A Wish For the New Year

Holt International’s temporary foster care program in Thailand helps keep families together and strong

Sumalee spends time with her son at Holt Sahathai Foundation.
Sumalee spends time with her son at Holt Sahathai Foundation.  With resources provided by Holt, Sumalee’s son will soon be able to rejoin his family.

Bangkok, Thailand — Sumalee has a goal for the New Year. Unlike those of us who set goals that might include dropping a few pounds after the holidays or taking a vacation to an exotic place, Sumalee’s goal is much more demanding and much more life altering.

For Sumalee, who has been forced to make difficult choices about what is best for her children, her goal is to bring her youngest son home from Holt Sahathai Foundation’s temporary foster care program and reunite all three of her children under one roof.

The day her husband walked away, Sumalee was faced with the most difficult situation of her life. She had two children at home and was a month pregnant with her third child. Living in Bangkok, hundreds of kilometers away from her parents, Sumalee had no social support system and few options. She was struggling to make ends meet as a housekeeper, working as often as she could but not able to save any money.

Learning of her situation, Sumalee was referred to Holt’s Sahathai Foundation (HSF), Holt’s partner organization in Thailand, by a primary healthcare volunteer. When she looks back on that day, Sumalee tears up with emotion. “Without HSF, I would have had nowhere to go,” said Sumalee. “I was thinking about returning to my parents’ home and thought about ending the pregnancy. I was very lucky to connect with HSF.”

HSF staff worked with Sumalee to provide pregnancy counseling, checking in with her at home. Through conversations with HSF social workers, Sumalee realized she needed time to find steady employment and get on her feet financially. Realizing she would not be able to work and provide proper care for her baby, Sumalee made the difficult decision to place her son, Niran, in HSF’s temporary foster care program. That was three and a half years ago. At the time, Niran was just three months old. Now, with HSF’s continued support, Sumalee is about to achieve the goal she has had in sight for all these years – reuniting with her youngest son and bringing him home.

Oftentimes temporary foster care is a short-term solution for single parents as they get back on their feet. In rare cases, a “temporary” situation can last for years and the child can be in foster care for a much longer period of time than planned. In Niran’s case, he has been in foster care for several years – but that has not stopped him from developing a special bond with his mother.

HSF has a unique approach to temporary foster care that allows birth families to maintain a strong connection with the child placed in foster care. To provide a strong foundation for the child to re-enter the home, HSF has created a program especially for birth families and their children. One day each month, birth families come to the HSF office where they are able to play, eat and laugh with their children in a safe, comfortable environment. Sumalee has been a regular visitor every month, taking advantage of every opportunity to bond with her son. By the time he was 6months old, Niran was clearly attached to his mother and comfortable in her arms.

After each play session with Niran, Sumalee joins a group meeting with other birth mothers and social workers. Gaining social support and planning skills from these meetings, Sumalee has made progress on creating the home she dreams of for her children. Sumalee has worked steadily as a housekeeper for more than three years now. With a loan from HSF, Sumalee has repaired her house and is making payments regularly. HSF has also provided educational support to Sumalee’s daughter so that she has the opportunity to stay in school.

My visit to HSF coincides with the monthly visit of birth families with their children in foster care. I have the privilege of listening to Sumalee describe her story as she cradles Niran in her arms. It is humbling to see that success can be measured in so many ways. For Sumalee, success has been measured by each step she has taken to bring her family closer to financial stability. With a steady job and her home loan nearly paid off, she is just days away from achieving her dream. She beams when she says, “Although it has been difficult, I believe I have made the right decision to keep my son. In just one more month, he will come home!” She is a proud parent, beaming with joy because she will soon achieve her wish for the New Year.


By Jennifer Goette, Holt Director of Strategic Initiatives



For just $30 a month, you can sponsor a child in Southeast Asia.  Learn more about Holt International’s sponsorship program by clicking here.



Ployrat Needs a Sponsor Today!

Date of Birth: 09-20-2010
Permanency Plan: Family Preservation
Gender: Female
Country: SE Asia

Child’s physical, social and emotional development:
Ployrat has developed well. She can walk and run well. She can speak 2-3 word sentences and can follow simple orders. She is a lively girl who plays well with her twin sister and older siblings. Their next door neighbor usually watches them when they go out to play. She enjoys playing with her twin sister and the family’s dog. The father works as a daily laborer on a rubber plantation, but he doesn’t earn much income.

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