Archive for the ‘Saving Babies for Jesus’ Category
I think the following poem should be required reading by anyone considering international adoption, and it’s a fine companion piece to John Raible’s spoken-word piece on transracial adoption, Better Off, Better Smile. It was written by my KAD sister, Myung-Sook, from her unapologetic and profoundly heartwrenching blog, Holt Adoption Product.
It was Myung-Sook who heard my small scared voice three years ago and comforted me, and it is Myung-Sook who holds my hand today when I am frightened or alone. If I hold your hand too, it is because of her.
Please read her blog, but as an intro, please enjoy this poem presented in the same manner she did and be sure to start the music while you are reading.
당신은 사랑받기위해 태어난 사람 means
You were born to be abandoned,
because 사랑해요 means I love you.
You were born to be abandoned
Because you were born to a wrong father
You were born to be rejected
Because 사랑해요 means I love you
Do not worry
There is a married woman whose womb has been closed by God; her name is Hannah.
Hannah has great faith in God and she is praying hard to have a child
You were born to be abandoned
Because your were born to a poor parent
You were born to be tagged with a price
Because you were born in a poor country
Do not worry
Hannah lives in a rich country.
And she’ll pay any price to have a child
You were born to be abandoned
Because you were born to a sinner
You were born to be sold
Because you were born in Korea
Do not worry
There is man who heard Hannah’s prayer; his name is Eli
Eli will fix your mother’s mistakes in the name of Jesus
You were born to be abandoned
Because God placed you in the wrong womb
You were born to be shipped off to strangers
Because you were born in the wrong country
Do not worry
The followers of Jesus will fix God’s mistakes.
And the followers of Confucius will send you off with an escort
Be grateful that you are not useless
Hannah’s is happy now, because of your existence in this world.
Followers of Jesus made huge sum of money, because of your existence in this world.
And the followers of Confucius will be happy, the day you’ll visit your birth country to spend your money.
당신은 사랑받기위해 태어난 사람…
The Contemporary Christian use of adoption for personal gain obliterates the fact that we international adoptees are a product of social injustice, and both Myung-Sook and John Raibel’s pieces give voice to the children who were silenced during this process. International adoption capitalizes on social injustice and benefits from its continuation: it is no charitable act.
Excerpts from the two page (yup, that’s it) guide to taking care of your new adopted child from Korea, circa 1966. (from my own personal files) Bold added by me for highlighting. Portions omitted are about plane arrangements, clothing to send, documents which will arrive, medical exams and immigration. Sarcastic comments are fully mine.
Dear Expectant Parents:
This letter is to prepare you for your child’s arrival. First of all, be sure you have all the fees paid…We must have this money before your child comes.
Because it’s all about the child’s welfare…
As soon as we know when and where the plane will land, and who will be on it, we will let you know. We will call you “collect”…
Because you owe us money…
There are a few Korean words that are necessary to know. “Aboji” – father. “Amoni” – mother. A-sound as in father and accent is on first syllable. “Moga” long O and accent on first syllable – to eat. “Ojum” – to urinate. “Dong”- bowel movement. “Mul” – water. “Mul-kogi” – fish. “Pop” – rice. “Hongkuk” – Korea.
That’s all they included. I guess nine words is all any child almost three needs to communicate…and actually, the last three weren’t really needed, since we never ate fish, rice, or talked about Korea.
We pray that you will raise your child in the nurture and admonition of our Lord. There will be adjustments for both you and the child and it may require patience and understanding and prayer.
At least they’re up front about their motives.
Please remember that the child has missed out on part of his life. Many of them have never known parental love and affection.
Never mind that the part of their life they had missed out on was due to their time in the orphanage, because the orphanage existed, and that they had a life before the orphanage. Never mind that they had a family before the orphanage. Never mind that from this day forward they will be severed from Korea, their culture, and their language.
They may be suspicious of you and everyone else,
Could this be because the adoptive parents are TOTAL STRANGERS?
or they may not let you out of their sight for a moment for fear that you, too, will desert them.
Or could this be FEAR they will end up in yet ANOTHER totally FOREIGN situation to adjust to?
They may demand all of your attention and be envious of any affection you show toward other children. It is better to know this ahead of time, so you can expect it. This is not because he is Korean; it is because he is an orphan, learning for the first time what parental love is.
Note here how they perpetuate the myth that we never had parents. Note also that the child’s anxiety is blamed on the first parents’ lack of love. There is no mention of the Certificate of Orphanhood they must apply for in order to turn children into orphans.
These children are usually more affectionate than our children by birth.
What the? Some last minute selling, just for good measure?
Because the children do come from Korea, many of our customs will seem rather strange to them. For example; they are not used to sleeping in beds and normally sleep on the floor. It may therefore, seem strange when you present him with that “odd thing” on which he is expected to sleep. Just bear in mind that our “ways of living” are new to your child and that he will adjust quite rapidly.
What other choice does the child have?
If you have any troubles with your child, please let us know. We want him to grow up in a Christian home for our Lord’s glory.
So if you have any troubles, you must not really be Christian…nice way to only get positive feedback.
Please pray urgently for the plane, the pilots, the escorts, the children’s health, for the safe take-offs and safe landings and for traveling mercies on the way.
Gratefully in our Lord’s service,
HOLT ADOPTION PROGRAM, INC.
Mrs. Susie Nelson
Supervisor of Adoptions
“The eternal God is thy refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms.” Deut. 33:27.
I can’t recall how old I was when the book started crossing my path.
“What’s this?” I asked my mother. She explained about Harry Holt and how he and his wife Bertha saved eight Korean war orphans and started the adoption agency where I came from. It was clear she idolized them. After she had left the room, I looked at the photos of their ridiculously huge family. I only looked at the photos because I was too young to read all the big words. It didn’t pull my heartstrings at all. Harry Holt kind of looked like Clark Gable, though, and I wondered what kind of man he was. Bertha looked like she should be milking cows somewhere. They both scared me.
Over the years, I would run across the book time and again. It would be sitting on the desk in our family room, out of place, off the shelf. Or it would move and be on the shelf. Or it would be on the side table next to the couch. It kept popping up, in my way. I was old enough to read now. I knew someone in the house wanted me to read it and believe.
Fear not: for I am with you: I will bring your seed from the east, and gather you from the west;
I did it. The pressure worked somewhat. I opened the cover. I read the captions under the photos. I even read a paragraph or two. That was all it took. I vowed to NEVER read that book.
I was never an agry child, a tempermental child. I was docile and obedient, perfectly mannered 99.9% of the time. Adoption never came up in my thoughts, and it was never discussed in my home. I couldn’t dwell upon nor could I explain my refusal to read this book. But now I can.
I will NEVER read that book. It was an offense then, and it is an offense now. It is the rationalization for the taking of almost two hundred thousand children from their families in Korea. It was done in the name of God, in the name of bringing us unwashed heathens to God. I can’t believe in a God that would do that. I can’t believe in charity that would rather condone the separation of parents and children over assisting families in need.
I have been told by other adoptees that the books written by Mrs. Holt are astounding in their rationalizations, and that they are a must read. But I don’t need to do that, nor do I want to support the Holt adoption agency with one penny. Even as a child I could recognize propaganda when I saw it. Even as a child I could distinguish those with true faith over those that were self-serving zealots. Even as a child I knew deep down in my heart that my identity had been irreparably violated by this act of charity.
I am PROUD to have never participated willingly in embracing my adoption. I am PROUD of my personal sense of justice. I am PROUD I never submitted, and PROUD to have preserved this one small sense of self through this one act of rebellion. I will never relent.
I am NOT NOW and NEVER WAS a seed from the east to be gathered from the west
We shall not, we shall not be moved We shall not, we shall not be moved Just like a tree that's standing by the water We shall not be moved We shall not, we shall not be moved We shall not, we shall not be moved The union is behind us, We shall not be moved We shall not, we shall not be moved We shall not, we shall not be moved We're fighting for our freedom, We shall not be moved We shall not, we shall not be moved We shall not, we shall not be moved We're fighting for our children, We shall not be moved We shall not, we shall not be moved We shall not, we shall not be moved We'll building a mighty union, We shall not be moved We shall not, we shall not be moved We shall not, we shall not be moved Black and white together, We shall not be moved We shall not, we shall not be moved We shall not, we shall not be moved Young and old together, We shall not be moved
I wrote about my mother in my personal blog, but its subject matter crosses over into Holt territory, so I am linking to it here.
Man, that ceramic figurine on the record table is such a trigger…My dad used to always point it out, touch me a little too sweetly on the head, and say, “you know you’re my little Siamese kitty kat!”
Didn’t he see the cloud pass over my face as I shrank from his touch and thought, “I’m not Siamese. I’m not your kitty kat. I’m Korean. Whatever that is.”
from Yonhap News
혻혻 By Kim Young-gyo
GOYANG, South Korea, May 8 (Yonhap) – A daughter of Harry and Bertha Holt, who founded South Korea’s largest adoption agency in the aftermath of the Korean War, has been following her parents’ path of encouraging adoptions of abandoned children.
While nursing children at South Korean orphanages and helping them get adopted by new families since 1956 when she was 19, Molly Holt says she has always felt that a family is the best gift an orphaned child can have.
혻혻 At the same time, however, the head of Holt Children’s Services knows that not all adoptions have a happy ending.
혻 혻 “Like this family in Iowa, you know, where a father killed his wife and all his children, it was so horrible,” she said in an exclusive interview with Yonhap News Agency Thursday.
혻혻 In March, the members of the family in the U.S. were beaten to death by the father, who had been charged with embezzling nearly $560,000 from his former employer and with money laundering. He later committed suicide. All four of his children were adopted from South Korea through Holt Children’s Services.
혻혻 With tearful eyes, seemingly feeling guilty about the children’s deaths, Holt continued.
혻 혻 “I got the folder. It was this big, because there were four homestudies. Before each child was adopted they (did) homestudies again and again. Four yearly reports with post-adoption reports done every three months for a year. Still, this happens. I looked at it, and there was nothing wrong. The only wrong was that the father was too perfect. He never had a traffic ticket. He never made mistakes.”
A homestudy is a detailed written report on a prospective adoptive family, assessing the home environment before a child is placed in the family.
혻 혻 Holt, along with many Korean adoptees, attended the memorial service for the dead, which was held March 28 in northern Seoul.
혻혻 “Sometimes people think in the beginning that we didn’t have any investigating agencies, but we did. We had an agency that investigates, and we would get the reports to see if they were suitable families or not…They check their credit ratings, their police records, their backgrounds and their educational backgrounds,” Holt said.
혻혻 “We tried to find all the best families for our precious children, but sometimes they didn’t have good families. They divorced, or they abused children. But it’s amazing sometimes how wonderful the children turned out even in sad circumstances. Sometimes there were wonderful families and children ran away.”
Unfortunately some adoptive parents give up their adopted children, as in the case of a Dutch diplomat in Hong Kong who drew public criticism last December for giving up his seven-year-old ethnic Korean daughter, whom he and his wife adopted at the age of four months.
혻혻 “Sometimes they (adoptees) are brought back to Korea. We had maybe ten brought back to Korea. Some went back to orphanages, and some are here. Some are still here.”
Often dubbed “Mother of all Korean orphans,” Holt has been living at a 51.7-acre facility in Goyang, east of Seoul, where Holt Children’s Services offers a home for over 250 homeless disabled people.
혻혻 “One girl, she had several polios, she fell down a lot. She was normal mentally. She went to school. And we adopted her into another family. And she did fine,” she said. “But people are all different. You can’t say everything is perfect. But you do what you can.”
“Some did have hard times. We are sorry,” she said.
혻혻 She said she will continue helping orphaned children get adopted, both internationally and domestically.
혻 혻 When asked about her plan for the future, she replied, “To make happy families. Adoption has always been our central piece, because adoption is the very best way to have children cared for, who do not have living parents or parents that can care for them.”
Adoptions from South Korea began soon after the 1950-53 war and peaked in the mid-1980s when over 8,000 children a year went abroad, mostly to the United States, to join their new families.
혻혻 The government has recorded about 158,000 foreign adoptions of Korean orphans in the over 50 years since foreign adoptions began.
I’d say MOST adoptions are not perfect, and if MY family was any indication of their screening and FOLLOW UP skills, then Holt had a lot of improvement to do. Perfection is always suspect – the only person I’ve ever met who looked perfect is my brother, who is now in jail for murder. What kind of psychological testing did that Iowa father go through? Clearly, inadequate testing. Clearly, they do not profile psychos like they should.
Holt started operations by taking advantage of a humanitarian crisis. Yet long after the crisis was over, they continued to perpetuate their operations by creating a demand for international babies. Long after Korea had become a first world nation, they continue to encourage and promote a market for babies there.
Without this market, Korea would be forced to improve their social services and bring their backwards cultural stigmas forward into the twentieth century, to match their first world status and because they can now afford social programs. It is Holt’s easy presense and the market for babies which provide an easy way out for the government and its citizens. Holt needs to get out of Korea once and for all and let Korea take care of its own.
Above are the wrist i.d. tags they put on me for the flight to America. Old name on one arm, New name on the other. Kind of like being born, yet dying at the same time…
And then there’s the little square photo. The one we all have. The one with our orphan cattle number identifying us from all the other cattle being sold.
I’m getting this number tattoo’d on my chest, btw…
Along with the sell by date tattoo’d on my backside.
Extreme? I don’t think so…when I read accounts like Janine Vance’s critique, Saint or Sinner? you decide or when I read the statistics on somewhere between 160,000 and 200,000 children shipped out of Korea since the Korean war (that’s almost a quarter of a MILLION babies!) that staggering figure first brings me to my knees in silence, and then makes me want to scream from the mountaintops and carve my number into my chest.
I was SOLD. I had a family for two years. I wasn’t an orphan! Nobody gives up a fat, happy baby unless they are under duress. My parents were unsupported. Holt Korea exploited their weakened state. My country shirked on their duties to protect its citizens – both me and my parents – and I was purchased by a couple who wanted a new plaything.
the living doll with her new owners
I was emotionally deprived by my mother and sexually abused by my father.
Damn right I’m an angry adoptee.
from the Adoption History Project
An overview of International Adoptions
An explanation of what Proxy Adoptions were, (infamously used by Harry Holt)
Because these adoptees entered the United States as the legal children of parents who had never met them, proxies avoided the requirements of state laws and flouted the notion that child welfare was the dominant factor in adoption.
About Bertha and Harry Holt
Anrold Lyslo, “Impressions on meeting the Harry Holt plan” 1958 some pretty shocking account of the quantity vs. quality approach of the proxy adoptions
from Janine Vance, of The Vance Twins, author of The Search for Mother Missing; a peek inside international adoption
A Brief Historical Overview of the Life and Times of Harry and Bertha Holt and the Origin of International Adoption.
- 1954-1955 Discovering Amerasian Children
- 1956 “Having Trouble Finding Little Ones”
- 1957-1958 “Swamped” with Requests for Children
- 1959 Counseling More Mothers
- 1960-1964 “House Slaves?”
- For the Love of Children
- How are the Mothers Today?
1954-1955: Discovering Amerasian Children
Bertha Marian Holt was born in 1905 to Clifford and Eva Holt. She married Harry Holt, a first cousin (Mark Baker, 2006), on December 31, 1927 and eventually they had six children together. In 1954, Harry and Bertha Holt were convinced that God had sent them on a mission to obtain and raise eight South Korean-born Amerasian (American-Korean or mixed-race) children, in addition to the Holts own. (p. 4 & 8) By Autumn of 1955, hundreds of fellow Americans visited the Holt farm in Oregon each week “begging” for a child. The public’s main interest was to “see what the children look like” since they, too, were considering adoption. (p. 9) There was so much media attention that the Holts continued to receive at least 50 daily letters and applications from every state but two. They used this national interest to publicize their loyalty to Christianity. Due to being evangelists and “born-again” Christians, it was the Holts’ desire and priority to give the Korean-born Amerasian children to Christians only. (p. 12)
The Holts used an inexpensive and efficient procedure called “Adoption by Proxy,” considered (what the Holt’s called) a Christian “triumph” against the United States Government. (p. 12) The wanting Christian couple would give Harry Power of Attorney. He would then represent their desires and obtain the children under Korean law. The children would finally come to the U.S. as sons and daughters belonging to the wanting couples. Determined to fill the demand of numerous letters from wanting adopters, the Holts set up post in Seoul hoping to get their hands on more children. Famous friend and reverend, Billy Graham, dedicated their Reception Center. By Christmas of 1955, the Holts receive “thousands” of letters, including 50 inquiries for children each day for a week. (p. 12)
The Holts mention some minor setbacks in 1955. Many established missionaries in Seoul had already reserved the children for their friends. (p. 12) Also, some Korean mothers wanted to wait for the return of their children’s American fathers instead of agreeing to release their children. Other problems came in the form of letters or crank calls, accusing Harry of bringing home “slant-eyed Orientals” or “slant-eyed monsters.” (p. 13) Harry and Bertha dismissed the issue of racism when it came to the incoming children, not realizing that it existed and that it could become the crux of many issues for the inter-racial adoptee to face, isolated. They also did not recognize that their biological daughter made a racially insensitive remark when she affectionately called a Korean-Black child “monkey-face.” (p. 28)
The biggest upset for adoptees and adoptive parents, when reading Bertha Holt’s book Bring My Sons from Afar published by Holt International Children’s Services, was to learn that the Holt’s had called the children “orphans” even though the Holts had collected the children from mothers and they continue to do so today. According to Bertha memoir, in 1954 Harry Holt (with the help of a Korean liaison or a team of followers) actually “hunted” for Amerasian children and “talked to mothers,” sometimes showing photos of children in the United States, while passing out religious pamphlets. (p. 13) Harry wrote that one mother was almost hysterical when taking her child off her back. (p. 16) She misunderstood Harry’s intention, believing that she would be able to stay in touch with her child. The mother didn’t realize that adoption was, as Harry Holt told Bertha, according to her book, “a clean break and forever.” (p. 13)
1956 “Having Trouble Finding Little Ones”
Harry mentions how a “sobbing” mother unable to speak, was “afraid” to give him her baby and some children were “kicking and screaming.” He attempted to comfort the mothers by preaching to them his Christian beliefs, leading many to believe that they would be rewarded by God for giving away their children. After Holt took the children, he sent them to his compound, labeling and showing them as “orphans” in the West so he could send them overseas via the Orphan Bill, a process that he and his cohorts introduced to Congress. The Orphan Bill gave the impression that the children were parentless. This was a lie. Early on, Harry had set up a non-profit bank account and called it “Orphan Foundation Fund” (p. 18) so he could take tax-deductible donations from fellow Americans to help fund the Holt’s desires. Gifts to this account helped to enlarge what would become their empire.
The American Social Agency “denounced” proxy adoptions “furiously” and the Holts perceived opposition or criticisms as “devilish schemes,” accusing the American agency of printing “propaganda” against overseas adoption. (p. 16) Bertha even complained in her memoir that due to the long governmental process, some Korean mothers took their children back home even though the Holts had already assigned these children to American couples. She believed legislatures were “shameful” for making adoptions so difficult. In Seed from the East, the Holts earnestly prayed for their way, even saying “the devil and all his angels can’t keep them [wanting adopters and Korean-born children] apart.” The Holts depended on proxy adoptions to continue their business.
By the summer of 1956, Harry reported that he was “having trouble finding the little ones”. (p. 27) At this time the Holts had already given 750 wanting Christian couples approval for a child. By fall, the Holts were “deluged” with additional inquiries. (p. 29) In October, Harry made a radical decision to go ahead and assign full Korean children to Caucasian families (instead of only mixed race children) “since the numbers of families wanting children increased far beyond the number of Amerasian children available.” (p. 33) Before Christmas of that same year, they received 300 letters including 96 more inquiries for children. (p. 35)
1957-1958: “Swamped” with Requests for Children
The Holts feared that the U.S. Welfare Agency would make “serious trouble,” (p. 37) which could possibly slow down or halt their business activities. They mailed 6000 cards, advising their followers to write their Senators regarding the “Orphan” Bill. (p. 37) The Holts wholeheartedly believed that they were working God’s will rather than selfishly fulfilling their own stubborn wants. Harry used Samuel 2:8 to affirm his activities:“Surely He raiseth the poor out of the dust and lifteth up the beggar from the dung hill, to set him among princes and to make them inherit the thrown of glory.” (p. 36) He believed that adopted children were “the first fruits of this Christian labor of love.” (p. 39) In contrast, however, the well-being of the Korean families were not considered. The Holts focused solely on giving the children to wanting and waiting couples.
Harry also traveled to Mexico to see if there were “orphans” available (p. 39) but the Mexican authorities were “insulted” when he asked if he could send the children to North Americans (p. 40). Eventually he found a governor who was favorable to the idea. He also traveled to Germany and Austria but was unsuccessful there (p. 40). Upon returning from a worldwide search, he decided to build a compound in Mexico within that year. (p. 41)
During the first few years, the Holts continuously introduced extensions to the Refugee Act and the Orphan Bill. Once during this time, Harry blew up at the U.S. Embassy in Seoul for their delays in issuing proxy adoption visas. (pp. 51-52) Seventy waiting Christian couples had already paid their fees. The Holts mailed 92 letters from people who had already adopted. Only 22 visas were issued on October 22 but on Oct. 31, the Holt team still managed to take 80 Korean children. (pp. 51-52)
The Holt’s “Glad” file (consisting of records showing processed adoptions) expanded to five filing drawers in their home office. (p. 62) When an American newspaper included a photo of an adopted and barefoot Korean boy eating from a paper plate and sitting on the ground of his American home, Harry told Bertha “never let anyone in Korea see the picture.” (p. 72) Ultimately he feared the Koreans would stop allowing the children overseas because the child was pictured barefoot. (In today’s advertising campaign geared to potential parents and financial donors, the children are shown smiling with their new parents. It is also interesting to note that in many cases the wanting couples are led to believe the child belongs to them even prior to obtaining the child. This is the agency’s deceptive way to get the couple emotionally attached prior to receiving the child so that the couple will pay “whatever it takes” to follow through with the adoption. Big bright and beautiful photos of children are shown in Holts marketing campaign, but rarely happy children with their Asian families. Some might consider this type of advertising as propaganda)
The Holt team prepared and mailed 3500 New Year greetings, finding this an effective way to gain a solid following and gain requests for more children. (p. 78) By the end of 1958, the Holts had joyfully sent 1069 Korean children to foreign Christian couples. (pp. 79-80)
1959 Counseling More Mothers!
By winter of 1959, the Holt compound grew to 7000 square feet, including multiple buildings. 50 Koreans had been trained to help and Bertha boasted many American adopters asked for a second child after receiving the first one. The Holts were “flooded” with phone calls and nothing seemed to discourage Bertha–not even an article reporting “bad” adoption cases such as death. (pp. 44, 45, 66, 68) Instead she praised that controversy brought “an avalanche of inquiries” from interested people. (p. 81)
That same winter, the Holts biological daughter wrote that their Korean liaison did a “good job” talking to mothers when they went to the country in search for children. (p. 82) The Holts would introduce themselves, give a reason for the visit, hand out a religious brochure and preach such stories as “Buddha’s bones are still in his grave, but Jesus’ grave is empty.” (p. 87) Sometimes, the team might show photos of smiling Korean children with Caucasian families, and then ask the Korean mother if she had ever thought of letting her child go to America. Molly wrote that the mothers had always admitted to thinking about it. That particular May, Bertha reported that 20 “quietly sobbing” mothers watched their children leave for the states by airplane. (p. 88) Bertha documented how another Korean mother remained calm while signing the paperwork, but “sobbed convulsively” as the Holts pulled away and her child waved good-bye. (p. 88)
Bertha’s accounts at the Holt compound causes us to become disturbed over the amount of children who died in their care. Were the children really orphans? We wonder why the Holts did not suggest for the Korean parents to help wean and tend to their children in their commune. For example, it is mentioned by 1959 that 85 children died. Was this death rate higher than normal? Could the deaths have been prevented if the Korean parents were allowed inside the commune and involved with their children’s care.
At times, it is mentioned that the Holts admitted children to the compound even without acquiring written permission from parents. For instance, they took a child from a grandmother and from the orphanage superintendent based on his fear that the child’s mother would “sell her as a slave” because the child’s father was an African-American. No proof of this fear was ever given and the child was taken into the compound. (p. 89)
The Holts use their evangelical friends to peruse and pursue more children, scouring the country regularly to promote their program in neighboring orphanages and by talking with fellow administrators. Their efforts expanded to any area they could reach. Harry even traveled to Baja California where he hoped to find children who “might be made adoptable” after a flood had hit the town. (p. 100) Instead of looking for extended family members who could provide care, the Holts hurried to devastated or rural areas with plans to immediately send children to waiting couples who had paid the fees.
The Holts wanted to make a clear distinction between them and other agencies. They would maintain that they did not “sell” children but rather provided a “service” of obtaining children for wanting couples. The November Newsletter of 1959 became the Holts first official regular mailer, in which children are continuously called “orphans.” (Today, they are called children “served”) The current news of the day was that the Mexican Government did not allow resident missionaries. The Holts had found a way into the country by working with the “orphans” thereby “preaching” with their actions. At this time the Holts planned to provide care to pregnant women via what they called “unwed” mothers with “illegitimate” children. Their hope was to provide services “through this difficult time” of pregnancy.
In December of 1959, Harry wrote home concerning his idea of sending “our orphans” to Paraguay, a country he believed to be “begging for immigrants” with plans to start a “colony with girls” due to having a friend who owned “several thousand acres.” (p. 101)
1960-1964 “House Slaves”
The Holts found that using fellow Christians to further their program was an effective way to distribute awareness of their work, gain money and expand their practices. January of 1960, the Holts received $7000 in donations from Newsletter recipients and others. (p. 108) In the Fall Newsletter, Bertha wrote her interpretation of Korean culture, spreading false information, generalities, and stereotypes to their readership. One such sweeping statement told by Bertha was that since “orphan girls” were without fathers “no one will want to marry her.” (p. 118) This motivated Mr. Holt to start a “teenage program” for older females where the girls would “work eight hours, cooking, cleaning, serving, helping in the office, or with babies and children, or at various other tasks.” (p. 118) She wrote, “They attend an adult school in the afternoon until 9:00 P.M.” This program, in the eyes of Holts, would prevent the girls from becoming “house slaves.” (p. 118)
That year ended with the Holts sending out 4000 New Year’s Greetings with 2580 Newsletter to their American supporters. (p. 124) In the West, the Holts were hailed as modern-day saints. A made for television movie, several newspaper and magazine articles helped to increase the family’s wealth and boost their reputation.
Summer of 1961, Bertha and children moved to the South Korea to join Harry. (p. 133) Bertha experienced firsthand life at the commune. One day that summer, she mentioned that Harry had “wasted” an entire day waiting for a toddler “whose mother didn’t bring her.” (p. 139) A few days later Bertha reported that the Korean teenagers were becoming more disrespectful, refusing to carry out “orders” and even formed a “self-government,” leading their own. (p. 139) By fall, Bertha complained in her diary that they had even more teenagers who refused to work. She wrote “Now we had 100 teenage girls who were a big headache.” (p. 143)
January of 1963, the Holts held “evangelistic meetings” four nights a week at their compound. One sermon asked whether the listener would go to heaven or hell. (pp. 179-180) Scare tactics? The isolated Korean children were solely under the influence of the Holts and their evangelists. The Holts got licensed to operate an agency in Oregon. By this time they had transported 2734 Korean children overseas. (p. 180) Summer of 1963, the Holts sent out 4000 additional Newsletters to their American supporters. (p. 180)
In 1964, ten years after the Holts first became motivated to visit Korea and take eight Amerasian children for their family and thousands of full-blooded Korean children for fellow Christians, the Holts had finally run out of wanting Christian families. (p. 199) Instead of stopping their activities (that began with the intent to give children to Christians only), they “reluctantly” changed their policy to allow NonChristians to adopt. Bertha ended her book, writing that this change was of great controversy back then and still today. (p. 199) She prayed “even more earnestly that every adopted child would become a born-again Christian.” Harry Holt died April of 1964.
For the Love of Children:
Bertha Holt tirelessly continued adoption work, accumulating at least forty awards in her lifetime. She is so revered and renowned in the West that there is even an elementary school named after her. This tenacious woman passed away August of 2000. Harry and Bertha Holt did not only find new families for children but they changed the laws all over the world to allow children to be dislocated from parents easily and economically. A total of 157,145 South Korean children have been removed from his or her family between 1958 and 2005. For every child, there are several family members who are impinged upon for the rest of their lives. No adoptee that I know of, have been given their parents’ death certificates, proving our status as orphans as claimed by the agencies. The Holts have penetrated their practices into countries all over the world. Holt International’s 2005 Annual Report shows that with the help of their partners, they have “served” 47,942 children just for that year. That same year, it’s interesting to note, Holt International received almost $20 million dollars in revenues and other support. Adoption agencies have already established businesses in one hundred countries. Rather than advocating family counseling, support and resources (which would have made less profit–although they now show an attempt due to being scrutinized), the agencies get paid very well when they send the child overseas. Their non-profit status helps to deceive the public into believing they are providing a service for everyone involved. While it was intended for the adopted children to live utopian lives, how are the parents left behind still coping?
How are the Mothers Today?
The Holt agency has a published book called To my Beloved Baby: Writings of Birth Mothers, which cannot be found in the U.S. Unlike the stereotypical birth mother, these women were not teens, like the public has been led to believe. These mothers believed they had no right to offer their own “inferior” love to their babies. In fact, these modest women assumed that they would receive God’s blessing for releasing their children to the agency as if it was GOD who had arranged for their babies to be placed with a more “admirable” family. Sadly, these mothers assumed their children would come back for them. One mother shared how the doctor, nurse, and birth father tried to reassure her decision to relinquish her rights by reminding her she needed to be “cheery” for when her child returned as an adult. (Mothers, 2005) A false promise? Another 32-year-old mother told of how she cried for days after leaving her baby with Holt. (Mothers, 2005) A 37-year-old mother confided that the pastor had named her son out of the hope that the baby would be a follower of Jesus. (Mothers, 2005) Another mother cried, “Why did you take after your unworthy mother?” (Mothers, 2005) Counseling sessions led her to believe her baby might have an easier life by being adopted abroad, so she chose that route. (Mothers, 2005) These mothers hoped they were doing the “right” thing in conjunction with the agency’s religious beliefs.
Did the birth parents know that they were relinquishing all rights from ever having future contact or a reunion? Did the agency educate them over the long-term ramifications and the impact resulting from sending their child overseas? Were these vulnerable mothers given a pressure-free choice?
Using a belief that God had ordained the Holts (and still does) to move children to “new” and “improved” families, the Holts have radically changed the lives of hundreds of thousands of families and children worldwide and continue to do so. This article is dedicated to all adoptees who have committed suicide, including one of Holt’s adopted sons, Joe (1984), and another Korean-born adoptee (Eric Lew Jones) sent to the infamous Christian cult leader Jim Jones (best known for inducing his 900 followers to drink cyanide-laced Flavor Aid, which led to their death). May these two young men and all families separated by adoption be nurtured by the Great Mother of the Universe.
Bertha Holt, Bring My Sons From Afar, Holt Children’s Services,
Eugene Oregon, 1986
Writings of Birth Mothers, To My Beloved Baby, Holt Children’s Services, Seoul South Korea, 2005
Mark Baker, The Register Guard, Children Changing Lives,” OregonLife, 2006