Background & Historical Information

Holt’s History in Korea

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 vulnerable children through an organization called World Vision that worked in Korea. 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.[expand title=”Read More” swaptitle=”Read Less”]

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.[/expand]

Holt’s Work in Korea 1955-Present

• 1955 – The first twelve adoptees left Korea (including the Holts’ eight children)

• 1956 –

  • The Holt Adoption Program (HAP) office was established in the Salvation Army headquarters in Korea.
  • The Reception Center was established and 180 children were adopted by U.S. families.

• 1957 – HAP began processing domestic adoptions in Korea.

• 1958 – HAP moved to a new childcare center located at Nokbun-Dong, Seoul.

• 1960 – HAP was formally incorporated in the Republic of Korea; Harry Holt was appointed as Chairman of the Board. [expand title=”Read More” swaptitle=”Read Less”]

• 1961 – The Holt Ilsan center, built by Harry himself, was established in the town of Ilsan, located Northwest of Seoul.

• 1963 – Holt Ilsan was approved by the Korean government as a facility for the disabled.

• 1964 – Harry Holt suffered a heart attack while escorting children from HAP’s Seoul office to Ilsan, and passed away a few hours later at Ilsan.

• 1965 – HAP initiated foster care services in Korea. Children were placed with loving foster families whenever possible, providing a nurturing home environment.

• 1968 – The HAP headquarters were moved to the new Holt building in Mapo-gu, Seoul.

• 1972 – HAP, Inc. was renamed Holt Children’s Services, Incorporated (HCSI).

• 1972 – Counseling service programs were developed for unmarried mothers.

• 1973 – The HCSI branch office opened in the city of Busan (formerly Pusan).

• 1975 – The HCSI branch office opened in Daegu (formerly Taegu).

• 1976 – The Holt Reception Center opened in Mapo-gu, Seoul.

• 1976 – The Korean government required all adoption agencies in Korea be Korean owned and operated.

• 1977 – Holt Children’s Services of Korea (Holt Korea) was established as a separate agency and Holt International Children’s Services was formed.

• 1977 to Present – Holt Korea continues to place children through several different U.S. and European agencies, including Holt International.[/expand]


Two different Holt agencies

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In 1976, Korean law mandated that all adoption agencies be Korean owned and operated. At that time, Holt became two separate agencies — Holt International (Holt) and Holt Children’s Services of Korea (Holt Korea). Holt Korea works with Holt as well as several other U.S. and European agencies. At the time of the separation, the home office of the agency was in the U.S., and the majority of all files were shipped to this location for storage. Following 1976, both agencies retained copies of child materials, and do occasionally have different documents. If you were adopted after 1976, your U.S. agency may or may not have been Holt International.

Holt Korea’s U.S. partner agencies may include WACAP, Wide Horizons, Bethany Christian and others. If you’re unsure, talk with your parents. They may remember which U.S. agency completed their home study and post-placement reports.[/expand]

European Adoptees

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Holt Children’s Services of Korea (Holt Korea) partners with several European agencies to place children into homes in France, Belgium, Norway, and other countries. All records for European adoptees are maintained by Holt Korea and the European agency. Holt International is only licensed to place children into homes in the U.S. Consequently, we have none of your documents. If you are unable to locate your European agency, please email us at for assistance.[/expand]