Helping Teens to Circle Back

In its second year of operation, Holt’s youth adoptee mentorship program Circle Back has evolved into something unexpected — a program that serves youth of all ages, including teens.

“I mean, this is even kind of fun!”

In its second year of operation, Circle Back has evolved into something that I was not expecting. Two years ago, as we were putting together the curriculum, I pictured this service primarily benefiting young Adoptees, ages 9-12, who were interested in talking about adoption or who needed support in understanding their identity.

What I didn’t expect was for it to be a program that served teens so well.

I remember the first session I had with a teenage Adoptee, who was 18 years old. Within the curriculum, we have a lot of dynamic activities and I was curious to see how the Mad Libs and guessing games we designed would translate and connect with an 18-year-old girl. However, during this first session, we didn’t play very many games. Instead, we spent most of the time just talking about our adoption stories, life, school, love and identity. We filled the 45 minutes in no time at all and as we wrapped up, she told me that she looked forward to chatting again.

During another session, while chatting with a 16-year-old on the East Coast, I asked her how she felt about the time we spent chatting. “I really like this,” she told me. “I mean, this is even kind of fun! I mean, not like FUN fun, but it’s cool to get to talk about these things.”

Since these first sessions, I find that I really look forward to connecting with the older Adoptees who participate in our program. During our conversations, several of these Adoptees shared that this was the first time they ever spoke one-on-one with an adult Adoptee. For me, this is a privilege and fuels my passion to continue working towards a world where every Adoptee can confidently say, “I know that I am not alone.” And as an adult Adoptee who shares a similar perspective and has had similar experiences to these younger Adoptees, I feel I can enter into these Circle Back sessions with such a strong foundation to begin a deeper conversation about identity. In a different set-up, it would take so much longer to build that foundation of trust and understanding.

“I really like this. I mean, this is even kind of fun! I mean, not like FUN fun, but it’s cool to get to talk about these things.”

16-year-old adoptee

As the Adoptee services team at Holt, we’re often asked, “What do Adoptees need?” And there are days when I sit at my desk and the list feels so long. But there are other days when I do a Circle Back session with an Adoptee and I realize that a lot of our needs boil down to connection. We want to be able to connect to our families, our peers, our history and our world. A lot of the programming that we do centers on this drive to continue building connection in our community.

As the program has grown older, so have most of our participants. And quite honestly, to my surprise, Circle Back has become a place where even teenagers can find support — and even have a little fun. We live in an incredibly creative world. And often, all we need is an internet connection and a smartphone to move further away from feelings of isolation — and be brought closer to a community of Adoptees.

Caitlin Howe | Former Holt Team Member

adoptive father with arms around four older adopted children

Holt Post Adoption Services

Holt offers lifelong support to all adoptees, adoptive families, birth parents, caregivers and others whose lives have been touched by adoption.

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