if they had three wishes, most children said their first wish would be for an adoptive family. Many children said they pray every night for an adoptive family.”Celeste Snodgrass, Holt’s director of clinical services
“I hope that these children will feel that they have a voice in communicating with prospective families,” says Luisa Barnes, Holt social worker and director of adoption for Korea and the Philippines. “Since most of these children are older, their input is so important for a successful adoption. Their wishes, dreams and the vulnerability that they shared with us are so impactful. There is no doubt that families will see how incredible they are!”
Some children say they want to be adopted into a two-parent family, others say they want a single mom. Many children want adoptive siblings while others are looking for pets. Whatever their wish, our SNP team gets to listen and help them process what to expect.
Once our team matches a prospective family with a child in the Philippines SNP, we can also provide the family with regular updates about the child gathered directly by our team! They aim to travel to the Philippines every nine months.
More than Special Needs
Emilee Britton also helped assess children joining the Philippines SNP. “All the children we met are amazing, special, unique survivors who deserve to be adopted by loving appropriate families who will provide them with what they need and more,” she says. “Despite what they have experienced and continue to experience, these are kids with huge capacities to give and receive love.”
“All the children we met are amazing, special, unique survivors who deserve to be adopted by loving appropriate families who will provide them with what they need and more. Despite what they have experienced and continue to experience, these are kids with huge capacities to give and receive love.”Emilee Britton, waiting child case manager
Emilee also hopes that through the team’s advocacy, prospective families will be able to see beyond the complex medical, developmental or emotional needs that some of these children have.
“My hope for the project is that we humanize the child in the photo,” says Emilee. “That maybe a prospective adoptive family will be able to see that while there may be complex needs, the child we met can improve the family’s life just like they can improve the child’s. That there is a mutual need for love and human connection.”