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 Holt’s were so touched by the children’s plights that Harry, Bertha, and their six children began to sponsor these orphans through an organization that worked in Korea called World Vision. Over the next few years, the Holt’s sent money, clothes, food, and medical supplies to Korea, 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 passed in under a year, an amazing accomplishment in any era.

At a time when adoption was considered taboo, the Holt’s 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 Holt’s 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 the Philippines

In 1975, Holt began to assess and evaluate child welfare needs in the Philippines. Long-term relationships were forged and a foundation called “Kaisahang Buhay Foundation” (KBF) was established. Holt has helped to improve local childcare and adoption practices, as well as find loving, stable families in the U.S. for over 900 orphaned and abandoned children in the Philippines. In addition to KBF’s loving, compassionate care for orphaned and abandoned children, KBF continually strives to keep or reunite children with their birth families before pursuing adoption.

Support services for struggling families include daycare, financial and nutritional assistance, microloans to start small businesses and follow-up services to ensure stability. To prevent child abandonment, KBF counsels dozens of families and pregnant single women annually, many of whom also receive housing, prenatal care and post-delivery services. Through KBF, Holt also helps to provide attentive, nurturing foster care for children awaiting adoption in the Philippines.