How Holt’s annual summer camp for adoptees has grown and changed in the 40 years since it began.
History of Holt Adoptee Camp
This year, Holt Adoptee Camp will celebrate its 40th anniversary!
The program first began in the early 1980s as a Korean heritage camp, started by David Kim, president emeritus of Holt and one of its founders. The camp’s purpose was to connect Korean adoptees with their birth culture. As time went on, more adoptees from other countries began attending. Additionally, adoptive parents of children from countries such as Thailand, Philippines, etc. pushed for Holt to include all adoptees, regardless of their birth country. This required a new approach and evolved into camp as we know it today.
This summer, camp will take place in three different locations across the country — in Oregon, Wisconsin and New Jersey. It is expected to serve 200-300 campers.
A Unique Curriculum Created by Adoptees
Holt Adoptee Camp is in many ways like any other summer camp, but with the added benefit of youth adoptees having the opportunity to connect with others who have the shared experience of growing up adopted. Holt’s post-adoption team — made up of adult adoptees and social workers — created a unique curriculum that gives campers an opportunity to talk openly about their stories, topics around adoption, racism, identity and community. Some specific conversations include adoptee and racial identity, the portrayal of adoption in the media, and the importance of each individual story. One day of camp is dedicated to history, during which campers can discuss and ask questions about birth search. Each camp location also offers various options for fun and recreation.
This summer, Holt camp will have a new director, Nate Schiffer. A former counselor, Nate says one of his favorite things about camp is “hearing about campers lives and where they are at in their journey pertaining to adoption as well as their life and extra
“My hope is that camp gives them the confidence and the tools to talk about adoption when people unfamiliar with the topic ask questions,” he says.
Elliot Bliss, former camper and now Holt’s post-adoption programs lead, describes Holt Adoptee Camp as “a community of only adoptees where they can learn about and explore topics such as adoptee and racial identity, birth search, the adoption story, racism, how to deal with stereotypes, and the adoption narrative that the media often uses and how that impacts adoptees.”
New This Year: Parent Camp
Holt Adoptee Camp is introducing a new virtual activity for summer 2023: “Parent Camp.” During each camp week, the camp director and a social worker will hold hour-long meetings for parents during which they can find out more about the curriculum their children are learning and ask any questions they may have.
The final day of Parent Camp will include an adult adoptee panel. The adoptees on the panel will discuss their experiences as adoptees, how they’ve benefitted from post-adoption programming such as Holt camp and give time for parents to ask questions.
Lastly, because of popular demand from campers and their parents alike, Holt camp will be one day longer in Wisconsin and New Jersey, and three days longer in Oregon.
“This adoptee community gives adoptees a sense of belonging, a place (for many) where most of the people look like them, lifelong friendships and mentors,” says Elliot. “The lifelong bonds and friendships that campers make are profound.”
We are excited to celebrate four decades of serving youth adoptees and their families and look forward to many more years of adventures and memories!
Registration for Holt Adoptee Camp 2023 is now open!
At camp, adoptees have the chance to try new things, make new friends and share their experiences with other adoptees! This program is available to all domestic, international, transracial or transcultural adoptees, ages 9-17.