Overseas Officials To See International Adoption’s Success

Date: 
2008-05-15

Shereen Oca

A group of high-ranking delegates and officers from China and Cambodia will visit Long Beach this Saturday in an effort to learn more about international adoption from the people it directly affects — adoptive families, their children and adult adoptees — at the annual Holt Family Picnic.

More than 300 people connected through Holt International Children’s Services will reunite, celebrate and share their adoption experiences this Saturday at El Dorado East Regional Park.

“It’s rare that we get the highest-ranking officials,” said Sally Dunbar, of Holt Family Recruitment.

The officials are members of the China Centre of Adoption Affairs and the Chinese Department of Civil Affairs as well as officers from the Royal Government of Cambodia. For some of them, including China’s Director of Civil Affairs, this visit will be a milestone, organizers said, as they haven’t had the opportunity to see the adopted children in their new environment.

“We want to let officials know how good these children grow in their family,” said Jian Chen, director of programs with China at Holt. “To see what kind of support these children have in the U.S.”

At the picnic, the international delegates will have a chance to meet with many of the 75 families expected to attend — families such as the Davees.

For 10 years, Mary and Bill Davee tried to have a baby, during which, Davee endured two ectopic pregnancies and one miscarriage. Then, Davee said she remembered seeing a news program in high school on the large number of G.I. babies left in Korean orphanages.

“I thought if my father hadn’t married my mom, I could have been one of those babies,” said Davee, who is of African American and Korean descent. “It had a special place with me, although I didn’t know it at the time.”

That impression remained with Davee throughout the years, she added. Although she couldn’t remember the specific name of the adoption agency, she said she knew it contained four letters. Holt.

The Davees contacted the adoption agency, and now are the parents of a girl from China, 27-month-old Jinji.

Harry and Bertha Holt were inspired in a similar way in the 1950s. Spurred on by images of mixed race children in Korean orphanages, the Holts were moved to take the children in as their own, a practice unheard of at the time, according to the organization. They moved both Houses of Congress to pass a law allowing them to adopt, and soon thereafter, the couple became parents of eight Korean War orphans. In 1956, Holt International was born.

In addition to the families, Chinese and Cambodian officials will meet with adult adoptees like Todd Kwapisz.

Korean-born Kwapisz was adopted in 1973. He grew up in what he called the mostly-white community of Lake Orion, Mich. People often ask him if he was treated differently, but he said he didn’t think about being adopted until he was 18. That’s when his parents sent him on a Holt-coordinated heritage tour to Korea with 40 others who also were adopted.

“(There was a) common thread of stories (about being) adopted,” Kwapisz said. “Families didn’t look like us. Questions about being adopted. Being different. To have that bond and be able to talk to other people who can relate to you was a powerful experience.”

Kwapisz now serves as director of Holt’s Adult Adoptee Outreach.

“Holt has learned adoption is a lifelong process,” Kwapisz said, which is the reason it puts together programs such as heritage camps and tours and hosts reunion picnics.

The presence of Cambodian officers this year is particularly important, Dunbar said, because currently inter-country adoption laws between Cambodia and the U.S. are closed and have been since 2001.

Dunbar said she hopes this experience will help the Royal Government “gain reassurance that results are positive.”

A Korean-style barbecue lunch and children’s activities, including a water balloon toss, a three-legged race and bounce houses, are planned for the picnic. It will take place from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at 7550 E. Spring St.

“It’s sort of a vision of the future for us,” Davee’s husband, Bill said of seeing adoptive families with children of all ages. “It’s a very joyful experience.”

Although the picnic’s primary focus is on Holt families, it is open to adoptive families from other agencies and also those interested in international adoption.

For more information on Holt, call (541) 687-2202 or go to www.holtinternational.org

Pound Pup Legacy