Wednesday, December 14, 2005

December 23, 1957 archives: New faces

For those of you who aren't familiar with the name, the Holt Agency is a major entity in international adoption. In Korea, they are practically synonymous with overseas adoption, even though several religious-based organizations are also highly involved with placing children in proper homes abroad.

The December sun glanced through the big picture windows in the living room of Harry Holt's 13-room farm home perched on a hill near Creswell, Ore. There sat Holt, 52, a thickset man with a ragged mustache and shaggy eyebrows, and his wife Bertha, 53, her unrouged face a picture of contentment. Around the couple cuddled eight button-eyed children, aged 3 to 5. Their thin voices mingled with the Holts' as they sang:

Jesus loves the little children of the world,

All the children of the world, Red and yellow, black and white,

All are precious in his sight, Jesus loves all the little children of the world.

Orphans' Airlift.
For Bertha and Harry Holt, as well as for the children, the hymn has a special meaning. Two and a half years ago Harry Holt flew to Korea, hunted through orphanages, disease-ridden huts and gutters, rounded up Korean babies fathered by American G.I.s and abandoned by their mothers, and took them home. Pushing a special law through Congress permitting them to adopt all eight children (U.S. law permits families to adopt only two), the Holts, with the help of their own six youngsters (now aged 11 to 24), set out to rear the Koreans as their own. As the news of the enterprise spread, they soon found themselves operating an airlift on behalf of other families in the U.S. By last week they had arranged for the transportation to the U.S. and the adoption by families all around the country of no fewer than 575 mixed-blooded foundlings.

A retired lumberman, prosperous farmer (income: $20,000 a year) and devout member of the Willamette Gospel Church, Harry Holt began his crusade after he saw a documentary film that showed the plight of U.S.-Korean babies, many of whom were left by their mothers to die. Others, he learned, were ostracized by other Korean children. "Harry," says Bertha Holt, "could never forget those tiny outstretched arms. Finally, he realized that the Lord was speaking to him to do something for these children."

Hopeful, Thankful & Glad.
Though he suffered through two heart attacks, Holt journeyed to Korea eight times. In Seoul he built his own orphanage, now supervised by two of his daughters. Back home, he turned the Holt playroom into a bustling office, hired secretaries to deal with requests from potential foster parents. The Holts now keep three bulging file cases: Hopeful ("Letters from people hoping for a child"), Thankful ("A child has been assigned and is awaiting transportation in Korea") and Glad ("The child is in America").

Families adopting children through the Holts pay a fee of $343, which includes adoption, visa and transportation costs plus $15 for a "home study." The Holts hire a private investigation agency to conduct the home study to be sure the applicants can take care of the youngsters, and that they are churchgoing Protestants (they refer Roman Catholic and Jewish requests to other agencies). Biggest difficulty: most Negro families want girls, but there are not enough Negro-Korean baby girls to go around.

At the dinner table one evening last week, Harry Holt surveyed the row of faces that no longer were strangers. Said he: "I feel that any one of these kids is worth all it costs. I had to see an awful lot of little kids die. I hate that. We try to be thankful to the Lord every day, and we are. I'm sure that the Lord has accomplished a great deal, and we are glad to be used of him to accomplish this."

No comments:

Post a Comment

Share your thoughts, but please be kind and respectful. My mom reads this blog.