The Benefits of Attending Holt International Adoptee Camps

By Jayna Habben

Holt International Adoptee Camps have developed a perfect formula for providing meaningful occupations for international adoptees, such as feeling a sense of belonging, learning about birth countries, and meeting other adoptees.

Each year Holt International Adoptee Camps welcome children, most of whom were born in other countries and have come to the United States via adoption.  Holt camps are especially designed for young adoptees and offer activities to promote physical and psychological health of adoptees through occupations that are meaningful to them.  As a Holt adoptee myself, and now a student enrolled in the Master’s Level Program for Occupational Therapy at College of Saint Mary in Omaha, Nebraska, I believe my knowledge of occupational therapy and my childhood experience attending Holt camps, provides evidence and insight regarding the healthy impact these camps can have on international adoptees, both physically and psychologically.

The main goal of occupational therapy is to promote health and participation through engagement in meaningful occupations (American Occupational Therapy Association, 2008).  Although occupational therapy and the activities offered by Holt International Adoptee Camps do not on the surface appear to have anything in common, when looking closely at the principles and goals of each, they are very similar.  I believe that I am qualified to discuss this topic because, as a student in an occupational therapy program, I am educated and trained on how to assist people in completing their occupations independently and successfully.  It is also important to occupational therapists that people are assisted both physically and psychologically in order to promote a healthy lifestyle and social participation using an individualized treatment plan.  Holt camp offers kids the opportunity to participate in occupations that address physical and psychological health that increase their social participation, which are meaningful to international adoptees.

Holt International Adoptee Camps are able to provide international adoptees with physical occupations in order to promote health.  At the camps, Holt has incorporated a wide variety of physical activities such as swimming, playing sports, dancing, hiking, and a variety of group games.  Adoptees are able to experience enjoyment in eating healthy foods on a regular 3 meal schedule with small nutritious snacks throughout the day. Providing these physical occupations is highly important in two ways: First, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, “obesity now affects 17% of all children and adolescents in the United States – triple the rate from just one generation ago” (Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 2012).  Second, it is important because the activities are meaningful for international adoptees in introducing new perspectives on their adoption and the Adoptee community they are a part of.

Child coloring

The Holt International Adoptee Camps are also able to provide psychological occupations increasing social participation that can assist adoptees in learning more about themselves, and discussing adoption, race, or identity questions with other adoptees.  The camps provide trained adoptee counselors that can assist in guiding or answering the questions of international adoptees (Holt International Children’s Services, 2013).  The camp also acknowledges through the activities provided, the importance of being part of a community.  A community includes characteristics such as locale, common ties, and social interactions (Fazio, 2008). Increasing social participation with other adoptees can help to develop relationships, communication skills, and emotional aspects and apply them to everyday life, which is important to everyone.

I believe it is important for parents to know that camps such as Holt’s, provide internationally adopted children with the opportunity to meet new people, many of whom will share similar race and ethnic backgrounds; explore their individual identities; and have lots of fun, while promoting a healthy lifestyle.  More importantly, I want to stress how the camps are able to promote health and social participation through meaningful occupations, which is a key component of and supported by the occupational therapy profession (American Occupational Therapy Association, 2008).  The overall mission of Holt International Adoptee Camps and the goals of occupational therapy are similar in providing the best opportunities to maximize a child’s quality of life.


American Occupational Therapy Association. (2008). Occupational therapy practice framework: Domain and process, 2nd edition.  The American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 62, pp. 625-683.

Center for Disease Control and Prevention (2012).  Childhood overweight and obesity.  Retrieved from:

Fazio, L. S. (2008).  Community: What do we mean?. In M. Cohen (Eds.), Developing occupation-centered programs for the community (pp. 1-20). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education, Inc.

Holt International Children’s Services. (2013, April/May). What’s so special about Holt Adoptee Camps?. Holt International Children’s Services, 55(2), 26.

My name is Jayna Habben.  I was born in Taegu, South Korea on February 25, 1990.  At the age of four months, I was adopted by my parents, Jon and Kathy Habben, and traveled to the State of Nebraska, where I grew up.  I am presently a graduate student enrolled in the Occupational Therapy Program at College of Saint Mary, in Omaha, Nebraska.

As a child I attended the Holt International Adoptee Camp near Fremont, Nebraska, for several summers.  Every summer I looked forward to attending Holt Camp where I was offered a wide variety of opportunities to become familiar with other cultures and spend time with other children who shared similar adoption experiences.  As an international adoptee, I believe it is important that children adopted from other countries know about their birth countries and meet other international adoptees.  At camp I learned a great deal about Korea and Korean culture.  My camp experiences have helped me in a variety of ways, but most importantly, to appreciate my ethnicity.

As a current occupational therapy student, I have learned that it is very important for children to participate in occupations (daily life activities) that enhance both physical and psychological development.  My education has assisted me in recognizing the importance of advocating for my profession, promoting healthy lifestyles through occupations, and working in collaboration with something I am passionate about, such as Holt International Adoptee Camp.

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