Background & Historical Information

Holt’s History

In the early 1950s, Harry and Bertha Holt, a quiet couple from the small town of Creswell, Oregon, saw a film about mixed race children in Korean orphanages who were in need of help. The Holts were so touched by the children’s plight that Harry, Bertha, and their six children began to sponsor these children through an organization called World Vision. Over the next few years, the Holts sent money, clothes, food and medical supplies, but still felt they weren’t doing enough — these children needed loving families and permanent homes.Read More

In 1955, Harry and Bertha wanted to adopt eight Korean children, but soon learned it would be impossible under the current immigration and adoption laws in the United States. In order to adopt more than one child internationally, they would have to petition Congress to pass a new, specialized law. “Then that’s what we’ll do,” Bertha said. The Congressional Act was passed in under a year, an amazing accomplishment in any era.

At a time when adoption was considered taboo, the Holts followed their deep Christian faith and adopted eight children from a country on the other side of the world.

Word spread and inspired people across the nation. The Holts received hundreds of letters from couples asking how they, too, could adopt children from Korea. Only five months after he brought their eight children home, Harry headed back to Korea to help other children find “forever families.” In 1956, financed almost entirely by Harry and Bertha’s personal funds, the Holt Adoption Program was officially born.

When Harry passed away in 1964, many thought the Holt agency would simply close. However, Bertha responded to her husband’s death with unyielding faith, and again proclaimed, “This work was always God’s work. If He wants it to continue, it will.” Her strength and conviction persevered, and Holt continued to grow and meet the needs of more orphaned, abandoned and vulnerable children around the world.

Bertha worked tirelessly on behalf of children in need until her death at age 96. To adoptive families and the thousands of children whose lives Bertha helped change, she was affectionately known as “Grandma Holt.”

Harry and Bertha were both laid to rest in Korea, the country they came to love, surrounded by the people they served for so many years. Their legacy will live on as long as there are children who still wait for a forever family.

Holt’s Work in China

In 1992, David Kim and Susan Cox met with Chinese adoption representatives who were involved with the Hague Convention. After gathering information regarding adoption in China, Holt representatives traveled to fully investigate the possibility of opening an adoption program in mainland China.

Holt’s adoption program officially opened in 1993. Although there was no office initially, an office was eventually opened in Hong Kong to assist with the adoption facilitation in Guangzhou, Guangdong. In 2002 the main Holt office moved to Beijing when China became more open to agencies operating offices within mainland China. A second office was established in Guangzhou, Guangdong, to facilitate adoptions in the region.

In the early years of the program the profile of child coming home was primarily young, healthy girls. This changed in 2007 when there were more families interested in adopting a healthy girl from China and not enough children. The children who remained in orphanage care needing homes were boys and girls with special needs. Some of these special needs are minor, correctible needs like cleft lip and palate, and others have more complex needs like spina bifida and cerebral plasy. Now, there are equal numbers of boys and girls adopted from China, all with special needs, and many are older when they arrive home.

Holt has found homes for over 7,000 children throughout the program history. We continue to advocate for children through adoption, foster care programs, group home support, nutrition services, support for children with HIV, and family strengthening. Holt partners with several orphanages in various regions of China. As part of our relationship with them, these orphanages designate some of their children to Holt for home finding. Through Holt’s programming we provide services to approximately 4,000 annually, focusing more resources on child welfare than international adoption.