Holt adoption baby

sell by 12/19/66

The other side of the coin

Now, being all new to adoption two years ago, I wasn’t quite exactly sure what people meant by the word entitlement bandied about by anti-adoption adoptees, but I knew in other circles it meant the haves thinking everything can or should be theirs.  I also knew that adoptive parents really resented being accused of exercising their entitlement to adopt, especially since applying is viewed as an ordeal by some.

Living here in Korea and thinking about the war and Korea today, I’ve come to appreciate just what entitlement means.

Harry Holt, who is portrayed as a simple man of extraordinary magnanimity, was in actual fact a rather wealthy zealot:  wealthy enough to quit farming and travel the world to participate in missionary work without anybody missing bread on the table at home.  He claimed God spoke to him by pointing him to a piece of scripture which he interpreted as a command to take children from the East and turn them into Christians.  Because he was an evangelical zealot, he saw the entire population of Korean children as fodder for easy conversion, and it was his goal to bring as many as he could to God by removing them from their heathen country.  And so, in an amazing PR move, he set about making himself a precedent and getting the government to sanction his efforts by calling it war relief;  thus creating a mechanism whereby he could ship a steady stream of these children to America to live as Christians.  And which later he was able to permanently change adoption law…long after the war was over and continuing to the present day.

What he did by coming to Korea and starting International adoption was he carefully crafted the marriage of charity with the acquisition of children.  Social workers at the time were appalled that children would be uprooted from their native cultures and worried about how (or if) they would assimilate into a country where they would be a minority and possibly marginalized. They questioned whether importing these children was in the best interests of the child.

The first children he brought over were Amerasian children, who would have been targets for discrimination and difficult lives.  Were his intentions charitable, or were they exploitative?  Helping those Amerasian children was admirable, but was bringing them to America for the children, or were they being used as an experiment in gaining future evangelical Christian recruits?

I’ve talked to some of these older adoptees, and the stories are pretty horrific.  They were used as servants and laborers.  They had doctrine hounded into them.  They had the Korean LITERALLY beaten out of them.  They were abused in many ways.  They were denied shares of inheritance.  OR they became almost evangelical themselves, preaching the word of how Harry or God saved their lives.

But let’s get back to the topic at hand, entitlement. People around the globe were fascinated with this act by Mr. Holt.  FASCINATED.  My mother included.  Why, you mean we can be charitable AND get a child by doing so?  We can help a child and get to keep it?  And this is where entitlement comes in.  Because people who would have never considered helping a local orphan suddenly wanted a child that came delivered from a plane.  Or, the inverse:  the fact they could get a child previously only seen in magazines might prompt them to suddenly become charitable.  From that time forward, helping children overseas only became desirable if it gave an immediate and direct benefit to the benefactor, and in this way have the lives of children been com-modified as a luxury item.

And the reason for justifying the transportation of children 5,000+ miles away from their country was that they had the means.  EVEN if it was a struggle or sacrifice, they still had the means.  And having the means allows one to entertain one’s wants with less consideration.  And THAT is adoptive parent entitlement.

And that is by no means an indictment of adoptive parents:  I too am guilty of this on occasion.  It just is what it is and should be recognized, so we can really look at the whole picture honestly.  It’s like me recognizing when I’m being a racist.  It’s uncomfortable but necessary so we can work harder to make more informed decisions in the future before we’ve gone and contributed to this mess.

Not much has changed since then, except that Christianity is no longer the prerequisite for obtaining a child from another country.  And that’s only because the U.S. government made them…

No.  Wait.  I forgot what a strategic genius Harry was.  When the stock of Amerasian babies ran out, and when the economy improved and starving families ran out, he managed to convince Koreans that the children of unwed mothers should go to him.  So that he (and now his daughter) may call them motherless and homeless.  (they counsel the mothers to give up their children and then call the children motherless and put them in foster care and then call them homeless!)  So that people who want children from magazines can continue to think of their wants as charitable and totally ignore the social conditions that don’t improve because of the intervention of adoption agencies.  Adoption is to social services as the ajumma is to street cleaning, who arrives at dawn so the streets are spotless when the business day starts.  Yup, adoption is a wonderful thing for the Korean government.

It’s quite the marriage:  Harry Holt + Korea.

And now + Ethiopia, +China, +the Philippines, +India, +Thailand, +Vietnam, +Nepal, +Uganda, +Haiti.

And if you notice, Holt continues on in Korea almost 60 years later.  And notice too that Korea is the only country that isn’t in poverty, with China rising in ranks.  And that is because Korea has the dubious distinction of being the first country from which children have been taken for International adoption.  And you will no doubt notice that, if Holt International has their way, they will continue to “help” all those other countries long after their fortunes improve. And they will be there at the first international disaster, ready to lay the foundation for a continued presence in whatever country is currently on their knees.

Staying long after you’re no longer needed.  Creating a need where none exists.  Fighting efforts to improve social services.  To me, Holt and the other international adoption agencies are no charity.  They are exploiters now only pandering to the entitled.

All I’m saying is look.  Recognize.  Let’s stop the madness.

Written by girl4708

August 13, 2010 at 7:42 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

17 Responses

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. I am curious if you know anything of Pearl Buck’s role in adoption during and following the Korean War. I just recently read an article written by her in 1958 where she describes her work in the adoption of mixed raced children and Korea was one country she worked with specifically. I didn’t know how tied she was to Holt or the further perpetuation of intra-country adoption.


    August 16, 2010 at 5:38 pm

  2. I have run across it in the past and not bothered to retain anything about it (and too busy right this second) I do know that prior to Holt there was an organization doing missionary work, and Holt joined them and his adoption thing was an off-shoot of that program.

    I also know that Pearl S. Buck was there early on and in the thick of it, and I believe her work (correct me if I’m wrong) laid the foundation for one of the other international adoption agencies. You can read about it on their foundation website, if memory serves me correctly.

    Two peas in a pod. But Harry and Bertha paved the way. Harry’s methods were extreme and a lot of them were used as a model for all adoption to come, although they have been tamed quite a bit by time and criticism. So Pearl used the mechanisms Harry established in Korea. I don’t think that they had anything to do with each other other that.

    I believe Pearl was also evangelical and zealous in her attempts at charity in Asia (her focus was not just on Korea) but I think she might not have been as extreme as Harry. Those are just my hazy impressions. I think she meant well, but good intentions can get out of hand…


    August 16, 2010 at 7:06 pm

  3. To be honest I know very little. I came across this article that she wrote in a 1958 Reader’s Digest magazine. It seems as if her original intention was purely to fight the racism in America about the adopting of of Asian/Caucasian children but when she mentioned expanding into Korea with children of American soldiers I started to wonder where she fit in with Holt and his “work”. Like you said, it sounded like she meant well but since my cursory internet look shows that her adoption agency is still working today it went beyond its original intentions.


    August 17, 2010 at 4:21 am

  4. Adoption, whether international or domestic, is a process born of tragedy; for the birth parent who loses their child, for the child who loses their parent and for the adoptive family unable to conceive their own child.

    There are bad adoption agencies in it for the money, bad agencies doing it for their religiously driven mission and a few good ones that really are focused on the best interest of the child. What that means can be different and trying to come up with a moral certainty would be irresponsible.

    It might be important to determine whether the Holt of 1958, born as a product of their time, has changed. I am an adoptive parent (full disclosure here). Holt is actively working to preserve families and provide economic resources and education in Ethiopia, where we sponsor families along with assistance to AHOPE, an organization assisting children with HIV.

    There are families that see international adoption as a religious mission and agencies that support that motive. I think its disgusting. It seems that if your only motivation is to impress God, (s)he would be really pissed off.

    Life is complicated, there are no easy answers, some children will thrive and some will not, whether at home or abroad.

    While the increased regulation is difficult to maneuver, everyone with whom I have worked welcomes the regulation and any effort to ensure the integrity of the process.

    Child trafficking will not stop, however. The millions of children trafficked for sex, for work and for slavery will continue regardless of what happens with international adoption. To the extent that international adoption provides a safe and transparent alternative to this trade for families whom, for whatever reason, cannot care for their own children, perhaps is a good thing.

    Until countries evolve economically and socially to support their own children, perhaps it is a necessary thing.

    Michael in Glendale

    August 17, 2010 at 7:18 pm

  5. “Until countries evolve economically and socially to support their own children, perhaps it is a necessary thing.”

    The countries don’t bother once international adoption agencies are there. Adoption agencies remove the need for building social infra-structure services. International adoption retards the evolution of economically disadvantaged countries.


    August 21, 2010 at 2:13 am

  6. Yes and no. Romania has been on all sides of this and it doesn’t look that good. They were disadvantaged and the orphanages and orphan situation was HORRENDOUS. The government had no ability or desire to care properly. In steps international adoption agencies and takes over. After huge problems with fraud and few safe guards against baby trafficking the all international adoption is eliminated completely.

    There has been no international adoptions out of Romania in almost 10 years and yet the orphan situation is only SLIGHTLY better than it was prior to the fall of communism. And only for 2 reason.

    1. They no longer have a government that outlaws contraception so there isn’t an overwhelming number of babies born in poverty-stricken homes. Therefore it is easier for the government to care for the numbers but they still do very little.

    2. There is still foreign money from former adoption agencies flowing into the country to help those orphans still there.

    Governments either care or they don’t. You can hope that they EVENTUALLY do but that may take decades or not at all. I don’t know if China ever would have without international pressure because these were babies they could ill afford to support in the first place. They were facing possible starvation issues and actively supporting babies that weren’t supposed to be born in the first place was rather self-defeating.

    Now however, with international pressure, China has started to close off the flow on international adoptions to a LARGE degree (6 month wait to a 6 year wait), encourage in-country adoptions and worked within itself to eliminate abandoned babies. But would that international pressure have been there if the adoption agencies and so many American parents and news agencies constantly watching them?


    August 21, 2010 at 5:20 am

  7. We know that there are many unethical agencies and many of the motivations are unsavory. Holt has evolved and bears little resemblance to the era fromehich it was born. Two thirds if the children it serves will never be adopted. They are part of educTion and family preservation programs designed to encourage and foster viable families. Holt actively discourages adoption if they believe that there is any chance the family can stay together. It is not always possible, not even in the united states.

    Which is why it is still sometimes necessary. People and agencies change with time. Holt is. Dry different now and may be part of the solution, not a continuation of the problem


    August 21, 2010 at 6:04 am

  8. Let me back up and say though that China had some serious adoption fraud that no one knows how long it went on and who all was involved which is part of the reason, I believe, that it chose to slow down the international adoption program. It also realized (without adoption agencies help) that a boy only generation was going to be a huge problem so they actively worked to promote daughters.

    And I also believe that most (probably all) adoption agencies are really more concerned with their bottom line. Case in point, once China started to slow down they continued to tell their clients that it was temporary and it would speed back up. Hence they still had clients coming in and paying money up front with a wait that is now expected to possibly climb to 12 years.


    August 21, 2010 at 6:41 am

  9. p.s. After months of searching for information on Romania because I always felt it best fit the example of “should or shouldn’t” when it comes to international adoptions, I finally found new data that I didn’t know when I made my last comment.

    So I am correcting my previous argument that Romania failed in self-correcting its treatments of orphans post international adoption. Apparently, the situation in Romania continues to improve all the time and some people believe that any bad press now is encouraged by agencies to bring in donations.


    August 21, 2010 at 7:59 am

  10. “Holt actively discourages adoption if they believe that there is any chance the family can stay together”

    I will agree that their role has changed – it’s become more sophisticated and responsive to criticism. To help two
    Ethiopian children so they can adopt the third out is not about helping the two children, it’s about the two children making it okay to adopt the third out. It’s still all about adoption. Similarly, Here in Korea, special needs orphanages and domestic adoption is not about the special needs children and domestic adoption, but that it makes it okay to continue the international adoption program. There is an unofficial and very real quota system with the government. Holt’s role here is not passive but is aggressive. It intervenes in society, not just responds to it. Holt creates orphans and takes early intervention to a new level with its unwed mothers homes and presence in hospitals. It helps destroy families before they have a chance to begin.

    I feel adoptive parents and the world are gullible and naive to think that they won’t try to extend their stay and call as many children orphans as they can in every country that they go to. You’re not questioning the validity of whether or not these children are truly orphans or what role Holt had/HAS TODAY in them becoming orphans. You aren’t speaking to the first moms and living in the mother country like I am. And if their role has truly changed, then they should be working WITH us to better society…but that would mean their supply would dry up.

    Please see my post on Questions to ask about International Adoption from Korea.

    And go talk to an unwed Korean mom about what they experience in Holt’s unwed mother’s homes.

    And write me back thirty years from now about the Ethiopia adoption program, now that medication is keeping AIDS moms alive. You’ll see. There will be some new reason for creating paper orphans / social orphans. There will always be a reason Holt can find to capitalize on.


    August 21, 2010 at 3:40 pm

  11. Ann,

    I’ll admit I don’t know much about Romania except from cursory investigation. My impression is that it had to end international adoption abruptly due to the exposure that international adoption there was truly incidiously corrupt, and didn’t have a well thought-out exit strategy. It is also a very young, inexperienced country tackling more than its share of social problems. But there is definitely a lot of skewed perspectives in the reviews of their current programming, depending on if you’re talking to adoptive parents eating a steady diet of adoption industry dogma, or if you’re talking to adoption reform activists and social workers. Many of the problems seemed to be with the older orphans who weren’t attractive to foreign adoptive parents in the first place, and which is a problem world-wide.

    I believe they did the right thing, and though it was ugly for awhile, the situation has much improved. I also believe that they were a great proving ground and we can learn many lessons from their experience.

    To both of you/all of you,
    The argument that the adoption agencies are a catalyst for improvement to the “sending” countries doesn’t hold water with me. If that is the case, then why isn’t the adoption industry fighting WITH us to improve social services to unwed mothers? To follow the Hague convention? Etc. Please read the Questions to Ask post…

    I think their posture and position speaks a world about where their true interests lie.

    As for China, I think China changes because they don’t want to be like Korea. Maybe more and more countries should want to NOT be like Korea. You can’t take a country seriously as a world power if their children are still thought of as charity cases. I really don’t think they care what adoptive parents of Chinese girls think. But I don’t like to talk about Chinese adoption programs, because I’m weary enough as it is and don’t have the energy (or knowledge of that situation) to get into it with their hugely active AP community.

    OK. Post fatigue setting in. Over and out on this topic.


    August 21, 2010 at 4:15 pm

  12. I am not nor have I argued the validity of the methods that some agencies use or the methods holt used at it’s inception. But neither is the issue black and white. And while not all adoptees are orphaned, that does not mean that they were taken or coerced. Children who were abandoned or relinquished in countries where domestic adoption is not viable are relegated to institutions or the streets. International adoption, with the caveat that it is open and transparent, is a viable alternative. To argue the causality of the abuse without acknowledging the need for a variety of solutions (I.e. the product) is intellectually inappropriate.

    I cannot speak for all coincides and their complicity in the corruption or how it has molded their approach to unwanted children, but complicity is an issue.

    In our case, the relinquishing parent has to appear in court to explain why an adoption is sought. There are sometimes several court dates involved. We have a video of our child’s mother explaining her reasons for relinquishing her child, we provide regular updates to which she has access and our son can contact her when he gets older.

    We know that corruption and abuse is rampant and it makes me very angry. We are not naive. Not all adoptees in this country are orphans. I am just saying that international adoption, properly executed, is a viable component to finding viable homes for children that need them.


    August 21, 2010 at 5:34 pm

  13. I can agree with much of what you say, however this stuck out…

    “I am not nor have I argued the validity of the methods that some agencies use or the methods holt used at it’s inception.”

    That Holt uses TODAY. Will use tomorrow if given the opportunity. Say the program you got your kids from is pristine. (skeptical, but say it is) It’s still coordinated on the international level by a broker that has dirty hands. If the Cadillac of adoption agencies uses Korea as a model for the Cadillac of adoption programs, and those are in turn the model for most international adoption programs, what does that say about international adoption?

    It’s not being properly executed. In most countries it’s not being properly executed.

    And my sincere concern is that this supply chain is analogous to a multi-national corporation. So one good apple does not a rotton bunch make good.

    And even more essential than that: there shouldn’t be any reasons why any woman should have to relinquish her kid. Most kids are relinquished because there is social injustice for their original families. If we are truly being charitable, then we would work on fixing that.


    August 21, 2010 at 6:09 pm

  14. Korea has a lot of issues, they are asking lots of questions about how they can integrate fully adopted children into society. It is a screwed up social contract that agencies like holt didn’t fix, but neither did they invent.

    Ultimately, in a perfect world with perfect social justice, women will have choices about the future of their children began then, Rhodes will likely include adoption. When there are not the mechanisms or societal acceptance to meet the needs of those children, international adoption is a viable alternative.

    How many children are you willing to sacrifice while working for this social justice you believe will solve every child’s circumstance. Is there an interim solution? Is it possible to work for both?

    We currently give money to preserve families in Ethiopia and provide care for children too old to be adopted, mostly in their teens. It isn’t enough and wasn’t a solution for our son. What would you have his future be? Not the one where social justice prevails, because it simpy doesn’t exist for him. What would be your solution for him today? And for the millions just like him?

    There are no perfect solutions. Cone up with one that works now, not just fifty years from now when we are all dead. It’s complicated. Let the solution be complicated.


    August 21, 2010 at 7:35 pm

  15. “How many children are you willing to sacrifice while working for this social justice you believe will solve every child’s circumstance. Is there an interim solution? Is it possible to work for both?”

    I am SO SICK of this mindset.

    And you think the current response is solving every child’s circumstance? Think again.

    Separating children from their mothers and/or countries and cultures as a solution sounds very extreme to me – like cutting off several limbs, this from a product of this process, adoption.

    “”How many children are you willing to sacrifice…”

    No adoption reform activists are going to let children DIE, for the love of God!. The interim solution is halting the CREATION of new orphans on paper and taking care of (and adopting out the ones already there, as well as REAL ORPHANS, which are VERY FEW.

    How many more children have to LOSE THEIR IDENTITY so that privileged people can “help” them only if they own them?

    “Cone up with one that works now, not just fifty years from now when we are all dead”

    THIS is the argument the status quo has always used to arrest change. There has NEVER IN THE HISTORY OF THE WORLD been a perfect solution provided prior to an attempt for a change in social justice.

    And, just because you do the best within the present system is not good enough, because the present system fails because most people aren’t you. And people like you love band-aids.

    Every “aid” effort should include an exit strategy to empower the people they are helping and give local peoples the tools to help themselves. But if Holt did that, they wouldn’t get babies. Your hero’s motives always fall short of the real help people need. And helping people does not mean providing a means for and convincing people to give away their most precious resource, their flesh and blood.

    “Korea has a lot of issues, they are asking lots of questions about how they can integrate fully adopted children into society. It is a screwed up social contract that agencies like holt didn’t fix, but neither did they invent”

    You will always exonerate Holt because they were your agent of exploitation so you could get a child, won’t you?
    You want so badly for them to be saints. But I’m telling you that Holt came here and COMPLICATED an already complex social contract. They try and make adoption the defacto choice for women in a tough situation. They have successfully positioned themselves with the government and local institutions such as hospitals and creating these unwed mother’s homes, so that the gravity all rolls towards them. Their presence has made the consequences of breaking social contract MORE terrifying.

    You’re right Korea’s got complicated social contracts. But you’re wrong that they’re incomprehensible, or that the rest of the world doesn’t have them. Also, Korea’s social contracts are extreme but they are parallel to convservative America in the 1950’s and it’s not valid to say they are they are incorrigible. They are the future of all of the countries Holt operates in. It’s been 56 years Holt’s been in Korea’s womb and they haven’t helped create a real solution for Korea yet, while 200,000 children have been exported

    I’d call this a big FAILURE, this model for the world.


    August 21, 2010 at 11:57 pm

  16. Holt is not my hero. My son is my hero as his sacrifice was greater than ours.

    I do not feel entitled. I feel lucky.

    I have never used the word orphan with regard to adoption. No one does anymore.

    Holt seems very happy that Korea is ending it’s international adoption program. At least the staff with whom I have spoken.

    The fact that 2/3 of the children holt provides services to are never foxing to be adopted and family preservation is now a primary goal. It seems that the exit strategy you advocate is already part of the program.

    If the solution is preventing unwanted children altogether, that is a scenario that is even more ominous. Exactly how does that happen? Do we stone unmarried mothers? Do we compel mothers with unplanned pregnancies to abort or raise their children regardless of situation?

    Reform is necessary and viable options for parents are necessary. To assert birthright by ethnicity is it’s own form of xenophobia. In a world where the borders and ethnicities are porous and diverse, I prefer the one that’s open.

    It is easy to have a position that advocates the simple position, the moral absolute that validates everything. It’s also easy to indict those who have a different perspective as being part of the problem or being blind to what you know is a moral certainty. It is difficult to allow yourself to think that someone roses views, born of their own research and experience, have any validity.

    Your concerns are valid, your solutions are not perfect. You can’t just be content to talk about them. You have to execute them and mind the casualties in the process.


    August 22, 2010 at 12:58 am

  17. Well, I welcome Holt Ethiopia to come work in Korea then, because Holt Korea isn’t happy about an end to International adoption.

    “To assert birthright by ethnicity is it’s own form of xenophobia”

    OK. You grow up as a marginalized minority in Ethiopia. You can’t imagine being in that situation because you’re privileged. Culture can’t be replicated by those who haven’t lived it, and attempts at doing so are a poverty-stricken substitution. THAT’s our birthright stripped from us by international adoption, and in most cases, it is only accessed locally.

    “It is easy to have a position that advocates the simple position”

    There’s absolutely nothing simple about being an adoption reform activist. It’s much harder than writing your check once a month.

    “It is difficult to allow yourself to think that someone roses views, born of their own research and experience, have any validity.”

    You keep ignoring what that experience has produced – which is no real solution – and a reluctance to and stonewalling of attempts to improve social services. Holt hasn’t offered anything but trash cans and band-aids here. And those 2/3rds are also in the trash can, just undesirable to foreigners wanting to adopt.

    “You can’t just be content to talk about them. You have to execute them and mind the casualties in the process.”

    I work with TRACK and they have spent years writing a bill to change Korean law to improve social services. I spend countless hours suffering the ignorance and truculence of adoptive parents in threads such as this. I speak to students and accept every t.v. and radio interview I can get to tell Koreans that every Korean is valuable. The president of TRACK is trying to work on contraceptive education. We work with the unwed mothers and the separated mothers. We work. We stand in the subways and pass out information about unwed people in history who have been successful and inspirational. We support unwed mother’s homes that provide real opportunities and real assistance to unwed moms. We work. On all fronts. And everywhere we go to build a positive future for Korea, the default and only solution anyone here can comprehend is foreign adoption. Holt’s presence here is negative. Negative to progress. Making this country dependent/frustrating their autonomy and maturity.

    Now, in addition to all of the above I think I’ve been more than generous with my time responding to this thread and I’d like to have a small iota of my own life, so this thread will be closed for pragmatic purposes.


    August 22, 2010 at 1:28 am

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: