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 Thailand

With the fundamental belief that every child deserves the opportunity to grow up in a family, Holt Sahathai Foundation (HSF) was founded in 1976 by a group of Thai social work educators and indigenous social workers practicing in the field of child and family welfare and with the assistance of Holt International Children’s Services. The main goals of HSF are to strengthen a family unit through professional social work services and provide different kinds of support in order to prevent abandonment, neglect, abuse and any other forms of maltreatment of children, as well as offering a family-based alternative care for children who are living without parental care. The HSF head office is in Bangkok, with a branch office in Nakhon Si Thammarat, in Southern Thailand.