Background & Historical Information

Holt’s Early Years

In the early 1950’s, 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 orphans 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 India

In 1979, an institution of love was born in Pune, India. Bharatiya Samaj Seva Kendra (BSSK) was founded as an Indian charitable trust registered under the Bombay Public Trusts Act of 1950. The goal was to provide welfare services to families and children irrespective of caste, creed, community or religion. By 1988, Holt had initiated two additional child care facilities, Children of the World Bombay (CWB) and Vathsalya Charitable Trust (VCT), and began providing foster care services. These wonderful organizations are independent and provide invaluable services to children, birth mothers, and the entire community.

Historically, Holt could only place children with families through one of four placing agencies in India. As of January 1, 2012, under the new CARA guidelines, families adopting a child from India were not limited to one of these facilities. Instead, families were able to register their preference for a specific state from which they would like to adopt. This new opportunity broadened Holt’s reach in India, allowing us to find homes for children in over 300 orphanages. It also allowed Holt more flexibility in the matching process with families as well as potentially reducing wait times for families. Because Holt may have only placed one or two children from a particular facility we may or may not still be in contact.

Holt’s adoption program in India closed in early 2018, but we continue to partner with several agencies to provide services such as child sponsorship, the nutrition program for children in care, and homes for unwed mothers.