Holt adoption baby

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Be Tenacious – How to get your Identity Back

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Holt adoptees in search

We should consider ourselves very lucky because our adoption agency was based in Eugene and by Oregon Law they must provide access to our records.

We should consider ourselves very lucky that it is by Korean Law that adoption agencies provide Post Adoption Services.

However, our luck did not prepare me for the many ways in which Holt frustrates access to our documents!  Whether this is by stupidity or design, you will have to make your own decision about that – but at every turn I was presented with roadblocks to information.  I began to wonder, how many Holt adoptees have just accepted their answers and turned away empty handed, abandoning their search?

Here is an example of what you can do to keep them on task.  It worked for me, and maybe it can work for you too:

Micro-analyze everything they tell you and USE the power of LOGIC– they will sound super nice and helpful at first, but they will consistently tell you discouraging things that make it sound like they have reached a dead end.  If you walk away feeling confused, odds are you’ve been snowed and manipulated with some standard lines that have proven to work in the past.  I’ll use snippets from some of my emails with D. from Holt as an example:

After reviewing your file here at our headquarters, it appears that you were abandoned and that there is no other information regarding your birth family.  Unfortunately, this means that there isn’t enough information for Holt Korea to begin an assisted search

Sounds like the search is pretty much over, doesn’t it?  WRONG.

Now, I will go over this again, line by line, and highlight in bold the areas that are unacceptable

After reviewing your file here at our headquarters,

ah, but have they reviewed the files NOT AT THEIR HEADQUARTERS?  I bet not…

it appears that you were abandoned and that there is no other information regarding your birth family.

of COURSE there’s not going to be any information regarding the birth family if we were abandoned!!!  As sleuths we are looking for any OTHER clues that might LEAD US to their trail…DUH!

Unfortunately, this means that there isn’t enough information for Holt Korea to begin

this is a red herring to get you off track – there isn’t enough information from Holt International in OREGON for Holt IN YOUR BIRTH COUNTRY to utilize – there are hidden gems in your country – they’re just don’t want to be bothered to drag them out!

an assisted search.

Holt only helps adoptees do ASSISTED searches, and the criteria for an ASSISTED search is having some IDENTIFYING INFORMATION in your files.  Because MOST of Holt’s adoptees were classified as abandoned, by limiting themselves to situations where success in search is almost guaranteed that allows them, at the same time, to turn away the VAST MAJORITY.  This little detail gives them an excuse to only help those that can make them look like saviors, but also allows them to make as little effort as possible.

Even more unhelpful is this:

in case where the relinquishing birth parent/s were unmarried/and or single
when the child was relinquished, Holt does not initiate the search for the birth
parent/s, but when and if the birth parent/s come requesting search for adoptee/s, Holt will
initiate the search. This is because in majority cases, we have found that the birth parent/s who
had relinquished their child in the past, have kept their past as a secret and do not share it with
their new partners in life, even after marriage. Therefore, when adoptee/s requests search of
their birth parent/s who was unmarried, we will make a record in the file and make the match when the birth parent/s come forth

Now, respecting the closed adoption due to protecting the relinquishing parent from shame is one thing – but the problem is there are many cases where a single parent is mentioned in a child’s records, and that is reason enough for Holt to tell an adoptee in search that they have nothing in their file. Because their policy says they do not have to help initiate searches for single parents.  So THEY see single parent and know they can back out of any obligation, so why bother putting in any effort and why encourage the adoptee?  And the poor adoptee doesn’t even know if their parent/s were single, destitute, or dead!  I know of one case in which this happened, where Holt made a preemptive determination that they would thwart search efforts by telling the adoptee there was nothing in their file.  However, the “nothing” in their file that actually WAS in their file lead directly to their parents who were overjoyed at reuniting.  The “nothing” that was in their file was mention of unmarried parents and a person who did not meet non-ID criteria but who could lead them directly to information about the parent’s ID.  It took years for this person to finally be given access to the “nothing” Holt had determined wasn’t there.

Essentially, Holts policies have loopholes in them which they are able to twist to their advantage so they can avoid assisting adoptees in their searches.  Essentially, Holt ordains themselves arbitors of what is or isn’t appropriate to give you access to.  And the above quoted paragraph gives them license to turn away everyone whose parents were unmarried at the time of relinquishment.

Here is a later email from D. at Holt International:

As promised, we have requested an assessment of your file from our overseas partner to determine if a search for birth family is possible.  Unfortunately, the staff of Holt Children’s Services of Korea was unable to locate enough information regarding your background to begin a search for your birth family.  The record states that your were found without any identifying information.

We regret that Holt Children’s Services Korea and Holt International Children’s Services cannot assist you in a search but will be happy to help you plan an independent search.

Let’s break this down in the same manner:

As promised, we have requested an assessment of your file

Who’s assessing?  What file?  What are they assessing? Why are they assessing?  Why can’t they just give me the file?  Your records are your right – nobody should be arbiters of your destiny or determine what is or isn’t of value to you.  To do so is PATRONIZING.

from our overseas partner to determine if a search for birth family is possible. Unfortunately, the staff of Holt Children’s Services of Korea was unable to locate enough information regarding your background to begin a search for your birth family.

Ask your self what is meant by search – a Holt International definition of a search – meaning practically to the family’s doorstep – or a more typical adoptee search where ANY CLUE is appreciated?

The record states that your were found without any identifying information.

What record?  Why don’t you have it in front of you?  Why don’t they just give you that up front, the way they do from the Holt International Headquarters?  Why don’t they assemble ALL THE DOCUMENTS from BOTH COUNTRIES and give them to you all at once?

We regret that Holt Children’s Services Korea and Holt International Children’s Services cannot assist you in a search but will be happy to help you plan an independent search.

There are no regrets here – Holt Children’s Services CAN help by getting you the documents they are looking at.  They can help you with information about the jurisdiction you came from, about the orphanages in the area, about the foster mothers who were on assignment at the time of your adoption, etc., etc. They can give you information about the methods other successful persistent adoptees have utilized in the past to reunite with their families in the face of incredible odds. They merely don’t WANT to help where the outcome does not look favorably upon THEM, and that is why it is SET UP that they only take action under the most limited of criteria.  So they DON’T HAVE TO BOTHER MOST OF THE TIME.  But strangely, they CAN help  you if pressed hard.  So it’s not a matter of CAN, it’s a matter of WILL…

Do you see this no-win scenario they have set up?

  1. We can give you your Holt International (Oregon) records, but If they say you are abandoned, then we can not help you (Triage level 1- winnows out the majority of us)
  2. If your birth country determines they have no identifying information, then there is nothing we can do (Triage level 2 – Takes care of those don’t refuse to accept Triage level 1)
  3. We can help you do an assisted search, but only if there is identifying information (Triage level 3)

Some help, huh?  Be not discouraged.  I’ll respond to the three items listed below:

  1. Yes, they CAN help you.  IT’S THE LAW.  The problem is, by giving you what they have at Holt International Headquarters, they feel they have satisfied the law.  Which they might have – barely, but NOT THE INTENT.  The problem is, you need to ASK SPECIFICALLY for what you want.  ASK for your records IN YOUR BIRTH COUNTRY.  Don’t accept anything less than that!  Don’t accept their word that there is nothing important to look at!
  2. Wrong!  WHAT are they using to determine you have “no identifying information” ???  (hmm…)  They MUST be looking AT something, right?  What are they looking at?  WHY aren’t you able to look at it?  WHO are they to determine what is valuable to you or not?  Ask/Demand to see the source documents they are using to determine there is no identifying information.  You shouldn’t have to fly to another country when there are copy machines in even the poorest countries, and access to fax machines and scanners and email in most countries.  Holt satelite adoption agencies HAVE to have these standard tools of any organization if they are going to facilitate adoptions, right?  Whatever they’re looking at, also, is part of YOUR RECORD that should be available to you BY LAW.  I was told it was “just” a single page in a log book.  Wrong!!!  it turned out to be the biggest clue of all, enough to warrant the plane trip to Korea and hit the streets.
  3. Wrong!  The second I questioned their logic and told them I was sharing my search with adoptees publicly, I was called by a social worker S.K. who handles Post Adoption Services Assisted Searches.  My search does not qualify for assistance, according to Holt International, so isn’t it curious how helpful they are all of a sudden?  And actually, how helpful are they?  The only thing that was helpful were the documents they finally produced after I pressed hard for them.  The social worker’s emails had some further red herrings in them, telling me Holt’s Search process is drawn out to give birth parents time to deal with the shock of impending reunion.  And WHAT does that have to do with giving me a document they have already determined has no identifying information?  These are the kind of twists of logic you have to recognize and call them on!!!  And he always wanted to talk to me on the phone – I don’t know about you, but I’m easily manipulated on the phone and there is no paper trail – so i haven’t allowed that to happened yet.

The thing is, Assisted Searches are set up as part of Holt’s Post Adoption Services.

If you are a Korean Adoptees, KOREAN LAW states:

Chapter IV Article 12 (Duties of Adoption Agency) Paras 5 and 6

“Even after an adopted person has acquired the nationality of the country concerned, the head of the adoption agency shall furnish necessary service as determined by the Presidential Decree, such as his/her motherland tour, etc. for the person adopted abroad.”

Here’s another logic game for you – If Holt’s Assisted Search is part of Post Adoption Services, and Post Adoption Services are required by Korean Law, then – shouldn’t they search for you?  Why should you have to track down all these documents and bully them into finding them and sending them to you?  And I have insider information that many of these people at different jurisdictions and orphanages give b.s. answers to adoptees simply because they are annoyed with those searching, they are disorganized and incompetent, or are too lazy!  Holt already has offices in Korea – it is simply ridiculous they can not work with these various bodies and obtain information, instead of putting the adoptees into hostile situations where they can’t even communicate in the language.  And these constraints that the Search includes identifying information – isn’t that too exclusive, if Post Adoption Services are mandated by Korean Law to be provided to ALL adoptees???

If you’re a KAD – these are your RIGHTS !  Fight for them!  Do not take no for an answer.

I hope I’ve been a little help. In the next post, I will go over my scanty documents with you to illustrate how pathetic they look, but how even in the most pathetic scraps new things can come to light between the lines.


Written by girl4708

September 28, 2008 at 1:28 pm

13 Responses

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  1. Thanks for this post! I have initiated my birth family search and your words of encouragement and advice has already helped me! Just thought I would pass along my appreciation to you for not only this post but for opening your mind, heart and soul to others! You truly inspire me to be tenacious to gain my identity back!


    March 12, 2009 at 5:49 pm

  2. Good for you!
    If I can help even one person get what’s rightfully theirs and not get turned away, then I can die happy.

    My new latest suggestion is to skip Holt International and go straight to Holt Korea. Working through a middle man is never better. Working through an image-conscious middle man is even worse. Now make that middle man politically powerful and justifying past mistakes…

    Any hidden source documents are in Korea, so it’s better to go to the source.

    Hopefully, you can balance your confrontation a little better than I have.

    I managed to move Holt at great cost, as they are sending me registered mail saying my comments are “not productive.”

    Well – not productive for them. Productive for me.

    Does their posturing scare me? No.
    Do I wish this relationship had been less antagonistic? Yes.
    Should you follow exactly in my challenging footsteps?

    Yes and no.

    Yes – please pay close attention to when you are being railroaded or politely being shown to the door.
    Yes – please challenge when you meet that smiling BRICK WALL.

    But hopefully, you can do it in a manner that will buy you more favor. So use all the sugar you can when speaking to them ( as much as you can without getting ill)

    and document, document, document….

    Good Luck!


    March 12, 2009 at 6:42 pm

  3. Great advice again! Thank you Thank you Thank you!!!!

    Just another quick question… do you know if holtkorea@hotmail.com is correct email address or do you have better contact info?



    March 12, 2009 at 7:15 pm

  4. Oh I am sooo sorry I missed this! You are probably long gone following up on this.

    I went to their English website, and that is the same email address shown there.

    G.O.A.L. has been really helpful to me. Maybe they can help you too, as they have some, um, understanding with Holt.


    May 6, 2009 at 12:27 pm

  5. Oh, no! I am still here! LOL

    Thanks for the followup! Hope things in Korea are going well for you! Lots of things not happening with Holt now and I am just about ready to go to GOAL. I wanted to be patient and give Holt a go of it, but my patince is really wearing thin. Miss seeing your blog, but hope that its a good sign that things are keeping you too busy in Korea! I wish you the best!


    May 6, 2009 at 1:34 pm

  6. […] after following the story of girl #4708, I was curious to see if Holt held another paper with more informations about […]

  7. I am ready to look for my birthing history and find any kin that may still be alive. I and 51 and was adopted through Holt in 1961, Can I circumvent around them ?


    September 4, 2012 at 4:37 am

  8. I created a sort of flow chart for those searching from abroad. It’s available at a website I made for that purpose of birth family search:


    The information there is sound. I left out that if your mother was unwed, it is the policy of some adoption agencies to use that as grounds to triage you out of birth family search, because unwed = protect the mother’s identity, even though the mother’s child is hardly going to stigmatize her and destroy her public life…

    Since creating that guideline, Korea Social Services (KSS) files were absorbed by KCARE, which has turned into KAS.

    You can get KAS, the Korean government’s agency for Post Adoption Services which is being primed to take on the role of “central authority” in order to honor the terms of the Hague Convention when Korea officially implements it, to represent you. [search for KCARE, as there are US adoption agencies with those letter abbreviations and the KAS website domain name is still KCARE] Or, you can get GOAL (Global Overseas Adoptee Link ) to advocate for you. You can reach them via their websites.



    Both of those parties rely on agency cooperation. Both have some issues at the moment. KAS is scrambling to restructure itself and has a backlog. GOAL has staffing and funding issues and has a backlog. But the adoption agencies also have staffing and funding issues and a backlog, so it’s much more pleasant to have them talk to Holt Korea than you yourself. They will both get more respect than the individual adoptee does. But you will be more thorough than someone representing you. What will be critical is if you are able to obtain any pre Holt information that Holt might be holding, so you can go to the source.

    Personally, I would choose one of the two (KAS or GOAL) AND pay a visit in person to Holt as well. Expect delays after initial contact from them. It should get better when summer is officially over and adoptees in search return to school and jobs…

    For us older adoptees, it is of vital importance that you ask for EVERY SINGLE document, NO MATTER HOW SMALL or UNIMPORTANT (to them). There was very little kept back then.


    September 4, 2012 at 7:42 am

  9. I am a Korean War orphan from the Holts. I came to America in 1957.I have letters to congress in my scrap book to pass a law to allow ‘adoption by proxy’ so the Holts could get the children over here as hundreds of them were dying.God gave me a great family.I have always longed to find my birth mother but I won’t hold the Holts liable for information lost. They devoted their lives to save so many in such hard times. I am eternally grateful for the opportunity of a life I have from the work the Holt family did. I feel if I’m suppose to find any of my bloodline, God will allow it to show.

    Aeja Kim Hamilton

    October 4, 2012 at 2:14 am

  10. You know, comments like this really piss me off. What the hell does your great fortune fifty five years ago have to do with adoptees rights being violated by Holt today? It’s all well and good you were saved from the war, but most of the 200,000 plus adoptees from Korea were/are NOT war orphans. We’re not concerned with you. We’re not concerned with adoptees who choose to not open their files. We’re concerned with those who do and who get mistreated during the process.

    I really wish everyone would stop trying to turn this into Holt was a saint so they can’t possibly do anything wrong scenario. They did, can, and do wrong. EVEN WHILE AT THE SAME TIME it benefited/benefits some. I personally know adoptees who have been told their mothers had died when they (Holt) knew they weren’t. I personally know adoptees who were told there were no documents when other documents were later released. I personally know of adoptees who were reunited with the wrong families. I personally know unwed mothers who were coerced into giving up their babies. To this day, Holt is still securing child relinquishment by offering to pay for hospital births and then holding the babies until the hospital bills are paid off should the mother decide she doesn’t want to relinquish – which was impossible for her to pay to begin with. That’s stealing and hostage-taking and ransom and morally wrong. I won’t hold a Holt worker today liable for mistakes or crimes which preceded them, but I will hold a Holt worker liable for lying, violating adoptee or birth mother rights, or unethical treatment today.

    Y’all need to stop thinking of all of us as coming from circumstances even remotely like yours and applying the same level of gratitude to our acquisition. You also should stop thinking that Harry Holt of 1957 was the same as Harry Holt of 1965 and that the Hot organization (now multi-national corporation) is anything like the Holt Children’s Services Inc. that saved babies and lost doduments in the mass processing.

    I’m really tired of war babies discounting the difficulties the rest of us adoptees have and/or the subtle or not-so-subtle chastising for not being eternally grateful. WE’RE NOT YOU. There is nothing glorious and nothing to mythologize for the rest of us, so your letters to Congress don’t impress us much. Now, come talk to us when you’re really wanting to discuss how to make the world better but if you just want to be sanctimonious, then please go away.


    October 4, 2012 at 7:09 am

  11. hi i can help you. they just found my mother. i sent u an email. id love to talk.

    Paideia (@PhiloOfHealth)

    September 15, 2016 at 2:09 pm

  12. www credit reports

    love images

    August 9, 2021 at 7:14 pm

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