- Holt International Children's Services
Holt International Children's Services (HICS) is a US-based
adoption agencyknown for international adoptions.
In 1954, Harry (1904–1964) and
Bertha Holt(1904–2000) were busy raising their six children on a farm near the small Willamette Valleytown of Creswell, Oregon. In addition to farming, Harry ran a lumber company. Bertha, trained as a nurse, was a homemaker and mother.
After seeing a documentary film about children in orphanages in
Korea, the Holts, acting upon their Christian faith, came to the conclusion that at the beginning of their fifth decade of life, they would adopt some of the orphans. Harry began preparations to go to Korea, and Bertha asked a friend how to go about adopting eight children from another country. Learning that it would be possible only if both houses of Congress passed a law allowing it, Bertha said, "Then that's what we'll do." (Aeby 1999).Two months later, the " Holt Bill" was passed, and in October 1955, Harry and eight children arrived at Portland International Airport. The resulting publicity stirred interest among many families in the United States. The Holts set about helping others to adopt, and what began as a small operation run from Bertha's kitchen table in Creswell (and Harry's hip pocket in Korea) soon became a major movement.
Photo: The Holt's arrival of their 8 adopted Korean children. Photo resource of Holt International Children's Services
Holt International Children’s Services guiding vision is "every child having a permanent, loving family." Holt’s strategic role, finding families for children, and their guiding principle, “What’s best for the child?” demand programs that encompass a wide range of responses to the needs of the world’s orphaned and abandoned children—responses that range from family preservation and reunification through in-country and intercountry adoption.
Consistent with the International Convention on the Rights of the Child and other adoption and child welfare standards, Holt’s model, in order of priority:
# maintains the child with their birth family or returns the child to their birth family if possible and appropriate; or
# places the child with an alternate family in their birth culture, if possible; and if not,
# places the child with a family in another country.
Family preservation (helping families develop the capacity to maintain self-sufficiency) and family reunification (returning an abandoned child to their family after the family's situation has stabilized) represented the largest portion of services provided to 10,642 families in 2003. Intercountry adoption represented about 33 percent of the children receiving services. The pioneering work in family preservation makes Holt unique among adoption agencies.
Developing alternative family and community-based programs
Governments and child welfare institutions can be wary of international adoption programs, reflecting very real concerns about child trafficking. In developing its international programs, Holt has created “best practices” models based upon the concept "What is best for the child." The Holt Model is designed to:
*develop the capacity of local institutions
**create of programs improving care for children in child welfare centers;
**develop temporary foster care
**create single mothers’ homes
**provide family preservation services
*reform child welfare structures through discussions with lawmakers, government officials, and orphanage staff, and through “best practices” modeling
*build sustainability of services
Indigenous and Culturally Appropriate Services
Holt is a pioneer in the development of indigenously based, culturally appropriate child welfare services and programs. Upon beginning work in a country, Holt establishes collaborative relationships, based upon mutual trust and respect, with existing agencies and child welfare workers. Whenever possible, Holt encourages the initial corporate office/partners to develop into independent agencies operating under control of a local, volunteer Board of Directors with in-country national staff.
For example, initial Holt offices in
South Korea(1956), Philippines(1976), Thailand(1976), India(1979), Romania(1989) and China(1993) have become legally independent, leading child welfare NGOs ( non-governmental organizations) within their respective countries. Holt also partners with existing NGOs specializing in permanency planning for children in Ecuador(1986), Guatemala(1986), Bulgaria(1992), Mongolia(2001), and Uganda(2001). Where partnering with an existing NGO is not feasible, such as in Vietnam(1973–1975, re-established 1991 at invitation of Vietnam government), Holt maintains its own offices but works quickly to develop local leadership for these offices. (Vietnam has no law allowing autonomous domestic non-governmental organizations.)
Training and Technical Assistance
Child welfare training is a key ingredient in developing alternative family and community-based programs. Training modules developed by Holt, and adapted to local environments, include
*social work skill development
*child assessment and reporting
*and trainer-of-trainer formats.
Prevention of Child Abandonment
Holt’s prevention programs target system entry points for children and families in crisis—hospitals, family crisis centers, orphanages and shelters—to prevent child abandonment. Safety nets are strengthened through training, and by providing Holt social workers at these entry points.
Child abandonment is also addressed through programs designed to strengthen the family and keep it together. Because of the extreme poverty in developing countries, one more child born into a family, or the illness of a primary caregiver or provider, often tips the balance from subsistence into crisis. Families in economic crisis have a significantly greater likelihood of abandoning their children. Unable to provide adequate food or medical care, parents make the heart-rending decision to place their children in institutional care, thinking that they will at least receive the basic necessities for survival.
Increasing economic opportunity and removing barriers to economic success, along with counseling, medical and nutritional assistance, parenting training, income generation and other supports, plays an important role in maintaining stable families and a healthy community. For example, in Vietnam and Romania, model family preservation programs, begun with
USAIDsupport, has resulted in far fewer children being abandoned, entering institutions, or living on the streets.
Sasuke and sasukeuaof care practiced by Holt and its partner agencies recognizes the benefit to the child of placement, with individual families, in foster care in preference to institutionalization. The foster care model created by Holt social workers for its international programs is different, in several important aspects, from that employed by social workers in the U.S. Holt’s temporary foster care is a means to finding a permanent home for a child, not a self-perpetuating end in which the child can never escape from “the system.” Holt carefully monitors the length of time in foster care for each child, with the average stay in care being about 6 months.
Infants living in orphanages—often a crowded environment with inadequate supervision—are at greater risk of developing
attachment disorder. Infants living in orphanages don’t cry. They have learned that crying will get no response. Getting children out of institutions is paramount to their well-being. Foster care placements provide children with the nurturing environment they need for optimum development while plans are completed for a child's permanent future within a family.
Foster care is designed with the participation of the local community in which the children will reside, and is part of an integrated system of care designed to find a permanent family placement for the child. Foster homes are located in neighborhoods near to the originating orphanages or near to Holt’s offices, facilitating monitoring of care.
In Vietnam, Holt partnered with the government and developed the first foster care program in that country. In Romania, local government child protection departments have replicated Holt foster care models across the country and long-term foster care has kept older, formerly institutionalized sibling groups together in a healthy environment. In Thailand and the Philippines, Holt partners do not run child caring facilities. Foster care is used for all children outside of birth family care. In China, Holt foster care models have been taken over by government child welfare authorities after seeing the success of the model.
When a child cannot remain with or return to his birth family, Holt works with governments and agencies to seek an adoptive family for the child within his culture and country of birth. In a number of countries, domestic adoption faces significant social stigma. Holt has worked to eliminate this stigma, with some success. For instance,
*India is a country where even ten years ago most people felt that domestic adoption was a lost cause. Today, four out of five of Holt's adoption placements in India are with local Indian families.
*In Romania, technical assistance and training programs for government officials has led to an increase in domestic adoption.
*In the Philippines, Holt’s partner is the only NGO providing domestic adoption services in the country and is regularly used by the government for training.
All of these successes have come about through public education, improved care for children and advocacy to improve government commitment.
Improved Care for Insitutionalized Children
Holt demonstrates appropriate care models for children within institutions to improve their care and development. Holt has helped child caring facilities establish special care units for particularly vulnerable children, including at-risk abandoned infants in fragile health and seriously disabled youth. Holt’s special care facility at Il San, Korea, devoted solely to children with profound disabilities, was established in 1961, and continues to serve as an innovative model for such facilities worldwide.
Accomplishments and Awards
Holt has provided technical assistance in many child welfare arenas and forums including the
United NationsTask Force for the International Year of the Child, The [http://hcch.e-vision.nl/index_en.php?act=conventions.text&cid=69 Hague Convention on Private International Law in Respect of Intercountry Adoption] , and the Policy Committee of the Child Welfare League of America. Holt was also instrumental in drafting the Code of Ethics of the [http://www.jcics.org/ Joint Council on International Children's Services] . Holt is an accredited child welfare agency, and is a member of the [http://www.cwla.org/ Child Welfare League of America] , Children's Charities of America, Independent Charities of America, the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability, and InterAction: The American Council for Voluntary International Action. Holt is registered as a private voluntary organization with the U.S. Agency for International Development.
Mrs. Bertha Holt, founder of Holt International Children’s Services, received over 47 awards, including the National Mother of the Year (1965) conferred by President
Lyndon B. Johnson, Korean Order of Merit Award (1995), and the Hannah Neil World of Children Award (2000).
* [http://www.holtintl.org/ Holt International Children's Services]
* Aeby, John (1999). "A Grandma for Thousands." "Her Children Arise and Call Her Blessed", p. 2.
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