Background & Historical Information

Holt’s History

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 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 Vietnam

In March of 1973, Holt’s Vietnam program became operational. In January of 1974, Holt received a license to operate their facility under the name Holt Nutrition Center. In the years since, Holt has developed an array of services that fall into two categories: Community Based Care (CBC) and Child Welfare Centers (CWC).

Community-Based Care (CBC):

The CBC focus is on family strengthening, foster care and single mother services. Through various efforts such as counseling, microloans and income-generating projects, pre- and postnatal medical care, temporary shelter and more, Holt Vietnam helps struggling families overcome hardship and helps children to grow and thrive in the loving care of their families.

Child Welfare Centers (CWC):

The CWC focus is primarily on family reunification and domestic adoption. By providing safe, temporary shelter for children, Holt Vietnam helps struggling families regain stability and helps children thrive while waiting to rejoin their birth family or an adoptive family in their birth country.

Intercountry Adoption:

Intercountry adoption in only considered for children who cannot remain with or rejoin their birth families, or join an adoptive family in Vietnam. With the dissolution of the bilateral agreement between Vietnam and the U.S. government in 2008, intercountry adoption between the U.S. and Vietnam ceased in 2010 and would not reopen until September 2014.​


Vietnamese Legal Documents

Many adoptees and adoptive parents wonder if the legal documents from Vietnam hold clues to the adoptee’s birth history. Common questions include:

• Is the information in the Vietnamese documents different from the information on the English copies?

• Do the birth family or foster family live at the address given in the documents?

• Will the person listed as the guardian remember the adoptee? Can they be contacted?

The legal documents found in an adoptee’s file may include the Statement of Relinquishment, Release and Consent, Affidavit and the Extraction from a Register of Births. Depending on when the adoptee came into care, the legal documents may have slightly different names, but they serve the same purpose and were created in the same ways as the ones described below.Read More

Although an adoptee’s legal documents are important, they do not necessarily contain clues to the adoptee’s past.  Holt recommends adoptees obtain a complete set of documents either from their adoptive parents or Holt.  We are happy to provide these copies whenever possible, and review them with the adoptee to help them better understand their personal history.  Please note that documents issued prior to the closure of the program in 1975 often contain addresses, towns or hospitals and clinics that no longer exist due to the war and rebuilding of Vietnam.

In most cases, the original Vietnamese and English versions of legal documents are sent to the adoptive parents when the child comes home. Our files usually contain carbon or photocopies of these documents, but not always.  All legal documents are created by the Vietnamese government at the request of Holt Vietnam. They are not created by the adoption agencies, and they do conform to the legal requirements of Vietnam at that time.

The following are examples of documents that may be similar to your own. Like all countries, the Vietnamese government has changed the style or format of documents through the decades, but the intention of each has remained the same.

Extracted from a Register of BirthsRead More

This document confirms that the adoptee’s birth has been registered with the Vietnamese government; it’s use is the same as a state-issued U.S. birth certificate.  Typically, birth certificates are not automatically issued when a child is born.  Birth parents are responsible for visiting the appropriate government office and registering their child’s birth, which can happen at any point in time.  Children born in rural areas, out of wedlock, or to impoverished families may not have their birth registered until that child needs a certificate for school or employment, or when relinquished for adoption.  Consequently, it is common to have the registration dated months to years after birth, and may nor may not contain any information regarding birth place or birth parents.

Click to enlarge these sample documents circa 1974

Vietnam1974 VN Birth Reg              Vietnam1974 Birth Reg   

Statement of Relinquishment Read More

This document details a birth parent’s relinquishment of their child to an agency or individual’s care.  These documents may or may not include the birth parent’s full name, address or identification number.  The person listed as the guardian or social worker typically was not the child’s direct care giver, but was often a representative of Holt Vietnam, the social welfare system, or another orphanage or care facility.  Again, addresses on documents issued prior to 1975 may not exist today, but we are happy to investigate this with you.

Click to enlarge these sample documents circa 1974

Vietnam1974 Relinquishment

Release and Consent  Read More

When children are relinquished for adoption or abandoned, the court appoints a legal guardian for that child.  For many children, the guardian was the social worker or director of the child care facility where they lived.  In the example below, the child was in Holt Vietnam’s direct care, and the director of Holt Vietnam was appointed as their guardian.  In order to be adopted, the child’s guardian must agree to this, and release the child from their care.

Click to enlarge this sample circa 1974

Vietnam1974 Release